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City Hall renovation: $12 million - but savings projected in long run

10-31-97 Bronze plaque outside Chicago's City Hall.  Ellen Domke/Sun-Times   97-10-682

10-31-97 Bronze plaque outside Chicago's City Hall. Ellen Domke/Sun-Times 97-10-682

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Updated: January 7, 2013 7:19AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed to spend $12 million to renovate Chicago’s century-old City Hall — and consolidate city offices in other downtown buildings — with the hope of recouping those expenses over three years.

Chicago taxpayers spend $4.4 million a year to lease 124,875 square feet of space at 33 N. LaSalle for the Departments of Law, Finance, Housing and Economic Development.

The city leases an additional 245,955 square feet of space at 30 N. LaSalle for the Departments of Fleet and Facilities Management, Transportation, Law, Aviation, Housing and Economic Development and the Independent Police Review Authority.

Yet another 175,057 square feet of space at the DePaul Center, 333 S. State, is home to the Departments of Water Management, Finance, Public Health and Innovation and Technology.

Emanuel’s decision to move out of 33 N. LaSalle and shift those employees into renovated space at City Hall will cost Chicago taxpayers $12 million upfront. But the city hopes to recover its investment over three years and save $4 million a year after that.

In the meantime, businesses and individuals arriving at City Hall to pay parking tickets, buy permits or present plans should prepare to hear the sound of jackhammers.

Construction will be going on all over the building before a game of musical chairs.

The department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is moving from the eighth floor of City Hall to the Cultural Center, consolidating all of its employees into a single location.

Water Management will move its sewer-permitting function from the eighth to the ninth floor at City Hall, joining other permit functions.

Finance will consolidate most of its scattered offices on the seventh floor of City Hall, with the rest of its employees moving from 33 N. LaSalle to the DePaul Center.

Human Resources will move from the 11th to the eighth floor of City Hall. Procurement Services goes from the fourth floor to the 11th. Streets and Sanitation will shift from the seventh floor to the 11th, along with the Landmarks Division, currently at 33 N. LaSalle.

Law Department employees at 33 N. LaSalle will shift to the fourth floor of City Hall. And employees of the City Clerk’s office currently stuck in a windowless dungeon in the basement of City Hall will join the rest of the clerk’s staff on the first floor.

“This will lead to providing better services, increased efficiency and, most importantly, millions in annual taxpayer savings,” Emanuel said in a news release forwarded to the Chicago Sun-Times after the newspaper started asking questions about the city’s request for proposals. “By taking a look at the locations of city departments more holistically, we were able to strategically improve the way our departments function and interact on a day-to-day basis.”

Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds said the decision to vacate 33 N. LaSalle and “look strategically” at the Loop office space the city owns and leases “will provide significant savings to taxpayers in the next five years.”

Of course, the savings depend on whether or not there are construction overruns.

Last year, the Sun-Times reported that an elaborate wheelchair-accessible ramp to the City Council chambers bankrolled by $485,000 in tax-increment financing funds had gotten even more costly thanks to a string of contractor mistakes.

City Hall was built in 1911 at $5 million — less than half the cost of Emanuel’s renovation.

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