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Provo begins demolition to build new city center

By Genelle Pugmire daily Herald - | Feb 10, 2020
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Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi climbs into a large backhoe Feb. 10, 2020 to take the first whack at the old Rocky Mountain Drive In as part of the demolition preparing the way for the new city hall. 

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Mayor Michelle Kaufusi stands in front of the old Rocky Mountain Drive In Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, as demolition begins to clear land for the new Provo City Hall. 

Construction on the new Provo city hall officially began Monday at 10 a.m. with demolition of the old Rocky Mountain Drive-in at 50 S. 500 West.

Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, after brief comments on a live Facebook feed, climbed into a large backhoe and dropped the first smashing claw on the drive-in’s southeast side.

“Today is a historic day for Provo City as we see the first visible signs of construction on our new Provo City Center,” Kaufusi said. “This day would not be possible were it not for our citizens seeing this need and trusting us.”

After more than two years of looking at options and warming residents to the needs and wants of the city, voters approved the Police, Fire & City Facilities Bond in November 2018.

That vote authorized the city to issue up to $69 million in general obligation bonds for the new city center, and for a remodel on Fire Station 2.

“Our goal for the new public safety building is focused on safety and security for our employees and guests, a facility that allows us to be more efficient in our work and large enough to handle future growth,” said Rich Ferguson, police chief in Provo.

The center is not just for the personnel and safety officers but for the residents as well, according to Kaufusi.

“Provo City Center will be the ‘Citizen’s City Center,’ and I want each citizen to be able to track the construction progress, know their money is being wisely spent and feel confident we are keeping the promises we made to them,” Kaufusi said.

“With that goal in mind, we are releasing our new construction website at ProvoCityCenter.org, complete with videos, renderings, a feedback form and a timeline,” said Kaufusi.

ProvoCityCenter.org will be active by Wednesday. Until that time, the website can be accessed at http://newcitycenter.provo.org.

“Updates will be added regularly, with a time-lapse video capturing the entire process from Day One to Day Done,” said Kaufusi. “And, most importantly, we want continued feedback from you.”

The city center will be a 164,000 square foot building located at the corner of Center Street and 500 West and will anchor the downtown. One half of the city center will be devoted to public safety and include a new police and fire department headquarters.

Demolition of existing vacant buildings on the project site is being completed by the Provo Public Works staff with a cost savings to the project of $100,000.

Kaufusi and her administrative staff are closely monitoring the use of funds as the build-out begins. Having some of it done by city employees trained in those skills is one way those savings are being done.

The existing city center, built in 1972, is not seismically sound and is inadequate in meeting the needs of Provo citizens. It is more cost-effective to replace than rebuild, according to Kaufusi.

Provo City Center is being designed using the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) method. This method, used on both the Recreation Center and Energy Building, allows Provo City, the design team, the contractor and citizens to work together from design to final construction to create the most dynamic and cost-effective city center, according to Kaufusi.

In another cost-saving move, it was announced that Provo’s Channel 17 will move into where the Provo Dispatch is located when it moves into the new facilities. It is anticipated the savings will be $1 million.

The pre-work for any construction project is vital but the real fun begins when the public can start to see action on the site,” said Scott Henderson, project manager. “Demolition of the vacant buildings on 500 West and Center clears the way for the Provo City Center, designed and located to be an impressive gateway to our downtown.”

“From conception to design, the Provo City Center has been citizen-centered,” Henderson added. “Through analyzing current city operations, as well as incorporating public outreach, we have designed a functional space to meet the daily needs of our citizens. We want the citizen experience to be such that they find it convenient, rather than confusing, as has been the case.”

Wayne Parker, city administrator for Provo City, shared an update about the operators of the original Rocky Mountain Drive-in, that was demolished on Monday.

“Luckily, the owners opened a new and exciting restaurant just a block-and-a-half away in downtown Provo,” Parker said. “JJ Burger is located at 40 N. 400 West and they offer the famous Rocky Mountain fare of burgers, fries, scones, and their famous signature milkshakes. We were thrilled that the restaurant was able to relocate so close to home and to continue to be part of downtown Provo’s success.”

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