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Willmar hires architect firm to begin planning work on city hall and community center project

The Willmar City Council hired architect firm BKV Group to complete facilities assessments and concept design work for possible projects involving the city hall and community center.

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The Willmar City Office Building in downtown Willmar. At Tuesday's meeting, the Willmar City Council approved hiring BKV Group to do a facilities study for both the city offices and community center, as part of the planning process to possibly build new facilities.
West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — The city of Willmar is getting ready to restart the planning process for a proposed new or remodeled city hall and community center.The Willmar City Council, at its meeting Tuesday, approved a contract with BKV Group, an architectural firm based in Minneapolis, to complete facility need assessments of both buildings and to create concept designs.

Justice Walker, Willmar Planning and Development director, said he and the two city planners went through five different proposals from architect firms before recommending BKV. Not only was BKV the lowest cost, at $22,000, but the firm came with some glowing references.

"BKV really excelled," Walker said.

This isn't the first time the city has worked with BKV. The firm was chosen to be the architect for the city hall and community center project back in late 2019, before the pandemic brought the project to a screeching halt . And in the late 1990s, BKV Group designed the Willmar Public Library.

"We look forward to getting the work started," Walker said.

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In an interview with the West Central Tribune on Wednesday, Walker said BKV will talk to staff about space and programming needs for both the city hall and community center as part of the facilities studies. They'll also be speaking with law enforcement about safety requirements for council chambers in the city hall.

"Deciding what kind of spaces people will be working in, spaces they will be comfortable in," Walker said.

For the design portion of the contract, BKV will create concept art of a standalone city hall, standalone community center and of a shared facility. Those designs will then be used to show how the facilities would look on proposed sites. Walker said staff are looking at six different sites.

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BKV Group was behind the design of the Willmar Public Library, shown here on March 2, 2020.
Erica Dischino file photo / West Central Tribune

If all goes according to plan it will take between six and eight months for BKV to complete its work. The earliest any construction could be done, if the project is approved and funded by the Willmar City Council, would be spring 2023.

"2022 will be a planning year," Walker said.

Over the next months, there will be plenty of discussion held on the projects, including whether the city hall and community center will share space, where to locate them and how much to spend and where to find the money. At the end of the process, Walker hopes to have a design in place that will create a city hall the community can be proud of and where employees want to be.

"It needs to be a place people like working," Walker said.

More Willmar City Council Coverage:
In split 5-2 votes, Willmar City Council approved accepting a grant to construct an outdoor fitness court and applying for an Age-Friendly Minnesota Community grant.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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