Inside the new administration building

Kevin Wiseman
Kevin Wiseman, project manager for the new county administration building, gave Historic City News and Media a “hard hat” tour of the construction progress on the new 105,000 square foot facility this morning and gave us a review of some of the thinking that went in to the design and planning for the project.

Kevin and I discussed features that make the building “smart”; economically, functionally and in terms of safety and security.

The county capitalized on a weak construction market in negotiating the price and terms of their contract with Elkins Constructors; the general contractor in Jacksonville. The $16 million “cost” figure, attributed to St. Johns County Director of Construction Services Mike Rubin in an article by Peter Guinta that appeared in The Record today, is a “total” cost according to Wiseman.

Wiseman said that he realized that when people read The Record article, they were going to do exactly what we did — divide the square footage of the building into the “cost”; arriving at a higher “per square foot” construction price than was quoted in the Guinta article. The $126 “per square foot” price quoted is for the “building only” and did not take into account site planning and preparation costs, storm sewer and other related costs that are included in the $16 million “total estimated cost”.

Wiseman pointed out that the easiest and cheapest design to build is a square box — they are using three “square box’ buildings joined at a circle which will be the central, public entrance to the building. Elkins is also employing less expensive finishes, like stucco that will still have the appearance of stone at a fraction of the cost.

Entrance construction

Wiseman told me that the architectural team, of which he was a part, asked themselves logical questions like, “Which are the offices that the majority of the public visit on a daily basis?” This type of research is apparent in the floor plan that makes suites for processing employment applications, obtaining minutes and records as well as conducting transactions with GTV, all positioned in close proximity to the main lobby.

Safety and Security
The “flat floor” auditorium design offers improved safety over the sloped design of the current facility where the public attends county commission and other county board meetings. Video recording and metal detector capability have been designed into the new construction together with an impressive array of high-tech audio and visual capabilities.

New auditorium
The present auditorium seats about 180 people and the new auditorium will seat about 320 — quite an upgrade.

The Record reported this morning that Wiseman said “A conference room on the first floor was also built”. Kevin chuckled, remarking that the buildings have several multi-purpose conference rooms, something that were in short supply in the old building. Wiseman told me that they see the public all the time and they’ve provided adequate space to facilitate that need.

The building should be ready to occupy in September, according to Wiseman, however, he is not certain as to the date that the Avenue D Extension, to be re-named San Sebastian View, will be opened where it connects at U.S. 1. Wiseman pointed out that the state Department of Transportation and the railroad play various roles, in addition to the county, in making that happen.