Published March 19. 2014 4:00AM Updated March 19. 2014 11:50PM
New London - In an early step toward returning the more-than-100-year-old City Hall to its former glory, the Office of Development and Planning has received grant funding to have a historic architect develop a restoration plan for the building.
The grant, funded through a program jointly administered by the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service, will match any amount that the city spends on the project up to $30,000.
"City Hall is one of the public's most significant buildings in New London and we are stewards of our public property," said Tammy Daugherty, director of the Office of Development and Planning. "We had the roof repaired a few years ago to stop the damage being done by rain and weather, so now we need to do the restoration work to keep this gem for future generations."
The building was designed by architect James Sweeney in 1912 to replace the municipal building that had stood on State Street since 1856. Its grand Renaissance Revival design is intended to demonstrate a civic pride in the architecture of the city, according to New London Landmarks.
In January, Ledge Light Health District inspected City Hall and issued a Public Health Order for the first-floor room where a broken steam pipe had burst inside the wall and mold was growing throughout the room. Humidity levels in the room topped 98 percent during the inspection.
Ledge Light also outlined additional violations of the public health code in City Hall, including a 5-foot hole in the ceiling of a vacant second-floor office where a sewer pipe had ruptured overhead; chipped and peeling paint throughout the historic building; a lack of hot water in some of the bathrooms; and potentially high moisture levels in the basement where documents are stored.
Within 30 days, Daugherty said, the city should have contract language needed to put out a request for proposals and then hire an architect for the project.
"What this will do is prepare the plans so that the city can then go and apply for grant money to do the work of the restoration," Daugherty said.
That grant, also funded through the State Historic Preservation Office, would match up to $200,000, she said. The city must submit its application for that funding in October.
"There is more work that City Hall will need over and above that amount, but it will help," Daugherty said.
Public Works Director Tim Hanser has previously told the City Council's Finance Committee that a few years ago, a full renovation to the building was estimated to cost about $1.5 million.
Because of City Hall's historic character, and as a requirement to receive the grant money, the restoration plan must be developed by a state-certified historic architect, Daugherty said.
"City Hall is on the historic registry so we would of course want to make sure that the restoration is done properly," she said.