Simi Valley Planning Civic Center Expansion

Times Staff Writer

Simi Valley plans a $22-million civic center expansion to more than double the size of its City Hall and adjoining Senior Citizens Center.

The project, in the works for several years, is scheduled to go before the City Council for final approval March 24.

A larger City Hall would provide offices for employees from the city's Community Services and Environmental Services departments, who now work in a second building a block away.

"We decided to move those people into the same building so we can give our constituency one-stop shopping," said Mayor Bill Davis. "It's obvious this all needs to be in one building. It's better for city personnel and for the general public."

The 19-year-old City Hall, now about 26,000 square feet, will receive a two-story, 62,280-square-foot addition on its western end. The new portion will have a copper-covered roof with rotunda and a 62-foot clock tower.

With the addition, the City Hall main entrance will shift from off Tapo Canyon Road south to Alamo Street and be highlighted with distinctive landscaping, including a row of palm trees within a median.

The senior center, also built in 1984, will nearly triple in size after it adds about 26,000 square feet to its current 14,000 square feet.

"With the baby boomers now coming along, there's going to be a big jump in the needs of local seniors through 2020," said Kathy Medley, the center's senior-services manager. "We really needed to expand."

The center intends to enhance a computer lab, where computer lessons are taught, expand a game room and fitness center and create a resource center where seniors may meet privately with service providers, such as health insurance counselors.

"We do offer some of those programs now, but the arrangement is not optimum and the space is not adequate," Medley said. The center's services and programs are used an average of 425 times each weekday by seniors.

"Seniors are the fastest growing portion of the population; they're living a lot longer and they're very active," said Davis, 75.

The redesign of the outdoor courtyard calls for improving an amphitheater, a grassy area used for outdoor public events, and adding gardens, fountains, benches and walking paths. To accommodate the larger facilities, 419 parking spaces will be added, including 20 for handicapped visitors.

"There is an economy of scale by doing it all at one time," said Assistant City Manager Brian Gabler, who is overseeing the project. He estimates the city will save between $3 million and $8 million by doing the projects simultaneously. Simi Valley expects to issue certificate of participation bonds this summer to provide long-term construction financing.

The last addition to the civic center came in 1998 when a $15-million, 55,000-square-foot police station opened. It replaced two 27-year-old buildings on Cochran Street that had been damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The complex includes a county-run library and a Development Services Building. The East County Courthouse and a local Department of Motor Vehicles office are located just west of the civic center.

Gabler said the city hopes to select a contractor this summer and begin construction by fall. The senior center would be completed in about a year and the City Hall expansion in about 20 months.

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