Plans to restore the old Town Hall building moving along rapidly

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Last week, North Kingstown Town Manager Ralph Mollis provided updates on the plans to restore the vacant Town Hall building on Boston Neck Road, which he said were moving along rapidly. Currently, detailed construction plans are being drawn up for the restoration of the historic building to once again serve as the Town Hall, with council chambers being installed on the second floor and a meeting or office space on the first floor.

Mollis said that, if the project stays on track, the restoration should be completed by 2022.

Discussions surrounding the future use and restoration of the town hall building have been going on for years.

In 2018, voters approved a $27 million bond for various town improvements, including $5 million for the restoration of the building to once again serve as town hall. Following the approval of the bond, the town commissioned an architectural firm, DBVW Architects, to conduct a feasibility study. DBVW estimated that a complete renovation would cost around $12.5 million, leading to an additional $7.5 million bond referendum in 2019.

However, voters rejected the additional $7.5 million bond, leaving the town with a total of $5 million to restore the building.

Following the rejected referendum, the council commissioned another feasibility study from DBVW, requesting cost estimates for the renovation that would not exceed available bond funds. Over the course of the several meetings, the owner of DBVW, Michael Viveiros, discussed the plans with the council, providing a cost estimate of $5 million for plans to restore and bring the council chambers back to the building.

In June of this year, the town council directed Viveiros to draw up detailed construction plans to be included with the request for proposals (RFP) for development, with the cost estimate not to exceed $5 million. After the construction plans are completed by DBVW Architects, they will go before the town for approval. Then, the council will go out to bid, seeking RFPs from construction companies to restore the building.

 Town manager Ralph Mollis said last week that the town was making “rapid progress” on the town hall restoration project. Mollis said that the architectural services are in place, drawings are being reviewed internally and discussions have been taking place regarding the use of the first floor. He also said that Viveiros had been meeting with the building inspector, the fire marshall, the planning department and public works, as the plans are drawn up.

Adam White, the public works director, is also preparing to engage the firm with an environmental study.

“A lot is going on and it’s happening quick,” Mollis said.

He went on to sketch out a timeline for the restoration, which he said would hopefully be completed by the summer of 2022. Mollis said that the construction documents should be completed by the end of this year. Early next year, the construction plans will go before the town for approval and then, if they are approved, the project will go out to bid and awarded by the town council in April 2021.

After that, construction is expected to be completed in April 2022, with the building being occupied a few months after.

While Mollis had initially suggested forming a working group subcommittee to oversee the project, he said he was now walking back that recommendation, due to the “rapid progress” that has already been made.

“Because of the rapid progress and everything working so smoothly, I’m going to walk back my recommendation of a working group subcommittee, with the thought that that idea should probably be reserved for a much larger project, versus a project that’s $5 million,” he said. “Also, that […] recommendation could delay this relatively small project.”

“I will be going before the council if I recommend a change in direction. In the meantime, we’re moving rapidly, it’s going smoothly,” he concluded. “Hopefully, we’ll see some good drawings before you in early 2021 to get your approval on some bidding.”