Sharing Buildings and Doing Better

One of the few things more depressing than an ugly building is an ugly government building. Aren’t they supposed to be big, powerful and symbolic? And yet so often then aren’t.

But The Atlantic Cities offers a kind of solution: sharing facilities.

In this article, author Rebeccca Fleischer discusses a new city hall in Bruges that was converted from an old factory. The focus of the article is on the building itself, but almost in passing Fleischer mentions that the structure will actually serve multiple municipalities:

The Spanish firm Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos has taken a vacant Coca-Cola factory in Bruges, Belgium and turned it into a spiffy city hall—a centralized administration center for the countryside’s various, scattered municipalities.

Perhaps this solution might work in Utah, allowing governments to save money — that would of course be the main way to see this idea — while also investing in better, more durable structures.

Take the Alpine city hall. Before I was a full time reporter at the Herald I briefly covered Alpine city government as a freelancer. During that time, I had to drive up to this building:

City hall in Alpine, Utah. Unfortunately this Google street view image is all blown out.

Despite the exposure, that’s a remarkably flattering picture; in real life the building looks a lot less… sturdy. Its quality is probably similar to an expensive McMansion. Or maybe a cookie-cutter church.

But either way, this building serves only Alpine, population 9,821. Meanwhile, neighboring American Fork — population 26,982 — is using this relatively shabby (but historic?) building for its city hall:

American Fork’s city hall.

Aesthetics and quality aside, these two small cities are spreading the resources out and buying less building as a result. In this case, one bigger, better city hall could have been built on the border between Alpine and American Fork (and serveral other cities) so they could both share it. After all, every city doesn’t need its own council chamber sitting empty most of the time.

Some smaller cities may already do this, but it’s not widespread in Utah County.

Provo needs a new city hall, for example, but the conventional approach might be to undertake that project alone even though Provo is the county seat and home to many government offices. Why not combine them and get something better than the two hideous and poorly designed government centers that currently bookend downtown?

I realize that this a theoretical idea and won’t happen in Provo because the various buildings are different ages, but the point is just that in general it’d be cheaper share. The combine resources might also allow for something a bit more permanent and loveable than we’re currently building.

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4 Comments

Filed under building

4 responses to “Sharing Buildings and Doing Better

  1. Why stop at consolidating offices? If the county’s smaller cities combined, you’d suddenly have a new much more relevant city that might save administrative costs and have more resources to improve the city in ways that several small cities couldn’t.

  2. Provo’s real opportunity is to co-locate School District and City Offices. It’s the same taxpayer base, same constiuency. Efficiencies in consolidating would serve the taxpayer in the long-term through shared costs.

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