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Canton selects architects for municipal buildings

Canton’s new town hall will require renovations to serve the administrators who will work there. Cory Vaillancourt photo Canton’s new town hall will require renovations to serve the administrators who will work there. Cory Vaillancourt photo

The town that refuses to stay down made another big move toward getting back on its feet last week, selecting architects who will design replacements for municipal buildings that were damaged or destroyed during flooding in August 2021.

“The selection of these groups was spearheaded by our administrative staff,” said Zeb Smathers, Canton’s mayor. “They really kicked the tires on this one. It’s not just rehabbing old buildings. They’re repairing our soul. They’re not just getting it back to where it was, but making it better and protecting it.”

During heavy rains associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred, downtown Canton took on several feet of water. Town hall, which also housed Canton’s police headquarters, was flooded out and remains unusable. The town’s fire department, located behind town hall, fared slightly better but remains in the flood plain. 

The Colonial Theatre, across the street from town hall, was gutted by floodwaters from the Pigeon River for the second time in less than two decades, and the armory on Penland Street suffered extensive damage. 

Several months ago, the Town of Canton put out a request for qualifications (RFQ) from architectural firms interested in competing for the contract to design Canton’s new town hall, police department and fire department. At the same time, the town also issued an RFQ for the renovation of the historic Colonial Theatre as well as the armory. 

The five buildings were separated into two groups, with the town hall, police department and fire department comprising one project, and the theatre and armory comprising the other. 

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The town received eight statements of qualifications (SOQs) for the town hall-police department-fire department project. Administrators from the town, as well as police and fire staff, ranked and scored each of the eight SOQs based on core requirements specified in the RFQ. 

Those requirements included the demonstrated understanding of the town’s needs, experience with similar projects in the past 10 years and resumes of the staff assigned to the project as well as the ability to perform quality work, control costs and stay on schedule. 

Charlotte-based Creech and Associates scored 374 points out of a possible 500, and was selected to perform the work for the first tranche of projects. Creech has designed town halls in Davidson and Pineville as well as the Union County Sheriff’s Office and beat out second-place contender Stewart Cooper Newell by just one point. 

Canton’s new town hall won’t be built from the ground up; in August 2022, officials from the town and from Champion Credit Union announced a deal whereby Canton would take over a former bank on Academy Street for town hall and an office building on Main Street for the police department. 

Those structures will require significant rehabilitation to meet the town’s needs, but the deal is viewed as a win-win that will also allow Champion to consolidate its operations in a new space somewhere in Haywood County. 

The new fire department facility will be built from the ground up, however a site has not yet been announced. 

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The new Canton Police Department building is located on Main Street. Cory Vaillancourt photo

The current town hall and fire department buildings on Park Street will eventually be demolished. Planning hasn’t yet begun on what will happen to the town-owned parcel, but Smathers said that it won’t just be about the parcel, but instead will involve a “reworking” of the entire area. 

The town will soon seek grants to pay for planning. 

“It’s not as simple as just tearing the buildings down and putting in grass,” Smathers said. “It will probably be the largest, most dynamic change in Canton history.”

Smathers also said there could be buyouts of other privately owned buildings downtown. 

The other project, for the town-owned theatre and armory, will be mostly rehab but will incorporate some flood resiliency measures, as the historic structures can’t be moved or elevated. 

Canton received three SOQs for the theatre-armory project. 

Greenville, South Carolina-based Craig Gaulden Davis Inc. tallied 370 points, based on scoring from town administrators as well as recreation staff in the same categories as the town hall-police-fire project. 

Craig Gaulden Davis has a substantial 65-year history of “completing culturally significant projects that have strong economic impacts on the communities they serve,” according to their SOQ. 

Projects listed by the firm include several historic theatres in South Carolina and Georgia, the Harrill and Albright-Benton residence halls at Western Carolina University, Haywood County Schools and the Buncombe and Haywood County courthouses. Shelby-based Talley & Smith placed second in the scoring, with 363 points. 

According to a schedule provided by Craig Gaulden Davis, the design and permitting phases of the theatre and armory projects could take up to 40 weeks before construction begins. Once it starts, it will take 10-16 months for work on the theatre, and 10-14 months for the armory. 

“This is just one step in the process,” Smathers said. “But it is a major one.” 

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