Architect, contractor bring familiar skills to Ocoee City Hall design-build

Bill Zimmerman
GrowthSpotter

Experience in collaboration and municipal facilities have already proven key for Wharton-Smith and HuntonBrady Architects as they begin the design-build process that will eventually bring the new Ocoee City Hall to life.

The two companies have worked together on about half a dozen projects. Each has worked on city hall designs of similar sizes. And there’s been collaboration with engineering firm S&ME Inc., which is handling master planning for Ocoee’s downtown area.

“City halls only come around so often, every 50 to 100-plus years,” said HuntonBrady’s Danny Gordon, who will serve as principal on the project for the architecture firm.  “So what you’re building is going to be a statement for the city for a long time,” he told GrowthSpotter.

A proposal from Wharton-Smith and HuntonBrady Architects ranked first in a staff review that included consulting from Zyscovich Architects. Wharton-Smith’s proposal came in with the highest price of three finalists by approximately $1.5 million, while proposing several potential cost-cutting measures. Further changes will take place in subsequent design approvals, said Al Butler, the city’s director of support services, at the Oct. 16 council meeting in which Wharton-Smith was approved to manage the project. 

“So we’ve got three more decision points for to decide how, and whether or not, to move forward,” Butler told the council in late October.

The main building’s preliminary design accommodates bill paying or planning and building services on the first floor; city clerk, support services, human resources and finance on the second floor; and city manager, commissioners’ and support-services offices on the top floor. The price came in right between two projects the companies have built, Gordon said: Maitland’s city hall, which Wharton-Smith completed in 2012, and Doral’s city hall, which HuntonBrady designed.

“We’re really excited about this being an embarking point you, for your city hall,” Gordon told the council.

Orientation of the two-building design is set to accommodate entry from parking and pedestrian traffic along Bluford Avenue to the west as well as a parking lot to the east off McKee. Setbacks in the preliminary plan from HuntonBrady did not match those of previous early designs seen by the council, one official pointed out, but that will be determined in conjunction with the engineer as designs are finalized. Tom Wannon will be project manager for HuntonBrady, with Gordon citing Wannon’s experience in public-sector and office projects. Maurizio Maso, vice president and design principal at HuntonBrady, will lead the design team.

John Lyons of Wharton-Smith will be in charge of handling costs before construction, with Tom Murphy also on the project.

“When we sit down with you,” Lyons told the council, “we want to be sure we understand exactly what you want to have out of this facility, what you need to have/what you want to have, and help you to put a dollar value on each of those things – and we’ll look at things like not only how much does it cost but how durable is it? How easy is it to maintain? Does it meet the aesthetic values that you’re looking for? And we’ll assign those criteria to every one of those decisions.”

The preconstruction contract with Ocoee will be negotiated next, after which a release by the city to go into preconstruction and design will follow. Design charrettes with city leaders will determine functionality of the facility for meetings and events as well as everyday use by employees and citizens, with durability, timelessness and appearance also in the mix. The nature of working as a design-build team is something both companies have done in the past; HuntonBrady is designing an office expansion for Wharton-Smith’s offices in Sanford, perhaps illustrating their ability to collaborate.

“The key is really teamwork and trust -- you have be able to confidence that the team is going respond correctly and quickly to be able solve problems that arise when things come up,” Gordon said. “Not just start pointing fingers, but really try to resolve it. One thing we really pride ourselves in is being team players and being able to resolve issues before they become large.”

After final design-build agreement, conceptual design for construction and cost of construction remain to be approved by Ocoee. 

BEC Structures LLC of Oviedo reviewed structural engineering for Zyscovich Architects, Stantec Consulting Services Inc. evaluated MEP engineering and Carlsson Inc. of Longwood evaluated price proposals. Wharton-Smith’s proposal unanimously beat out pitches from McCree Design Builders Inc. and H.J. High Construction Co. before the city’s evaluation committee, and earned unanimous approval from the city commission. Wharton-Smith outlined approximately $1.5 million worth of items to reduce the cost of its proposal.

“They really know how to deliver a high-quality building on time and on budget,” Gordon said of Wharton-Smith.

Design and bidding are expected to take five months with construction then taking 12 months afterward. Funding will come from $9 million in general-fund bonds and $3 million in future city commission-appropriated funds.

Bids will be sought from qualified companies for construction after design is finalized and 95 percent of construction documents are prepared.

“This is going to be a once-in-a-generation building,” Gordon told the council. “So as we go through the design process it will be very important for us to be able to collaborate. ... We really want to draw out of the city of Ocoee what it is that the city of Ocoee wants to look like and be not only to its own citizens but to those visiting.” 

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