Remember, Provo Needs A New City Hall

My former colleague Genelle Pugmire reported over the weekend that the city council is preparing to discuss a bunch of issues. Some are surprising — how long shaved ice stands can operate? really? — but at least one could use a fairly radical approach:

Items on the work agenda include:

• Discussion of the city center — The 40-year-old city center has size and seismic issues that need to be addressed.

As I argued in this post, Provo could actually use an entirely new city hall. The issue is that there aren’t just seismic problems, there is an array of structural and cosmetic failings that would require considerable investment to fix. At the same time, interest rates and construction costs are cheap so there’s no time like the present to build something better.

The current city center is literally falling apart.

The current city center is also a fairly… unsatisfying structure, architecturally, to say the least. Set back from the street and hidden by retaining walls, it’s easy to forget what it looks like, or that it even exists. It’s one of the few buildings on center street for which I cannot visualize a profile; like much of the architecture of it’s era, it’s a formless, indistinct structure.

In this post, I argue that a great city deserves a great city hall, and Provo certainly doesn’t have anything very impressive right now. Typically, I like to make economic arguments here because most people can come together to agree that efficiency is a good thing. But buildings are also an expression of civic pride; they embody and convey a community’s sense of self and values. And unfortunately, the current city center tells the world that  Provo is a dumpy little town.

A great city deserves a great city hall, like this one in Pasadena, not the building Provo current has, which looks like a run down dentist’s office.

That’s a subjective argument, I know, but the point is that if Provo is ever going to build a new city hall — and it surely will someday — now is the time to do it.

Genelle’s article also mentions one other thing worth bringing up here:

• The 50-plus initiative — The city Strike Force Committee will present its Provo 50-plus initiative, which includes a vision for Provo for the next 50 years.

I love the idea of looking 50 years down the road. It’s why I hope the city builds a new city hall, and does many of the other things I argue for here; in the end we need to be thinking about what will make more vibrant for many generations to come.

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8 Comments

Filed under building, Downtown

8 responses to “Remember, Provo Needs A New City Hall

  1. Man, that is rough it can’t even make it 40 years. I spit up my tea here at work laughing about the “looks like a rundown dentist’s office” comment.

    • yeah, whenever I go by the building I’m reminded of Steve Mouzon’s Original Green and how he says buildings should be durable. This one barely lasted longer than a car.

  2. K B Ashby

    I think it would be cool if Provo could purchase the old Utah County Courthouse and make that a new city center. However, it probably isn’t big enough.

  3. I’m as excited for a new city hall as the next guy, but only if its a great city hall. A lot of the discussion seems focused on opening up the real estate on Center Street for revenue producing uses, not on creating an iconic building like Pasadena’s (Pawnee’s) city hall. A great city hall shouldn’t be secondary to producing more revenue.

    I don’t think the current building’s design is horrible, the structure has just been horribly neglected. The architecture was part of the city’s branding until the late 80’s and I think it’s neat that it was featured on things like letterheads (http://tinypic.com/r/jl6vlw/6). I hope our new city hall’s design is cool enough to be featured so prominently or maybe be featured in Provo’s next logo.

    • “A great city hall shouldn’t be secondary to producing more revenue.” I love that and completely agree. And that’s interesting about the current city hall; I have probably not given it enough credit.

  4. You are pulling at my heart strings posting a picture of Pasadena’s City Hall. So many memories for Brad and me. It’s seriously breathtaking and so are most of the structures around it, plus the giant sculpture heads of Jackie Robinson and Mack Robinson.

    People go to this area just to look at it and the surrounding area. My husband, friends, and I shopped and went out to eat a lot around it because it was so beautiful. Maybe that’s how it can bring revenue to the city? Who is a good enough architect to do it? Does Provo have the taste level or Hutzpah to do it? Hundertwasserish? Frank Gehryish? Zaha hadidish? Post Modernish? Exciting.

  5. Pingback: Grace, History and the Role of Buildings | (pro(vo)cation)

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