One of the last items to be done in the renovation of City Hall is one of the most important to Mayor Randy Toms.
Walk out the front door of the building and look to the right, and there is what might seem at first glance to be an odd little structure. It is a pile of concrete rubble cemented together with a piece of bent steel on top of it.
The rubble is for show, but the steel is a piece of the World Trade Center. The monument, installed just a couple of weeks ago, is a part of the new Veterans Park in front of the City Hall. From 5-8 p.m. Friday, the city is celebrating the opening of the park and the completion of the City Hall renovation, at a total cost of $4.1 million paid for with sales tax dollars.
The renovation is the first complete restoration of the building constructed in the early 1970s. The project included a new roof, new communications and pretty much all new everything. The only part that didn’t get any work was the mayor’s office because it was renovated a few years ago. The customer service area has also been revamped to make it easier for people to come in and do business with the city.
But it’s the 9/11 monument that stirs Toms the most when he talks about the changes in and around the building.
“To me just to get close to it is an emotional experience,” he said as he stood by it Tuesday. “I want people to get that when they come out here. ... I want this to be an emotional experience for people to come down here and touch a part of our history.”
In front of City Hall is the new Veterans Park that features granite triangles representing all five branches of the military. People can pay to have the names of veterans of those branches etched on the respective stone.
In the center is a large granite structure topped by an eternal flame that will be lighted in Friday’s ceremony.
The ceremony will include a ribbon cutting, food trucks, live music and tours of the building. Toms said it may become a regular event, possibly quarterly at first and maybe monthly later.
The renovation has been challenging for employees and customers because business has continued at City Hall while the work has been going on.
“It got awfully loud in this building for quite a while,” Toms said. “It was a challenge for a year to have to work go on and have everybody somewhat keep their sanity. I think everyone is real satisfied the work it done and now it’s time to cut a ribbon.”