Mishawaka begins work on new town hall, police offices and utilities
MISHAWAKA – The side of the old Liberty Mutual Insurance building at Lincoln Way and Main Street looks like construction crews have drilled holes in it. In fact, they just removed the bricks and cinder blocks from the huge building as work begins to make it a new home for the town hall, police station, and utility offices.
Construction, which could be completed next year, reshapes the fortress-like structure and marks the start of a 14-month, $ 20.5 million renovation of the 93,000-square-foot downtown building.
During a tour of the building last week, officials from Alliance Architects and Weigand Construction described exactly how the trio of municipal services will exist in the new combined location.
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Ken Prince, a city planner and construction tour guide, said the city’s decision to proceed with the project had everything to do with the place Liberty Mutual once called his home.
“The main decision in choosing this building was not the size. It was the location, the location, the location,” Prince said. Being across the street from the County Services Building and its proximity to the library, he said, was a big plus.
The skylight canopy on the Mill Street and Lincoln Road side is collapsing, the location where the main entrance to the first floor is expected to be. Prince said that although the main street side of the building will have an entrance, he suggests that city residents use the main entrance from the parking lot to the west to enter the building.
Once inside, the development will allow citizens to access the city’s three services through a main corridor.
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“When people come in, they can go to any office,” Prince said. Often, he added, residents who come to the current city hall have to go to different floors to conduct their business. The new arrangement will allow residents to go to a counter to conduct all of their business, he said.
At first, Prince said, early space studies showed there was about 10% more space than needed to house the city’s three departments in the building. But now, he said, all the available space is reserved.
Several changes will be apparent in the new building:
- The police station will have improved evidence processing areas and include appropriate facilities for female police officers. Martin J. Murphy, Alliance Architects, said that although the current police station is a fairly new building, it lacks adequate facilities for female police officers due to the changing composition of the forces. order.
- The Council Common Room will not only have a two-story glass wall, it will comfortably accommodate 150 people for meetings. The current council chamber of the current town hall can accommodate 80 people. Council members will also have offices in the new building.
- Plans call for a community hall for meetings. Located on the second floor, the room will allow groups such as the Mayor’s Youth Activities Council and others to meet at Town Hall.
- Accessibility in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act will be integrated throughout the building. Built in the early 1980s, the Liberty Mutual building was built before historic 1990 legislation that prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in all public life.
- Due to the current structure of the building, several bridges will be built. The bridges will have limited access by city services, but officials said architects decided to incorporate those spaces into the renovation.
- The main street facade will become the “storefront” of Mishawaka Utilities, a very different look from the building’s current fortress design. The disabled-accessible ramp will be incorporated into a design that officials say will be more integrated with businesses in the region.
- The parking areas for the building are large and will be available to the public after hours for various downtown events.
Aaron Holy, project manager at Weigand, said the floors and walls for the boardroom continue to be built. Exterior changes to the building are expected to be completed by fall so interior work can continue through the winter months.
The Liberty Mutual building was purchased with a $ 2.35 million tax increase and the city secured a bond for the project of $ 20.5 million.
Liberty Mutual announced in 2019 that it was moving many of its employees to remote work and would end up selling the large downtown apartment building, which consumes two city blocks.
Email South Bend Tribune reporter Greg Swiercz at [email protected]