Commissioners approve plans for new Montreat town hall
A new home for town services in Montreat moved one step closer to becoming a reality on Jan. 10, as the town council voted unanimously to approve plans for a 4,000-square-foot building.
Construction on the project, which is estimated to cost $1.4 million, is set to begin later this year.
Black Mountain architect Maury Hurt presented his design to a large crowd during the commissioners’ regular monthly meeting.
"I was excited when I saw the design," said Montreat commissioner Kitty Fouche. "It looks like a building that should be in Montreat."
Council members voted 5-0 in August to award a design-build contract to Hurt and Sineath Construction out of Weaverville. The contract was approved last October.
The building will stand just outside of the iconic Montreat gate on a .70-acre piece of property at 1210 Montreat Road that was de-annexed by Black Mountain in 2018 so it could be annexed by the Town of Montreat.
In 2013, the previous Montreat Board of Commissioners purchased a piece property on Florida Terrace with the intention of building a town hall on the site. Many members of the community objected to the proposed site and and several filed a lawsuit in 2014 to prevent the town from moving forward with the plans to build there.
A Buncombe County Superior Court judge ruled the town had not obtained the necessary pre-audit certificate required for the purchase of the land and in March 2016, the town announced it would build on the site.
The town purchased the current site from the Mountain Retreat Association in December of 2017 for $125,000. It was important for the town council to gather feedback from residents when assessing the needs for a new town hall, said Fouche, who was elected in 2015 after her campaign focused largely on opposing the original site.
"What we tried to do as a board was to listen to the community and make sure that we came up with a design that was favorable to as many people as possible," she said. "To that end we held public forums, sent out a survey that garnered 134 responses and met with individuals and groups. We received a lot of input about what the town hall should look like."
Overwhelmingly, Fouche said, the public wanted a structure with "Montreat flavor."
"A lot of people were very clear about their desire for the exterior of the building to be welcoming and blend in with the existing architecture in Montreat," she said. "They also expressed a desire for the interior to be functional, comfortable and warm."
Hurt, whose father William Hurt was the president of Montreat College from 1991-2002, was familiar with the architecture throughout the town.
"We adopted and adapted architecture and characteristics of existing structures in Montreat," Hurt said of the design. "We looked at Gaither Hall for the stone gables, the low-arched windows are like the ones used on Assembly Inn and the brackets are like the ones on the Way Out Building. The stone patterning, railings and porch posts are similar to the Left Bank Building across Lake Susan."
Commissioners developed a space plan for the building, Hurt said, which told him which offices and rooms the town hall would need to accommodate.
"I took that and flushed it out into square footage," the architect said. "The initial space plan was around 4,500 square feet but we worked it down to 4,000."
The approved design features a multi-purpose room, offices for the town administrator, town clerk and finance office as well as an office for the police chief and a separate space for patrol officers.
The building's multi-purpose room could serve as an emergency operations center if the need arises, Hurt said.
"The building will be built up about four feet above grade on the south end," Hurt said. "That will help the building remain above water in the event of a big flood."
Parking for the town hall, once its completed, will accessible from Montreat Road or Rainbow Terrace.
Brian Sineath, owner of Sineath Construction, said he's excited to be a part of what he calls an "amazing project."
"Maury and I have done quite a bit of work together over the past eight years," Sineath said. "We really work well together and we felt like this project would be a cool opportunity for us."
The next step in the process, Sineath said, is for Hurt to complete the construction drawings and for that plan to be submitted to the town for final approval.
"Once those are accepted we'll be able to start construction," Sineath said.
Sineath anticipates construction on the project will begin no later than July of this year. He estimates it will take about 10 months to complete from the time construction begins.
Town officials are hopeful that the new town hall will be a source of pride among Montreat residents.
"We can't ignore that this project has involved a good amount of contention," Fouche said. "We hope that now we have a design in place that everyone appreciates that can help bring the community together."