Brides and grooms, fundraisers and community groups now have a new place to gather in Atascadero’s recently renovated City Administration Building.
The City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to allow the public to rent out the fourth-floor upper rotunda, also known as the City Council chambers, for $5,500 for a Saturday or Sunday, discounted to $3,500 for nonprofit organizations and $5,000 for Atascadero residents. Mayor Tom O’Malley recused himself from the decision because he owns the Portola Inn that hosts events.
Overall, the council wanted to open up the rotunda as yet another way for the community to celebrate the 1917 building.
“We were really able to re-create a historic building that’s completely new and different now,” city management analyst Audrey Banks said. “Now it’s back to a special historic level.”
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Also wanting to preserve the space, the council set in place a few protections. Since the upper rotunda isn’t primarily used as an event center, the city leaders opted to take the program on a test drive by limiting reservations to two events per month and then reviewing how the first five events go in terms of costs and logistics, Banks said.
Also, the city won’t be making money with the rental rates due to costs related to staff time, insurance, security guards, cleaning fees and other maintenance related to event usage, Banks said.
The council may later determine that an event coordinator may need to be hired.
However, the city won’t be losing money on the venture either, as it does with its other popular public rental, the Pavilion on The Lake. In fiscal year 2011-12, the city subsidized about $300,000 in costs incurred to rent out the Pavilion, Banks said.
“They really want it to be for the people who want to have events specifically in this building,” Banks said of opening the historic city hall to private events.
When determining pricing, city staff compared the upper rotunda to seven other venues including local and historic locations such as Hearst Castle and landmark city halls elsewhere in the state.
The rotunda space can fit up to 110 people for a banquet. The Pavilion on the Lake, located off Highway 41, can fit up to 300 people for a banquet and costs $2,600 to rent on a Saturday. There are discounted fees for residents and nonprofit groups there as well.
Special events include weddings, anniversary parties, class reunions, birthday parties, fundraisers, seminars, conferences, galas and memorial services, according to Banks’ report for the council.
Atascadero will also rent out the city hall during weekday business hours for $120 per hour, with a two-hour minimum. Nonprofits and residents get a discount.
Atascadero’s rotunda building had been rented out before the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake shuttered it, but special events such as weddings were more popular in the 1970s and then less so as the building aged, Banks said.
The building reopened in August nearly 10 years after the earthquake.
Starting in 2010, the city began a massive project to fix and retrofit the dome-topped downtown centerpiece with fixes that ranged from repairing brickwork and strengthening the foundation to reinforcing every wall in the four-story structure and redoing the interior.
The building’s reopening was touted as the highlight of the city's centennial celebration this year.