Commission to consider engineering agreement for Civic Center repairs

Concerns over the failing façade at the Civic Center have been discussed for years and on Tuesday, the City Commission will consider a professional services agreement with CTA Group for architectural and engineering design services.

The agreement would provide the necessary construction plans and documents to complete needed renovations. The project is two phases and the cost is not to exceed $494,060 for both phases.

The city has conducted preliminary studies and testing and the reports have indicated that a major renovation is needed to maintain the integrity and safety of the structure, according to the staff report.

“The façade has been failing, allowing water intrusion behind the exterior envelope of the building, causing further damage to the historically significant building,” according to the staff report.

The Civic Center was built in the 1930s under the Works Progress Administration, which was renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939. The program was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and funded by Congress’ approval of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act in 1935.

The WPA was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions during the Great Depression. The program built many public buildings, projects and roads and operated large arts, drama, media and literacy projects, plus fed children and redistributed food, clothing and housing.

Other projects completed by the WPA include the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles; Midway International Airport in Chicago; LaGuardia Airport in New York City; the Oregon State Library in Salem; Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota; and the River Walk in San Antonia; among many others.

In their scope of work documents, CTA wrote that they understand that most of the brick and granite panels will remain in place, but all will be individually evaluated and replaced as needed. The decorative frieze and pillars and the front entry will also remain in place and be protected during construction.

“CTA will seek a comprehensive solution to the exterior veneer that will incorporate current structural, energy, and drainage requirements. However, since we are working with a historic 78-year old structure, some compromises may have to be made by the City of Great Falls regarding path forward and costs associated with the work,” CTA wrote.

CTA will also provide coordinated construction documents for roof replacement that works with the veneer system to provide a unified weather barrier for the structure.

According to the CTA documents, the preliminary budget for the full scope of work is about $7 million in construction costs.

The city budget that the commission approved in August included the funding for this design and engineering study.

If the city choses to pursue a bond for the Civic Center improvements, it will require a public vote.