In May of 2022, the Portsmouth Daily Times wrote on the unveiling of plans from Portsmouth City Manager Sam Sutherland to move Portsmouth City Hall into the former 5/3 Building, 500 Chillicothe Street.
Council approved of a purchase agreement with the Scioto County Commissioners for the City to obtain the property.
The purchase cost for the building ended up being $418,000. According to Sutherland, the Commissioners have agreed to accept payments over a 10-year period with zero interest.
“Our main goal for the city is to get downtown development going,” said Sutherland to the Times in 2022. “And it’s also to get the city out of this current building…it is pretty cramped. I feel like this is a good move and I hope council agrees.”
City Hall is currently located at 728 2nd Street. The structure, built in 1934, will be available for sale once the city has vacated the property.
Sutherland gave the Times an update on the project, saying that the plan in on track.
“We are about 95 percent designed, so drawings are getting to that point to start talking finishes—paint, flooring, door coverings. We are really close,” Sutherland said. “The big thing right now is looking at getting a new roof on it, which we knew going into it, but we’re working on it and things are in motion to creating a great space.”
The budget of $3 million is also being watched carefully.
“The estimate is $3 million for rehab, but, between conversations with the construction managing folks and architects, because of how crazy things are in the world, that number could go up,” Sutherland said. “The City Engineer and I are going to put our heads together, though, and do our best to keep it as close to that budget as we can.”
Manager Sutherland explained that the biggest desire to move city hall came from a failing City Hall structure and the many citywide departments expressing the need for more space.
“To be honest, the space we’re in at 728 Second, the old City Hall, is basically way beyond its usefulness,” Sutherland expressed. “We had an open meeting February of 2019. City Council wanted to meet all of the department heads at Shawnee State and hear from them. All of the department heads came in and said they needed more space. Health Department, Water Works office, Police, everyone that spoke was saying they needed more space. The opportunity to get the building arose and we went to work.”
The new city building will feature four floors and a finished basement, and over 67,000 square feet of space. The current Portsmouth City Hall is 25,635 square feet.
“What will essentially happen, because the Health Department was needing more space, too, is that the utility building office, which is currently housed on Washington Street, as well as the income tax division, will all move into 5/3, freeing up space for the Health Department,” Sutherland explained. “Then, any main office operation will all be contained within the 5/3 building. All of the courts, Police Department, City Manager’s Office, Engineering, City Clerk, Finance Department, all in one location.”
The City Manager also sees this move as an opportunity to push development for the downtown as a whole.
“With all of the excitement going on in Boneyfiddle and the downtown, the growth of the ACID District, and more, us being in the middle of that will bring people to that area and enhance things even more,” Sutherland said. “Especially in conjunction with what is going on with the Marting’s Building, JC Penney and more.”
One of the questions commonly raised by the public, when considering the move, has been that of parking. Manager Sutherland said a lot of options are currently being considered, including a change to Sixth Street that would see it made into a one-way road to increase parking opportunities.
“That is one of our considerations. Not shutting it off, but making it eastbound and putting parking, diagonally, clearly down, almost to Gay Street,” Sutherland said. “That would create 48 new spots and also help the businesses along that road.”
The City Manager says that the redevelopment should be completed, and offices moved, July of 2024.
“I think this will make things much more efficient,” Sutherland said. “I think the old building has reached its useful life and will create another prime opportunity for someone to develop the current city building, because it is a primes spot. In my mind, it is a good move for the community.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved