Del Mar City Council unanimously OKs concept design for city hall/town hall complex

The Miller Hull Partnership, LLC, unveiled three initial ideas during a June 1 public workshop.
(Kristina Houck)

Marking a major milestone in the design process, the Del Mar City Council on June 15 unanimously selected a concept design for the city’s new civic center.

After feedback from the council and the community during a recent workshop, The Miller Hull Partnership, LLC, unveiled two hybrid concepts for the complex, one of which received overwhelming support.

The design team introduced three ideas at the June 1 public workshop. Each one included a 3,200-square-foot multipurpose town hall that allows a range of functions, a 9,250-square-foot city hall for administrative services, a 15,000-square-foot plaza for community activities, 11,000 to 20,000 square feet of expandable space, and 160 parking spaces.

“We really think that with this beautiful site, if we strategically place these program elements on this site, that all the goals the city set could be met without significant compromises,” said Mike Jobes, principal with The Miller Hull Partnership.

The new civic center will be built on the site of the city’s facilities, 1050 Camino del Mar. Nestled between the village of Del Mar and Shores Park, the site features an upper and lower terrace. It slopes up as it goes south and down as it goes west.

All three of the team’s initial concepts featured an underground parking structure over one-third of the site, with 50 surface spaces and 55 stalls on each of the two lower levels.

Concept A featured the plaza on the upper terrace along Camino del Mar, with the town hall and city hall connected on the lower terrace over the parking structure. The concept offered about 16,000 square feet of future expandable space.

Recapping the feedback, Jobes said workshop attendees liked that the plaza would be visible from Camino del Mar so community events such as the farmers market would have increased visibility. The scheme would also work best for future expansion, the shared lobby would provide good overflow space for meetings, and the layout would offer wind-protected outdoor space.

Community members, however, said that having all the buildings on one terrace created a “wall” that would block ocean views. They also said that the plaza was too large and that the concept lacked a “civic presence” along Camino del Mar because there would be no building on the upper terrace. Last, some said the location of the town hall would pose privacy issues for residents in the adjacent neighborhood.

Concept B featured the plaza on the upper terrace, with the town hall in the southeast corner. City hall would be on the lower terrace over the parking structure. The concept offered about 16,550 square feet of future expandable space.

Workshop attendees, Jobes said, liked that the town hall location would create a civic presence along Camino del Mar and that the city hall location would serve as an acoustical buffer for the neighbors. The scheme also offered wind-protected outdoor space.

Community members noted, however, that the town hall location could reduce future expandable space along Camino del Mar. It also did not feature a shared lobby between city hall and town hall. And it did not offer enough public views.

Finally, Concept C featured the plaza in the center of the site, with city hall and the town hall flanking it. The town hall would be on the northern side of the lower terrace, with city hall on the southern side of both terraces along 10th Street. The concept offered about 13,400 square feet of future expandable space.

Workshop attendees thought that Concept C offered the best public views, Jobes said. But community members did not like the location of city hall or the fact that city hall and the town hall would not have a shared lobby. The layout also does not feature a windbreak for the outdoor space or an acoustical buffer for the neighbors.

Taking the input into account, the design team developed two hybrid concepts.

Similar to Concept A, Concept D features the plaza on the upper terrace along Camino del Mar, with the town hall and city hall connected on the lower terrace over the parking structure. City hall was made wider and shorter, however, so the town hall could be moved further south, opening up more public views. The plaza was also divided with breaks in the open space. The concept offers about 11,700 square feet of future expandable space.

While the concept meets most of the community’s needs, Jobes noted it still does not offer much of a public view or a civic beacon along Camino del Mar. It would also have trouble meeting the height limit and structural requirements for an emergency operations center, which will be located at city hall.

Similar to Concept B, Concept E features the plaza on the upper terrace, with the town hall in the southeast corner. City hall would be on the lower terrace. The buildings were moved further south, however, which opened a large public viewing platform in the property’s northwest corner. There would also be a courtyard in the site’s southwest corner. Like D, E also offers about 11,700 square feet of future expandable space.

Although most similar to Concept B, Jobes said Concept E truly was a hybrid of all the concepts and community feedback. And because the concept offered a civic presence in both directions of Camino del Mar, Jobes and his team recommended Concept E.

“In short, we think this one meets all the criteria quite easily,” he said. “It works on all those levels and we think sets up the best architectural potential moving forward.”

Taking a closer look at Concept E, the team introduced a more detailed design of the town hall, which had a 1,500-square-foot main hall with support space, an 800-square-foot overflow patio and an 800-square-foot breezeway, which would be a covered walkway to the adjacent city hall. The main hall would have a maximum occupancy of 300 people standing, 214 people seated and 100 people seated at tables. The breezeway and patio would offer additional space for an approximate maximum capacity of 620 people standing, 442 people seated and 206 people seated at tables.

The team also looked at future expandable space. The town hall could be expanded to 4,700 gross square feet and not compromise the overall plan, Jobes said. If expanded, the total capacity would increase to 746 people standing, 531 people seated and 248 people seated at tables.

The design character of the civic center was also addressed.

Jobes pointed to the wooden ceilings and tresses at the Del Mar Library, Powerhouse Community Center and Jake’s Del Mar as inspiration.

“A wood structure seems very appropriate to us — code-wise, it works fine,” he said. “It seems to fit in with the rest of the community really well.”

He also noted the outdoor shaded trellises at the Del Mar Plaza, and again, the use of wood in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

After seeing the hybrid concepts, resident and developer resident Jim Watkins, who originally favored Concept A, supported the recommended concept.

“I think they’ve done a marvelous job on the plan,” he said. “I think this probably represents the community as close as anything we’re ever going to get. I would support it fully.”

Some residents, including Betty Wheeler, liked the idea of a larger town hall.

“We need this larger space to accommodate vibrant community participation in civic issues,” she said. “The town hall site should serve not only to accommodate high levels of civic involvement, but actually encourage it by providing a functioning and welcoming space where people can participate and interact without being limited by constraints of an inadequate venue — and sometimes that means accommodating lots of groups around work tables. Let’s build a space that will serve that need and encourage that kind of participation.”

Resident Greg Rothman asked the council not to use too much of the future expandable space.

“My caution would be to not chip away too much at the expansion space,” he said. “As much as I’d love to see an expanded town hall and all the things that they speak about, we can’t have everything.”

Resident Bill Michalsky agreed. “If the community feels strongly that we need this town hall space, then we better accommodate the community,” he said.

“We can’t keep growing all of the elements,” he added. “So I would hope that if we grow the town hall, we would deduct some out of the city hall and make sure it all works.”

After hearing from the speakers, the council discussed potentially expanding the town hall to accommodate up to 250 people at tables, which Councilman Dwight Worden suggested.

Councilman Don Mosier said he’d be happy to accommodate 250 people in auditorium-style seating, which the council later unanimously approved. The council also asked the design team to look at including a 400- to 500-square-foot catering kitchen.

“Trying to accommodate 250 at tables means that you are taking away a lot of the plaza space and decreasing future expansion potential,” Mosier said, adding that it would probably be “budget-busting.”

“We’re flexible enough to grow town hall into something bigger to meet community needs, but there needs to be some practical limit,” he added.

Overall, the council agreed to move forward with Option E. The design team will now develop a schematic design based on the concept, which will go to the council on July 20.


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