New Stryker Center bigger, more high tech

svaughan@vagazette.com

WILLIAMSBURG — More than two years after demolition of the city's old Stryker Building, the new Stryker Center is set to open Monday.

That means City Council will get out of it's temporary quarters in the third floor conference room at the Municipal Building and that the Williamsburg Regional Library will soon have much more space for meetings and conferences.

The Stryker Center along North Boundary Street is much bigger and more hi-tech than its predecessor, built in 1967.

At 15,995 square feet, the new $6.4 million building is more than half again as large as the old Stryker Building.

That new space is divided between facilities for City Council, including a new council chamber and a work room, the Williamsburg Regional Library, which will have five administrative offices and five meeting rooms in the Stryker Center, and a 1,680-square-foot public exhibition/reception space.

The building will have one mens rooms and one women's room.

The new council chamber will have seats for 123 people. There is also a large monitor outside the chamber that will allow the rare overflow crowd to watch from the lobby.

A new look

The new council chamber is also wider, deeper, taller and brighter than the one in the old Stryker Building. The only natural light in the old chamber came from small windows high on one wall. The new chamber has a skylight and a large floor-to-ceiling window in one corner.

Natural light will be a theme throughout the building; the exhibit/reception area facing the library building is glass fronted.

The Stryker Center is built in a much-different style than the Stryker Building, a fact that some have decried. The lawn that formerly bordered the building on North Boundary Street is gone, the Stryker Center sits right on the sidewalk. That larger footprint allows it to have more space than the Stryker Building, even though it's only one story, instead of two.

Now, instead of the entire audience needing to vacate the chamber for a closed session, the five council members can go into a work room, the same procedure that's followed in James City County.

"The new Stryker Center is a wonderful addition to City Square. A strikingly beautiful and elegantly functional work of architectural art, the building greatly expands the ability of the Williamsburg Regional Library to serve the community while also providing a site for the transparent functioning of the City's government, all just a stone's throw from where local government began here in 1699," Mayor Clyde Haulman said Thursday. "As a place for community interactions, exhibits, lectures and performances, the Stryker Center brings a new level of excitement and purpose to City Square and to downtown Williamsburg."

New demands, same name

The building retains the name "Stryker," in tribute to Henry M. "Polly" Stryker who served on City Council from 1933 to 1968 and as mayor from 1948 to 1968. That era saw many landmark decisions that still affect the city, including the purchase of Waller Mill Reservoir, the start of city-wide land-use zoning and the creation of the joint school system with James City County.

The city had been looking for more than a decade at replacement of the original Stryker Building, which had issues with mold, temperature, humidity, ventilation and was not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. A 2002 engineering survey recommended demolition and replacement rather than renovation.

The Williamsburg Library, at the same time, was experiencing more demand for meeting space than it could accommodate in its existing facility.

Although the city had foreseen replacement of the Stryker in its 2013 Comprehensive Plan, the process was actually jump started due to an unsolicited private proposal.

In February 2013, City Council received a proposal from contractor Henderson Inc. and architects Guernsey-Tingle, which spurred city officials to advertise for competing proposals.

Council received four new proposals, and began evaluating them in May 2013. A committee of city and library staff was appointed to review and evaluate the proposals and issue a recommendation.

Council wasn't satisfied with any of the three "final" designs and asked the three remaining developers for new proposals. Public input was solicited at each step along the way.

In December 2013 Council unanimously voted to move forward with a proposal from Williamsburg-based Stemann/Pease.

New building with new challenges

With construction on the building now completed, all of the parking spaces in the lot it shares with the library will be open. Williamsburg Public Works Director Dan Clayton said the parking lot will pick up one additional parking space in the lot from its previous configuration.

Among the biggest changes in the new building are technology.

"I think the biggest difference is just the level of technology," said Mark Barham, who heads the city's information technology department. "In the old council chamber there were four cameras and they were analog and they moved mechanically and when they panned you could hear it. The new cameras are high definition and they are enclosed in domes and don't make any noise."

A central control room manages the technology in both the council chamber and the workroom, he said.

"The projections systems are laser projectors, while the old ones were bulbs. Council can see what is projected on monitors built into the staff desks in front of the dais," he said.

The audience will see projections on a wall-sized screen behind the council members.

The staff desks are also new. In the old Stryker Building, staffers sat in the "pews" with the audience.

"The staff desks not only give the department heads some place to sit, microphones are installed in the desk so if questions are asked from the dais, they can be answered right there," Barham said.

Previously staff had to come to the podium used for public comment to be heard from the dais.

The building also has publicly accessible WiFi.

The new building is also more environmentally friendly. It is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified — as developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Special features include an underground storm water storage tank, an optimized energy performance hearing, air conditioning and ventilation system and a reflective membrane roof.

The library will essentially double it's meeting room space with the new Stryker Center. Moving administrative offices to the center will allow more space in the main library building for collections.

Vaughan can be reached at (757)345-2343.

Stryker Center

Upcoming events at the Stryker Center:

2 p.m. Monday: City Council ribbon cutting for invited guests.

4 p.m. Monday: First City Council work session.

2 p.m. Thursday: council will hold its first business meeting.

March 14: Library staff begins using the building.

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