New look planned for old city hall

48-year-old downtown Vancouver building will feature latest technology

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
photoThe former city hall building in downtown Vancouver was built in 1965.

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The new owners of Vancouver's former city hall are transforming the downtown building into a sleek office complex that will feature the latest technology and a new urban greenspace.

But first, the 1960s-style building is the focus of extensive work to remove asbestos-containing building materials. After that, an exterior remodel will improve the structure's dated aesthetic and bring more natural light inside to appeal to potential tenants, said Gary Ehrig, senior vice president of Northwest Property Resources LLC. The company owns the property at 210 E. 13th St., purchased for a little more than $2 million in April.

The Vancouver-based company is owned by the Firstenburg family, which in 2012 sold its longtime company, First Independent Bank, to Sterling Bank.

Ehrig would not disclose the cost of the renovation project, but said his company purchased the building with the intent to lease its four upper floors and underground office space to tenants, likely a mix of small and mid-sized firms.

The first floor will likely house a single tenant, he said, with the upper levels possibly appealing to larger companies.

"We'd like to have it deliverable by December," he said.

Interior plans will open up the building's dated ceilings, expose spiral ductwork and add stained-concrete flooring. The work will also include new restrooms, a new heating and cooling system and extensive technology upgrades to the building's infrastructure.

"There are a lot of infrastructure items," Ehrig said. His company's goal is to transform its investment from an outmoded public space into rooms that inspire imaginative thinking.

"The intent is to bring the building to market with an open, creative-space concept," Ehrig said.

That's the kind of space enjoying high demand among the Portland-Vancouver talent pool of Web- and tech-savvy digital designers, most of whom prefer an urban setting. Ehrig expects to see more demand as the economy slowly recovers and small tech and software businesses look for room to expand.

The building comes with parking for about 124 vehicles. The site is just a couple of blocks south of the planned location of a light-rail line that had been proposed as part of the Columbia River Crossing, which collapsed last month when the Washington Senate rejected state funding for the massive bridge project.

Ehrig said his company's plans for the old city hall were not dependent on light rail.

"We really don't believe our building is impacted by the CRC," he said. "That was a non-event for us when we purchased the building."Work began in June on the building, which takes up an entire city block bordered by 13th and Main streets, Mill Plain Boulevard and Broadway. The project is being led by Portland-based GBD Architects and construction group Robertson & Olson Construction Inc.