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    Thursday, June 20, 2024

    New London wins award for restoration of City Council chambers

    Community & Economic Development Project Coordinator Tom Bombria shows changes made in the Council Chambers at New London City Hall on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Community & Economic Development Project Coordinator Tom Bombria shows changes made in the Council Chambers at New London City Hall on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Photos show renovations at New London City Hall on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Renovations at New London City Hall have included removing an office and restoring the third floor to its original floor plan as seen on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Art that was repaired in the City Council Chambers at New London City Hall on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New London ― With restored dentil molding, a new coat of paint and gold leaf detailing, the Council Chambers at City Hall look as good as new but have really been restored to their glory days of the early 1900s.

    It’s been more than three years since the city began a multi-million-dollar renovation of the historic building at 181 State St. The building was constructed in 1914 to replace an older municipal building on the same site, and it has undergone multiple changes over the decades.

    The city earlier this month received an award from Connecticut Preservation for its careful restoration of the Council Chambers.

    Mayor Michael Passero said the award was well-deserved and the project is a credit to the city.

    “It’s so nice to go to work at a historical building that is so well preserved and restored,” he said, adding it has made for a happier work environment.

    Community Development Coordinator Tom Bombria, having construction experience, worked on the project part-time as the manager. Bombria said it was nice to get recognized by Connecticut Preservation, and the city will be applying next year to be recognized for the overall work done at City Hall.

    He said the city was fortunate to work with great contractors.

    Torrington-based Valley Restoration was contracted for the work on the third floor and partnered with plaster and painting experts John Canning Co. to repair the damaged and deteriorating plaster in the Council Chambers, chamber lobby, anteroom adjacent to Council Chambers and a council office.

    Research by Canning had uncovered the original blue and tan color of the chambers’ walls and ceiling when the building was constructed.

    Bombria said most of the interior work in City Hall has been completed and what remains is the exterior. He said workers during the summer will work on the roof, cleaning up the outer limestone and rebuilding the landing in front.

    The city spent decades just getting the project started as it faced a number of challenges due to financing and logistics.

    City officials in 2015 approved a $3 million bond for the project based on a preliminary assessment, but a 2017 bid estimated the work to cost $8 million.

    Bombria said the city has spent a lot less than the bid amount and he expects the total restoration to cost $4.5 million by the time it is finished within the next year. That’s including $1 million the city received in state Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits and $111,000 in Eversource energy credits from energy-efficient lighting.

    He said the eventual cost to city taxpayers will be about $3.5 million.

    There initially had been discussion about relocating city employees and taking a year to complete construction but the work was ultimately done in phases while City Hall remained open.

    Most of the work in the chambers was done in the first six months of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic gave construction workers an almost vacant building.

    By phasing the project and doing the construction management in-house, Bombria said the city was able to save money despite inflation costs.

    “It was quite the juggling act,” Bombria said.

    j.vazquez@theday.com

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