How the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping plans to build a new City Hall
Council is reconsidering City Hall’s long-term need for office space after the pandemic accelerated work-from-home opportunities for civic employees.
“It seems like we’re turning what was a very difficult and challenging situation into a potential positive,” explained Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan.
An update to City Hall’s Master Accommodation Plan (MAP) determined that maintaining alternative work strategies will reduce the amount of work jspace needed to deliver municipal services by approximately 20 per cent (56,000 square feet).
In an accompanying report, the city treasurer writes that the alternative work strategy enacted during the pandemic, “has resulted in no significant impact to service levels.”
An internal survey of more than a thousand municipal employees found that those who working at home feel more productive and prefer the flexibility.
The treasurer recommends a gradual approach.
Councillor Steve Lehman agrees, “I like the use of pilot (projects) to test the waters on such things as employee satisfaction, productivity, and cost savings.”
“This also has the opportunity to make an impact on our greenhouse gas emissions,” added Councillor Shawn Lewis.
The MAP report estimates reducing office space and employees commuting each day could reduce City Hall’s carbon emissions by 40 per cent.
Just two weeks before the pandemic began, council approved the multi-year budget including $13 million in consulting fees to design a new $125.5 million City Hall building.
The deputy mayor says more affordable options may now be viable.
“That could be a public-private partnership, it could be utilization of our existing spaces in a more efficient way, it could be the construction or consolidation of new spaces,” says Morgan. “That’s determined through the update to the Master Accommodation Plan and the RFP that would follow.”
Funding for work-from-home pilot projects will come from within existing departmental budgets.