New hall in future for town
ST. MICHAELS — The St. Michaels Commissioners voted unanimously last week in favor of calling for bids to demolish the old doctor’s office at 800 S. Talbot St., with a tentative plan to build a new town hall there.
The building and lot became the property of the town for $200,000 as of Aug. 1, according to Maryland property records.
The push to build a new town hall has been ongoing for more than a year, with the commissioners and their staff considering renovating the current building and eyeing locations in town to build a new one.
Inadequate work spaces at the current town hall have plagued the staff for a long time.
The building at 300 Mill St. has been well maintained, but has insufficient aspects that would be expensive to correct, according to a feasibility study conducted
earlier this year by a committee of citizens and consultants from Crosby & Associates.
The waterfront location of the current town office once was a private residence that was remodeled and refitted into staff offices and meeting chambers for the commissioners.
The most pressing problem with the town’s current digs is a lack of complete handicapped access.
Other problems include a lack of privacy between offices, only one meeting room and not enough storage space. The copier/printing room has been doubling as a second meeting room.
According to law, if all those insufficiencies were addressed at once, the building would be subject to critical area regulations and would need to be raised out of the floodplain and new foundations constructed.
The staff and contents of the building would need to be removed during that process.
Consultants worked out several scenarios and ultimately came to the conclusion that constructing a new one-story town hall would be the most cost-effective solution.
Commissioners have agreed the old doctor’s office property is the best place for the new town hall.
The old doctor’s office property fronts on Talbot Street and stretches from Maple Avenue to Boundary Lane. It is listed as having 19,110 square feet of property with a 4,142-square-foot building.
Many of those in town remember when it housed the medical practice of Dr. Christine Galan and Dr. William Bremer in the 1990s.
Commissioner Roy Myers said the back part of the building was built about 1919 to 1920, and it has been added onto again and again.
“I’ve been through it a number of times, and the building is in really bad shape,” Myers said at the town’s Aug. 23 meeting.
“I went through the basement — it’s full of water,” he said, adding that when he went up to the attic and the second floor, he found much of it had been torn apart.
“I’ve walked it two or three times in the last 10 days,” Commissioner Michael Bibb said. “There’s just no way of even thinking to rehab that back section. The building is just too old. It’s in too poor a condition.”
Commission President William Boos indicated he had not heard townsfolk expressing many opinions so far on the new town office. He had gotten feedback from only one town resident so far.
The commissioners discussed stripping out the old historic windows, doors and trim, and selling them or donating them to the Habitat for Humanity Choptank ReStore.
Another suggestion was to let the St. Michaels police and fire departments conduct some tactical training in the building before the demolition.
One by one, the commissioners agreed with getting the town manager, Jean Weisman, to call for bids to have the building razed, basement filled in and landscape graded.
Myers said the property is a prime location to place a government building that would become a “showplace,” easily viewed as people enter town on state Route 33 from the southeast.
“One of the things the building committee recommended to us is to have a competition over, say, what the building would look like,” Myers said.
He said a call could go out to architects that the town is conducting a competition for the design of the new St. Michaels town hall.
He said the decision could be a community effort, with town residents able to view competition entries and give their opinions.
There is also the matter of what to do with the current town hall, which is on one waterfront acre adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Boos said the town originally bought the property with Program Open Space funds from the state.
He said the state would prefer that the current town hall also be demolished and the acre turned into a waterfront park for the town. Part of that property already has been named Hollis Park.
After some discussion, the commissioners came up with the idea of including the design for the new waterfront park in the architectural competition.
“We want to have your ideas of what this should look like as a town hall,” Boos suggested they tell the architects. “And in conjunction with that, while you are doing that, because this is no longer going to be a town hall, we want your view of what this should be as a waterside park as a replacement for the town hall.”
“So together with designing that, design this, too,” Commissioner Joyce Harrod said.
Commissioner Jaime Windon said she had not been on the commission when the last town hall was renovated, but she trusted the judgement of those who had been through the repurposing of homes into public buildings and understood it had not worked well.
She said St. Michaels was a historic town that had done a great job of restoring its historic district.
The proposed location of the new town hall, at 800 S. Talbot St., is outside the town’s historic district.
The commissioners voted unanimously at the Aug. 23 meeting to call for bids to demolish the old doctors office; to establish a competition for architects to design the new town hall; and, along with that competition, design a new waterside park at the location of the current town hall.
The commissioners’ next work session and legislative meeting will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Mill Street location. Follow me on Twitter @chrisp_stardem. Email me at email@example.com.
The current waterfront St. Michaels Town Office on Mill Street, in the background, will close and the offices will move to a newly constructed building on Talbot Street, if the town’s plans go well. Commissioners are calling for bids to demolish the...