Ocoee broke ground Tuesday for a new City Hall, a three-story, $22-million building to anchor a re-imagined downtown.
The ceremony was delayed from last week because of inclement weather spawned by Hurricane Eta.
To be located at Bluford Avenue and McKey Street, two blocks south of the present-day City Hall, the new building will put all city services under one roof and provide extra space to accommodate future growth in Orange County’s third-most populous city.
City leaders hope to move into the new digs in late spring 2022.
With 46,552 square feet, the new building will be nearly twice the size of the old one, built in 1994.
But the new City Hall also is a central part of the city’s downtown redevelopment plan, which was adopted in 2016.
“Big things are coming to Ocoee,” city consultants boasted in the 103-page planning document outlining the strategy. “In the end, the downtown will have the infrastructure it needs to grow, the vision to keep it authentic and people to make it vibrant.”
Ocoee City Manager Rob Frank said the new City Hall can be an anchor to build around in a revitalized downtown.
Ocoee’s re-imagined downtown aims to draw visitors like Plant Street does for its western neighbor, Winter Garden.
Other plans include transforming the west Oakland Avenue streetscape with a trail that connects to Lakeshore Park.
After the new building opens, the old one will be torn down. It has slowly been sinking into the muck it was built on.
The two-story structure which has a Cracker-style front porch facing Starke Lake cost $2.2 million to build 26 years ago.
“We’ve outgrown it,” Mayor Rusty Johnson said. “It was built for a city half our size and nothing’s getting better about it.”
Ocoee’s population has doubled in 20 years from 24,391 residents in the 2000 Census to an estimated 50,000 now.
Johnson said the lakefront property is valuable real estate, despite the problems it posed for the city building.
“It’s a prime location so near the lake and park,” he said. “It would be a great asset to the city to have something go there.”
Johnson said he opposed ideas to move City Hall to State Road 50 away from downtown as some people had suggested.
“If downtown loses City Hall, you lose the downtown,” he said. “Most everywhere you go it’s centered around government offices. That’s kind of what we’re wanting to do...Things are going to start to happen ”
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