The City of Columbia Heights celebrated the opening of its new offices in the heart of the city at 3989 Central Ave. NE. on Thursday, Aug. 17 with an open house for everyone in the city. As a band played cool jazz, citizens took self-guided tours of work areas, offices and conference rooms not normally open to the public and lined up for food supplied by Columbia Heights restaurants chosen to display and celebrate the city’s diversity.
Although signage still needs to go up over the front door, the new city hall is a first-in-the-nation public/private development, said Chris Osmundson, director of development at Alatus. “Mixing high-density urban housing with a public use facility is a new idea.” He predicted that officials from other cities will want to tour the facility, a statement confirmed by Economic Development Director Aaron Chirpich.
Chirpich was given much of the credit for the project, from the first meeting with Alatus to going through the punch list at the end of construction. He made sure he recognized everyone who worked on the project. “This has been the most exciting, challenging part of my career,” he said. He noted that “everything is a one-off, created from scratch,” including legal documents.
Council Member Connie Buesgens, the longest-serving member of the council, recounted the history of the project. “This is Columbia Heights’ first real City Hall,” she said. “The council is pleased to bring the city into the 21st century. We’re very proud of the staff, who worked like a well-oiled machine.”
She gave credit to former City Manager Walt Fehst, who judiciously put aside money for years. “We own this condo. It’s paid for.”
Cheers erupted from the citizens of Columbia Heights.
With Interim City Manager Kevin Hansen holding one end (left), and Economic Development Director Aaron Chirpich holding the other (right), Columbia Heights City Council Members Justice Spriggs, Kt Jacobs, Mayor Amáda Márquez Simula, Rachel James and Connie Buesgens each cut a piece of the ribbon to open the city’s new City Hall at 3989 Central Ave. NE.
(Photo by Cynthia Sowden)