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By Mike McKibbin

Drills punched holes in walls, sanders smoothed steps and workers scurried hurriedly from room to room and floor to floor as Edgewater’s new civic center neared completion on a recent sunny Monday afternoon.

City Manager H.J. Stalf happily looked around in anticipation of the local government’s new home, a 55,000-square-foot building at 1800 Harlan St.

In November 2016, more than 80 percent of Edgewater voters approved building the civic center in Walker Branch Park, on the east side of Harlan Street between 16th and 18th avenues. Voters approved two questions: The first allowed the use of the parkland and the second increased city debt by $7 million.

The total cost will be around $12.5 million, Stalf said, and will be paid for through a 25-year lease-purchase agreement known as certificates of participation, or COPS, and marijuana tax revenue. The latter funding source is limited to capital purchases, Stalf added, so all the furniture and equipment was purchased with that money.

“We spent a little extra, but we didn’t want to cut any corners,” he said and noted the building will likely be used for at least 50 years. “We’re a land-locked city, so we wanted to build so we can expand. And we had the money to do it.”

Edgewater has about 5,300 residents just west of Sloan’s Lake and is surrounded by Denver, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge.

Stalf said construction work was to be finished by Friday, Nov. 9, and the nearly 30 affected city employees — all but public works — were scheduled to start to move into their new offices Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 12 through 13. Stalf planned to open the doors of the civic center to the public the Monday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26.

The building includes a 5,000-square-foot fitness center, 10,000-square-foot gymnasium, 10,000-square-foot library, 6,000-square-foot police department, plus 6,000 square feet for administrative offices, 5,000 square feet of basement space, 3,000 square feet of public meeting, entry and atrium space, and 3,000 square feet of unfinished space for future use.

Through competitive bid processes, the city hired D2C Architects|NV5 as the architects/owners representatives and Alliance Construction Solutions as the design-builder. Stalf said around 80 workers built the facility in over a year.

Police Chief John Mackey said his department’s move into larger, updated space will help it become accredited.

“That covers everything we do and requires we meet best management practices,” he said.

Due to the lack of space and amenities in their current location, Mackey said two separate assessments found the department “lacking” in meeting current standards. He added while it is difficult to estimate cost savings from accreditation, “it’s a definite plus” to have that status.

Stalf noted the department will also be the only one in the county with a fenced-in headquarters.

Mayor Laura Keegan called the new building a long-time need. She recalled her involvement in an effort to establish a recreation center in Edgewater around 20 years ago.

“It’s been an uphill battle and finding space for something like this is so tough,” she said.

City council and staff studied the project for five years.

“There’s always a lot of naysayers whenever a big project like this is proposed,” Keegan added. “But we kept the process very public with open houses and holding the election. We told the voters exactly what we planned and that helped expel a lot of fears.”

Library grows 10-fold, expands hours

The current 1,500-square-foot library will have nearly 10 times more room and compares to the Golden branch at 13,000 square feet and the Wheat Ridge branch at 4,500 square feet. Jefferson County Public Library Executive Director Donna Walker said the district paid about $2.6 million to furnish the new library, thanks to a 2015 voter-approved mill levy increase.

“That was passed to allow us the flexibility to expand when the opportunity came up,” Walker said. “We can barely fit people and books in our current location, so this has been a much, much-needed improvement.”

Visitors to the new library will find community spaces, more books and materials (from 9,369 to 26,500 items), enhanced technology, a quiet reading room with a fireplace and a designated family place.

Hours of operation will expand from 48 to 65 per week, seven days a week, and Walker said they have hired a few additional staff members.

“I think this is a great example of being able to do more together,” she added. “Taxpayers and residents want to see good use of their tax dollars and this is a way to meet those expectations for both the city and the library.”

The library foundation and library district are offering naming rights for the new library. Individuals, families, organizations, foundations and corporations can pay between $5,000 to $50,000 to name major areas and service offerings. Name recognition from $1,000 to $5,000 helps provide updated technology and other library amenities. Individual donations of $100 or more will be listed on a donor wall in the library.

The new building will make the current police department and library at 25th Avenue and Gray Street and city hall at Sheridan Boulevard and 24th Avenue available for commercial uses.

“All the current buildings were transitioned from other uses and they’re just tired, old buildings,” Stalf said. “We think the new site is much better, it’s only a block from public works and we want to help really activate the use of the park with events and concerts and gatherings. It was terribly underutilized and we think this can get the park used most of the year.”

Along those lines, the city was close to an agreement to purchase two parcels of land adjacent to the park at 1730 and 1790 Harlan St., known as the Toteve property, to help replace the land lost to the civic center, Stalf added. The parcels total one acre and Edgewater hopes to work with Lakewood to develop a joint-use park, he said.

The official grand opening event will be Sunday, Nov. 18, from 2 to 6 p.m. A group walk/bike from the current city hall to the new center is scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m., with ribbon cutting between 2 and 3:30 p.m. From 4 to 6 p.m., a family-friendly movie is to be screened in the gymnasium.

Pre-opening tours of the new building are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17 and 18, but only for those who pre-register online at playedgewaterco.com. For more information, call 720-763-3012.