In the last 35 years, Oxnard has gone from a quiet blue-collar farming community to one of the fastest-growing cities in Ventura County.
But with a population approaching 200,000 and the necessary expansion of city services, Oxnard's aging downtown City Hall just won't do anymore, city officials said.
Starting in March, architects for the city will begin a $30-million face-lift that will include the addition of new council chambers, extensions to two existing buildings, a new parking deck and centralized city services for the public, officials said.
"City Hall is just really old and there's a multitude of things we need to do," said Councilman John Zaragoza.
"It's like having an old house and now we have more kids and we've got to look into adding more rooms."
Currently, city business is handled in four buildings.
Some departments and the city's council chambers are housed in the main building on 3rd Street, built in 1965, while City Council offices and the Police and Fire Department administrative offices are across the street. Another building a block away houses the permits department, where the public drops off plans that need to be approved by the city, Zaragoza said.
When architects began planning the renovations, the goal was to update City Hall's 1960s look while building a facility where city offices would be closer together and where the public could handle their city business in a centralized location. With about 90 employees sharing the 30,000-square-foot administrative office facilities, they are growing increasingly crowded.
"This building just needs to be upgraded," said Development Services Director Matthew Winegar. "The telecommunications equipment and computer lines are basically outdated, and we're just trying to have better office arrangements."
Some city offices within the same department are on separate floors or on opposite sides of the building, and members of the public sometimes have to make stops throughout the building and at several locations to conduct business at City Hall, Winegar said.
"This arrangement will make us a whole lot more customer-service oriented," Winegar said.
When the project is complete in the summer of 2006, it will be a great addition to the plans that city leaders have for reviving that side of town, officials said.
Last year, city officials unanimously approved a $12-million, 12-screen, 2,200-seat theater and retail complex. If it's built as planned, downtown Oxnard would become a bazaar of restaurants, bookstores, shops and cultural festivals, developers have said. The theater and shops are expected to be built over the next few years, between A and B streets, facing the city's landmark Plaza Park.
"We believe that City Hall is an anchor to downtown," Zaragoza said. "We've got Heritage Square [Park] on one end and now we'll have the new City Hall."
It will take 12 months to renovate and expand the 19,000-square-foot vacant library on C street. A 10,600-square-foot addition will house a new fire administration building, which currently shares its space with the Police Department.
The building, planning and public works departments will be housed in that facility.
"The notion is to have a one-stop permit center for people who want to remodel their homes or who need information from the city," said architect Daniel Alan Stewart.
When that building is complete, all city offices will temporarily be based in the old library while contractors demolish the old City Council chambers and gut its current administrative offices. They will also add 21,000 square feet to the administration offices adjacent to the council chambers.
New parking facilities will increase the number of spaces from 208 to 610.
But perhaps the most noticeable change will be in the council chambers and the public lobby, which will be razed and more than doubled in size.
The renovation of the main City Hall building should take about 16 months, Stewart said.
The parking work and landscaping will begin after both buildings are completed.
The project will be financed through a combination of bonds, general-fund and development fee dollars, officials said.
"We're going to have some people complaining about us spending money, but City Hall needs a lot of help," Zaragoza said.
"It just needs a lot of help."