Atascadero's City Administration Building set to reopen this summer

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJanuary 18, 2013 

Historically appropriate earth-tone hues of red, green and gold adorn the ornate plaster ceiling details on the lower rotunda in Atascadero’s historic City Administration Building.

The completed work is one more step in the massive project to fix and retrofit the city’s dome-topped downtown centerpiece.

The 1917 building has been closed since the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake rattled city offices and left the brick structure standing, but broken.

With the upper rotunda’s brickwork repair now complete, focus on the finishing the interior is under way. The goal is to reopen this summer after the city offices move back from their former bowling alley home in Colony Square.

The repair project — coming in under budget by about $8 million so far — is in its final stretch.

“We’ve finished the structural work, and now we’re making the rooms look like rooms again,” said site administrator Lisa Sprague of Bernard’s Construction.

Finishing up the framing, drywall, painting, cabinets, counters and flooring are among those steps.

Previous work, which started in 2010, has included strengthening the foundation, reinforcing every wall in the four-story structure and completing a complex flurry of fixes throughout.

Crews have removed and repaired loose brick around the outside, using several phases of kiln-dried brick to match existing Salinas River clay brick that could be saved.

“When you look at it and question, ‘Well, what did they do?’ Then we’ve succeeded. It’s supposed to look just like it used to,” said project manager Dan Huff as he gazed upon the towering landmark on a recent afternoon.

Workers are also installing terra-cotta railings outside the fourth floor along with other finishing touches before the outer scaffolding comes down in March.

New sidewalks, drought-tolerant landscaping and a memorial bench for veterans are also going in.

Originally estimated at $43 million, the work is now estimated to cost about $35 million, according to the city.

The federal government has agreed to pay $16 million, but the city is still lobbying to bring it up to $22 million.

The city is also pitching in about $13 million for things like building code upgrades to the fire sprinklers, plumbing and making the elevator wheelchair accessible.

Grants have also been secured to restore original elements phased out over the years.

The building has a rich history dating from the early 1900s, being used as a public library, post office, civic center and three private schools. A firing range also once operated in the basement.

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