Del Mar chooses Miller Hull Partnership as city hall architect

Del Mar City Hall
(Kristina Houck)

With an architect finally attached to the project, Del Mar is another step closer to a new city hall.

The Del Mar City Council on April 6 unanimously authorized the city manager to enter into negotiations with The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP, for design and construction documents for a new city hall, officially beginning the design stage of the project’s master planning process. The firm’s contract is not to exceed $550,000.

“I’m looking forward to working with this team,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “We don’t have a design yet, but this is starting to feel like the process is gathering momentum. It’s a really exciting time for all of us who have waited 34-plus years to get a new city hall built in Del Mar.”

Since Del Mar initiated the city hall planning process in June 2013, the council has discussed the project at dozens of council meetings, held three public workshops, and issued a citywide survey and online poll.

In January, the council appointed five community members to an ad hoc design team selection committee. David Arnold, William Cecil, Dennis Cruzan, Lewis Dominy and Pat JaCoby worked with council liaisons Mosier and Mayor Al Corti, reviewing statements of qualifications to select a design team for the project.

After reviewing statements of qualifications from 14 architectural firms, the committee narrowed the list to three teams: Architects Hanna Gabriel Wells, The Miller Hull Partnership and Safdie Rabines Architects. Each of the three firms submitted proposals and gave presentations to the committee.

Upon further review, the committee on March 27 recommended the council direct city staff to enter into negotiations with The Miller Hull Partnership.

“From the very get-go, Miller Hull jumped out to me,” said JaCoby, adding that after the presentations, the firm still “popped out as best of the best.”

With offices in San Diego and Seattle, The Miller Hull Partnership has designed several local projects, including community buildings for San Ysidro Port of Entry and National City’s Pier 32 Marina, and campus buildings at San Diego Mesa College and UC San Diego. The firm has also worked on six civic center buildings in small Pacific Northwest communities.

“At Miller, we’ve designed a lot of city halls and civic centers over the years,” said Mike Jobes, design principal for the project. He, along with managing principal Caroline Kreiser and project manager Kurt Stolle, made brief presentations to the council and showed examples of their previous projects.

“Over that time, we’ve developed, I think, a really strong belief that city hall could be much more than just a government office building. It really can be the heart of the community.”

The team said they had plans to work closely with the community — something that stood out to Mosier. He also appreciated their work with other small communities.

“I was impressed that Miller Hull really seemed to understand village character and building a building based on what’s in the village, what’s in the community,” Mosier said.

And although Councilman Dwight Worden didn’t work with the committee, he was impressed with the firm simply by reading its proposal and hearing its presentation.

“You are as good or better than I thought, as a practical matter, we were likely to get,” Worden said. “I am excited. I am ready to rock ’n’ roll on it.”

Council members also thanked committee members for their time and effort in selecting the team.

Council liaisons and city staff were so impressed by the committee that the council briefly discussed whether to work with them in the future. Nothing was confirmed, however.

“If they’re willing to do it, I’d encourage that group to be an initial sounding board because they are kind of a microcosm of Del Mar,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “They would be a good test bed for any ideas you have.”

In March, the council agreed to pursue city staff’s recommendation, while allowing flexibility for the architect, to build a city hall complex that would include an approximately 9,250-square-foot administrative building, 3,200-square-foot council chambers, television studio and emergency operations center, and a 15,000-square-foot plaza. The project, which would cost $12.4 million to $16.4 million, would also feature 160 parking spaces and flexible space for future expansion.

With the council’s authorization, the city manager will now negotiate and enter into an agreement with The Miller Hull Partnership for the project’s concept design, programming, schematic design, entitlement and design development tasks for an amount not to exceed $550,000, which would include contingencies.

The firm’s work is expected to be finished no later than January 2016.

“This is a very exciting milestone because we are at a transition into the design phase and are ready to move forward,” said Kathleen Garcia, the city’s planning and community development director.

In related business, the council also unanimously authorized the city manager to request that the city’s consulting firm RECON Environmental Inc. prepare an Environmental Impact Report for the city hall project.

The city received proposals from all six of its consultant firms under contract for work associated with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance. Fee estimates ranged from about $168,000 to $268,000 to complete the environmental analysis work.

After reviewing the proposals, city staff recommended RECON prepare the report. The firm expects to finish its work by November, which bumps up the council’s adopted schedule by about two months, Garcia said.

The project is not to exceed $250,000, including contingencies.