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The current facility at Carlsbad Village Drive and Pio Pico was built in 1967. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad begins plans for new city hall

CARLSBAD — A funding analysis conducted by the city for a new city hall was recently released showing a price tag of between $72 million to $114 million.

Based on estimates, city staff is projecting a 120,000-square-foot building to replace the aging facility on Carlsbad Village Drive and Pio Pico, which was built in 1967.

The city has about $50 million that may only be used for community facilities, such as a new city hall. It also could generate an additional $37 million to $61 million from selling or leasing other city-owned properties. 

“As part of our Growth Management Program, the city collected fees from developers to pay for anticipated future facility needs,” said Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio, who is overseeing the project. “This money is ‘use it or lose it,’ meaning it can only be spent for the specific public facilities identified when the fees were established. If we don’t use this money, it would be refunded back to the developers who paid the fees. By law, we can’t use this money for other projects or give it to our residents.” 

In 2016, the City Council made planning for a new city hall one of its top goals for the next three to five years. Since that time, city staff completed a funding analysis, which determined how potential sites owned by the city could be used, based on the source of the money used to buy them. The analysis also tallied up the amount of money that has already been set aside for future a city hall. 

The city owns four properties that could potentially be used for a new city hall. They include the current site, Pine Park, the Faraday Center and the former Farmers Insurance property on the corner of El Camino Real and Faraday Avenue.

The current site is familiar to residents and large enough to create a central city hall that also includes a replacement for Cole Library and civic gathering spaces.

Pine Park, according to the city, provides opportunities to incorporate civic gathering elements because of the existing senior center and park, as well as the new community center and gardens under construction.

A parking lot could double as a public parking lot for those visiting the Village and Barrio areas, where parking has been a public concern.

The Faraday Administration Center site, where most of the city’s departments are currently housed, could accommodate a larger building. Since there are hills, the city would likely need to buy adjacent property to get enough “buildable” land at this location. 

The former Farmers Insurance property is the most centrally located of the options currently owned by the city. However, residents who participated in preliminary planning workshops several years ago did not favor the site and efforts to create a new civic center were put on hold.

The City Council also authorized staff to issue a request for proposals from firms qualified to conduct an analysis of the city’s future space needs and other technical criteria to help identify a preferred site.