Alvarado building renovation cost spikes by millions

The price tag on Bernalillo County’s new downtown headquarters is skyrocketing. It’s now topping $50 million in renovations for a building that cost less than $3 million.

County officials say despite the high price tag, the public is going to love the place because it will be more convenient.

“Go do business with the county right now and you could be out and about all day going to different buildings,” Bernalillo County Facilities Architect Shiree McKenzie said.

It’s a problem Bernalillo County is trying to fix by consolidating six of its county buildings spread out across the city into the Alvarado Square building on Silver between Fourth and Fifth streets.

“What we really want to do is focus on being user-friendly,” County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said.

The county already has conceptual renderings of the exterior, with plans for customer service on the first floor and county offices throughout the rest of the building.

“We’re anticipating about 895 employees moving into the building,” McKenzie said.

That large task comes with a big price tag, with the county commission set to vote on a $45.7 million contract with HB Construction for the renovation work.

Fleet and Facilities Management Director Mary Murnane said the building purchase, renovations and security system upgrades boost the total project cost to more than $53 million.

That’s about $17 million more than the county originally estimated when it bought the building two years ago for $2.7 million, and more than double the estimated cost before the purchase.

“Some of the improvements that add to this additional cost are going to make the building last for 30 years,” Stebbins explained.

“We decided to replace more of the components of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems,” Murnane said.

Plus, there is the added cost of new furniture; LED lighting; and plans to move out of the meeting chambers it currently shares with city council and build commission chambers adjacent to the Alvarado Square building for an extra $3.5 million.

“Currently, there’s a building there that’s called the Alvarado annex,” Murnane said. “That building will be demolished and the chambers will be constructed there.”

The vote on the design-build contract was deferred until the next meeting in late February.

If the vote goes through, the design phase will start and the county hopes to move into the new building by January 2021.

Funding for the project is coming from bonds and money from a surplus in the general fund.
Stebbins said the county will offset some of the cost by selling some of its buildings.

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