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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

They’re packed ‘like sardines’ at city hall so St. George is building a new one

The new, larger city hall under construction downtown is a sign of the growing pains St. George is going through as it rapidly expands, Sept. 20, 2023.
David Condos
/
KUER
The new, larger city hall under construction downtown is a sign of the growing pains St. George is going through as it rapidly expands, Sept. 20, 2023.

The price of being one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. is an estimated $45 million. That’s the cost of the new city hall St. George has broken ground on.

When the current city hall building opened on the north side of downtown in 1980, St. George had just 11,350 residents. Since then, the population has skyrocketed to 102,519.

To keep up, the number of full-time city employees has ballooned from 100 to nearly 850 during that time. Mayor Michele Randall said some employees have had to start working in closets because the office space is all spoken for.

“We are slammed in there like sardines,” Randall said. “It’s served us well … but it's time for a bigger space.”

The current St. George City Hall, at 175 E 200 N, Aug. 14, 2022.
Elaine Clark
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KUER
The current St. George City Hall, at 175 E 200 N, Aug. 14, 2022.

The new city hall will be twice as big as the current one — taking it from 34,000 square feet to more than 69,000 — and will include a parking garage that residents and visitors can use both during and after business hours. After five years of planning, Randall said, construction will begin immediately.

Before officials turned their golden shovels in the ceremonial dirt, Randall addressed a small crowd at the site — currently a parking lot — that looks across Main Street at the St. George Children’s Museum and Town Square Park.

The historic St. George Tabernacle next door to the park was built at the direction of Brigham Young and served as a community gathering place as early as 1869. The pioneer families that established St. George, she said, likely could have never imagined what this southwest Utah outpost would become today.

“In another 50 or 60 years,” she said, “I hope our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will say this city hall served us well.”

Mayor Michele Randall addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking for St. George’s new city hall, Sept. 20, 2023.
David Condos
/
KUER
Mayor Michele Randall addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking for St. George’s new city hall, Sept. 20, 2023.

Projections from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Institute estimate more than 275,000 additional people will move to the St. George area by 2060.

The St. George Police Department is one of many divisions feeling the pinch as the city grows. Public information officer Tiffany Mitchell said she and her sergeant share office space with the records department while their lieutenant’s desk is in another part of the building.

“We're just bursting at the seams,” Mitchell said. “It's going to be really helpful to have room and the ability to put people that we hire in a decent working space.”

The department is in the process of hiring some new community service officers — staff that can handle non-emergency services, such as parking issues, traffic control and lost property — and hopes to add more in the future. But for now, the only way they have room for those new hires is to put up cubicles in a common area.

“Once we fill up that common area, I’m not sure where we would end up putting them,” Mitchell said. “It’s getting pretty packed in here.”

Most department employees work in a building next to the current city hall that was built in 1995 when it had around 100 staff members. It now has roughly 220. When the new city hall is complete, the police department will expand to take over the building the city employees are leaving behind.

St. George’s population has grown nearly tenfold since its current city hall building opened. City leaders say the new one will serve the growing city for years to come.
David Condos
/
KUER
St. George’s population has grown nearly tenfold since its current city hall building opened. City leaders say the new one will serve the growing city for years to come.

The new city hall plan also includes additional space for things like public forums — it’ll double the seating capacity for city council meetings — community events and art installations. Having all that across the street from popular downtown destinations will create a new central location for the city to gather.

“This is the hub. This is the brain of the town,” said Naghi Zeenati of Utah’s Permanent Community Impact Fund Board. “If you have the heart of the town function … you have a vibrant community.”

Zeenati is a local member of the fund board, which is providing St. George with a $10 million loan to cover part of the construction cost. The fund gets money from oil and gas royalties on Utah public lands and distributes it back to counties and cities through grants and loans for community projects.

St. George leaders turn their shovels to the dirt at the city hall groundbreaking ceremony, Sept. 20, 2023.
David Condos
/
KUER
St. George leaders turn their shovels to the dirt at the city hall groundbreaking ceremony, Sept. 20, 2023.

Mayor Randall expects the new building to also make city services more accessible to residents. The current city hall has become less than user-friendly, she said.

The new city hall — which renderings show will feature a three-story glass foyer and outdoor gathering space — will have a streamlined front counter where residents can come to get help with everything from utilities to permits. And relocating it to the heart of the St. George historic district, she said, will help connect the government with the city’s residents.

“We want it to feel like the people's city hall because it is,” Randall said. “And we believe that this city hall will last us years and years into the future.”

David Condos is KUER’s southern Utah reporter based in St. George.
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