116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — Cost estimates for North Liberty’s new city hall have increased again by about $2 million due to higher costs for materials and labor.
The city is looking at strategies to lower the cost while maintaining the size and programming of the building.
For years, the city has been operating out of leased space at Quail Creek Circle off Highway 965, where city offices were divided between two buildings. The North Liberty City Council weighed buying and remodeling the current facility or constructing a building.
The council decided to go with a new building.
In February 2021, the council approved a contract with Shive-Hattery for design construction and administrative services. The firm presented plans for a two-level, 17,000-square-foot facility with office space, conference rooms, community room, City Council chambers and an outdoor events plaza.
The estimated project cost from a May 2020 report was $6.9 million. That number increased to $9 million in June 2021.
Due to material and labor cost increases and other factors, the estimated project cost is now $10.7 million, but the city is looking to cut that to $9.9 million.
Design development plans, which were about 60 percent complete, were sent to Stecker-Harmsen, a third-party estimator the city has used previously. Stecker-Harmsen came back with the estimated the project cost of $10.7 million.
Contributing to the nearly $2 million estimated increase is the unknown and potentially volatile inflation rate between December 2021 and anticipated bid date of September 2022, City Administrator Ryan Heiar wrote in a memo to the mayor and council.
“They’ve got no reason to expect this to get better in the short term,” City Engineer Kevin Trom said during the council’s meeting Tuesday evening. “It’s the first time they’ve ever added an escalation factor of 7 percent onto an estimate, so this is kind of challenging times.”
Trom said there isn’t a feasible way to meet the $9 million budget without significantly taking away from the building or the programming. But with some changes, the cost can be brought down to $9.9 million, he added.
“Cost management has been and will continue to be part of this design process so that adjustments can be made prior to bids being received,” Heiar wrote in the memo.
Heiar said changes in the design have been made to the underground piping, building materials and generator size. The main change, Trom said, is the outdoor plaza and having three versions of landscaping in the plaza.
“In the base bid, we’d have a very minimal landscape plaza and then we’d have an alternative bid for a middle-of-the road landscape plaza and then the full build-out,” Trom said.
Trom said this approach will award the most flexibility when planning for a bid. He said the potential to bring the project to bid sooner was discussed briefly but isn’t a possibility due to conflicting schedules with other projects.
Heiar and Trom said the hope is for bids to come in better than anticipated so the plaza can be constructed in its entirety.
“What we’re trying to do is plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Trom said.
Heiar said in the memo that further significant reduction in cost will require the footprint to shrink, which staff does not recommend.
“At this point, our team believes the project is scaled down as much as possible without jeopardizing the integrity of the project,“ Heiar wrote.
The council has the authority to borrow $9 million for the project. The remaining $900,000 is expected to come from the general fund surplus, as well as a stormwater grant the city is applying for from the state.
Construction is expected to begin in October with substantial completion by March 2024 and an anticipated move-in date by June 30, 2024, Trom said.
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