Mount Rainier Civic Center Proposed
The Mount Rainier City Council has proposed a new civic center that would combine the current City Hall with the recently purchased Star-Potts Hall (3405 Rhode Island Ave.) and a proposed new building to replace the former city hall/police station/library (3409 Rhode Island Ave.). Among other things, the proposal would create a new library space (operated by the Prince George’s Memorial Library System) with a multi-purpose room on the second floor (including a kitchen), move the city council chambers to the second floor of the Star-Potts Hall, and reconfigure the current City Hall to create more office space. A new entrance to the complex would be created facing the Municipal Plaza. The current entry to City Hall (steps and ramp) would be removed once the new entry is built. Additional parking spaces for the complex will be created at 3411 Perry Street which the City is purchasing in part with federal transit funding. The original proposal for a new four-story building at 3409 Rhode Island Avenue was downsized to a two-story structure after the purchase of the Star-Potts Hall. Purchase of Star-Potts allows the city to use the “alley” space between the buildings to increase the square footage of the new library and provides the City Council with a much larger council chamber. The vacated space in the current City Hall would be converted into much needed office space.
The ultimate costs of the civic complex proposal will run between $5 and $6 million (according to estimates made at this point). The City has some funding on hand to finance the construction document phase. County, state, and federal funds will be pursued to make the project possible.
In developing this proposal, Schick and Goldstein Architects (the firm that designed the city’s “green” police station) have been meeting with the city’s Design Review Board, the Town Center Design Review Committee (advisory to the county’s Planning Board), Friends of the Library, county library staff, M-NCPPC historic preservation staff, city staff, and the City Council.
The proposal to demolish 3409 Rhode Island Avenue and construct a new building has been in design phase for several years. Parts of the building (the former city hall and police station) are nearly a century old and deteriorated. The current library (built in the 1950s) is the smallest in the county library system but an essential resource for local access to books and computer terminals—especially for those who cannot reach the main library in Hyattsville. Since the continued existence of the library branch is dependent on the Prince George’s Memorial Library System, the space is being designed so that it could serve alternative functions if the county ever decided to cease operations at that location.
The Adah Chapter of the Eastern Star, which had owned the Star-Potts Hall since the 1930s, sold the building to the City in early 2010. The building itself dates to about 1900.
Alterations to the exterior of the hall will require approvals from the Maryland Historical Trust and the county’s historic preservation commission. Windows would be reinstalled. The current exterior staircase on the plaza side of the building would be removed. The “alley” on the northeast side would become part of the new library/multi-purpose building.
The first floor of Star-Potts Hall is currently used in part for a retail business. The new concept allows for continuation of a retail component in the front of the building.
The rear of Star-Potts Hall would become part of the new civic center entrance lobby that will connect to the current City Hall, provide access to the council chamber and multi-purpose room, and allow for a second entrance to the library.
In order to eliminate the need for ramps between the three buildings, the floor in the second level of the hall will be raised about two feet. The window openings cannot be altered, but the floor will still be below the window sills.
The new council chamber will have a seating capacity of around 80 (much more than the current chamber provides).