An entrepreneurship center and a support building for Wayne Ferguson Plaza are near-term goals
The city-owned building on the northeast corner of Main and Charles streets was the subject of a city council workshop discussion Monday night. The former bank building’s drive-through will be demolished to make way for a support facility for Wayne Ferguson Plaza, and in the short term, the bank building will be renovated to serve as an entrepreneurial innovation center. In the long-term, with the right private partner, the space would host a multi-story mixed-use building with restaurant and retail on the bottom floor and the entrepreneurial center, and office or event space on upper floors.
That building (191 W. Main St.) was formerly the home of Commercial Bank of Texas, but the city acquired it in 2012 as part of the process for constructing Wayne Ferguson Plaza. The bank had leased the space back from the city through 2015 and were in the space until they moved into their new location on Mill street. Lewisville’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau currently occupies the eastern half of the building.
Assistant City Manager Claire Swann updated the council on the process that they started last October, in directing staff to study the uses. Based on direction the council provided at the February retreat, a charrette (planning and design session) convened May 19 with architectural and construction firm The Beck Group, consulting firm Catalyst Commercial, and community members. The charrette was held in the bank building, and a consensus was reached regarding the preferred design features that the group wanted to see for the site’s future.
“There was a division between what is the best short term use, and what is the best long term use for the site,” said Swann. “The idea being the market potentially wasn’t there for the best and ultimate use for this site for two to three years down the road. I think we all know that change in Old Town is coming and it’s moving pretty quickly.”
Swann explained that although alternatives for holding the property or leasing it as office space were considered, Catalyst consultant Jason Claunch recommended the entrepreneurial center idea to best activate the corner.
“Once you get to that tipping point, things can take off. Private money can be freely invested in this community, and things will become a little easier than they are right now,” said Swann.
“That was the recommendation from our consultant: the idea to be getting new, young blood down into our city center, who are interested in walkability, using the businesses that are already down there, and energizing that corner,” explained Swann. “We could invest in an entrepreneurial center, see if it works in two to three years, and if it does, then this is a great opportunity for our community, as well as to build businesses that will stay and grow in Lewisville.”
Tobias Newham and Ed McGonigle with Beck presented the design strategy for both the short-term and long-term uses for the site.
Plaza support building – Phase 1A
The proposed plaza support facility would have permanent restrooms that would be used for special events in the park, like Sounds of Lewisville. City Manager Donna Barron said that one of the biggest limitations the city has seen when trying to rent the plaza for special events is the lack of restrooms. The facility is expected to take the pressure off local businesses surrounding the park, which prefer to reserve their restrooms for paying customers.
It would alleviate the need for potential uses like company picnics and weddings to rent portable toilets. Major events like Western Days would still require portable toilet rental.
The support facility would also hold space for storage of tables, chairs and stage equipment for the plaza. It would have a fully-equipped commercial kitchen to be used not only for catering events in the plaza, but in conjunction with an entrepreneurial center. It would be built so that it could later have a second story added. Concept plans show a deck on top of the building, but it could be expanded in the future for other uses.
Entrepreneurial center – Phase 1B
The entrepreneurial center would require a renovation of the bank building. Lewisville’s convention and visitor’s bureau currently occupies the eastern half of the building, but would move elsewhere. Barron said that they would likely move to the third floor of city hall.
The building would have eight office spaces, a board room, some central common area open working environments, and a “pitch room” where entrepreneurs would share their ideas. The bank’s current vault room would be used for mentoring sessions. The concept proposed the drop ceilings be removed to make a more open feel.
Barron told the council that she would assign an existing city employee to manage the entrepreneurial center.
As discussed in a workshop last year, the city would contract with the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. DEC brings entrepreneurs and their small businesses under one roof with resident and guest advisors. They also provide essential technology tools for a collaborative environment that helps them launch their companies and grow.
DEC had proposed a five-year agreement with Lewisville, where the city would pay $125,000 for DEC’s assistance in setting up the entrepreneurial center and getting it running.
Local entrepreneur members could have offices or use space in the building, and get help growing businesses there. Swann said that the fee paid to the DEC would include DEC’s model for operation, and help with establishing programming and practices. “It’s a hands-on partnership,” she said.
At its Dallas location, the DEC operates a free weekly educational program with presenters from startup companies in the area. There will be a question and answer segment to provide an opportunity for feedback and idea exchange. They also offer various classes on topics of interest to entrepreneurs, run a volunteer program and offer mentoring.
Restaurant/Office usage – Phase two
After several years, if the market conditions are right, and the city finds a private partner, the renovated building would be torn down, and the city would build a four-story building with an 8,000 square foot restaurant use on the first floor. The second floor would be used for an innovation/entrepreneur center. The third floor is proposed for office use. The fourth floor is smaller in square footage, set back from the street, and planned for event space. Rooftop decks face Wayne Ferguson Plaza, and pergolas are shown providing shade to the top floor deck.
The sides of the building facing Main and Charles streets incorporate brick and masonry, while the side facing the plaza incorporates more glass and have a more modern feel. They would let in more natural light from the north.
A prominent vertical “welcoming tower” feature would be on the southwest corner of the building, facing the intersection of Charles and Mill streets.
The current year’s city budget, passed last summer, transferred $1.6 million to the Capital Improvements Fund in anticipation of both of the projects.
But, costs for the project are not yet known for certain.
City staff had originally estimated a cost of $717,945 for the support center. That evolved through the charrette process and through discussions between city staff about the needs for the facility.
The original plans called for dressing rooms for performers, and more toilets than are currently specified. Although the current plans leave those out of that building, two major factors drive an increased cost. First, the building will be engineered and built to support a future second story addition for future needs. Secondly, instead of the originally proposed catering kitchen, which would have only had warmers and coolers to handle food prepared elsewhere, city staff has now proposed that a full kitchen would be best. Barron said it would provide more flexibility with regards to special events and could be used in conjunction with the entrepreneur center, if its members started businesses involving food preparation.
Although Beck’s estimate shows a price tag of $1.9 million for the support building, including almost $310,000 for kitchen equipment, Barron said that she thought the estimates were high. Particularly with the kitchen, Barron explained that Beck was not a group of kitchen specialists, and that the city would bring in kitchen designers at the appropriate time.
With the renovation of the bank for the entrepreneurial center, city staff had initially estimated a cost of $130,000 to renovate the bank half of the building, leaving the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff in place on the eastern half. After further discussions, a city council field trip to The Addison Treehouse, and the design charrette, the recommendation is now to connect the two halves of the building, open up the center, raise the ceilings, and use the whole building as the entrepreneurial center. Beck’s cost estimate for that work came in at $852,416.
“Architects are dreamers who paint really pretty, expensive pictures,” Barron told The Lewisville Texan Journal Thursday. She said her goal is to go back to Beck for design plans with a price target of no more than $500,000. She said she thinks $300,000 to $500,000 is more reasonable. Barron explained that Beck’s estimates were developed without giving them a budget. Now that the creative process has taken place, she intends to stress value engineering. “We are guardians of the public purse, and we will continue to be conservative,” she said.
Barron said that a top driver of construction costs in almost any project the city does is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. And “there’s gonna be asbestos,” she said. Asbestos remediation is a common expense in dealing with buildings built before the 1980s. Furniture, fixtures, and equipment constituted over $142,000 of the renovation estimate.
Barron said that the next step, based on the council’s approval, is to go to Beck and have them develop firm design plans. The City Council would still have further approvals as the cost estimates come in, and the eventual projects are put out to bid. The $1.6 million stays in the CIP budget for now, and Barron said she had not requested any more in the preliminary budget for 2016/17. She said that the preliminary budget includes money for land purchases, and that if the project came in over the $1.6 million, she would ask the council to take it from there.
As for the Phase Two building, Barron and Swann both emphasized that the city would be looking at a public-private partnership to make it happen, and that they thought the timing was several years out before a deal could be made. The concept design for that building is a starting point that the city can use to pitch to potential partners, along with possible incentives to get the right deal. Beck’s estimate on its concept design came in just shy of $7.1 million.
After some discussion, the city council gave Barron the nod Monday night to continue pursuing the plans. The projects are likely to be discussed again in the annual budget workshop, currently scheduled for 9 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 13.
Correction: The print version of this article inadvertently went out with an incorrect caption attributing one of the architectural renderings. All renderings were provided by Beck Group.