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Beam me up! New City Hall ‘topped off’

HUNTSVILLE — The city of Huntsville ceremoniously lifted its last and highest beam into place for the new City Hall downtown.

Mayor Tommy Battle; Huntsville City Council; Brandon Tucker, project executive with Turner Construction; Jeffrey Brewer, CEO of Goodwyn Mills and Cawood architects, and the Turner Construction crew working on the $90 million facility, gathered for a “topping out” ceremony Wednesday to celebrate the final phase of the exterior construction.

New Huntsville City Hall at Topping Out ceremony (256 Today)

Tucker explained the Topping Out ceremony is a Scandinavian tradition dating back to 700 A.D., brought to America and used as a milestone to provide a blessing over the workers who have worked on the project, and a blessing over the future inhabitants of the building.

“We hold this ceremonial milestone on all large elevation projects like this,” said Tucker. “All city employees and the Huntsville City Council have signed it.

“You will notice the American flag, which represents our roots, and we dress it with evergreen, usually from a Christmas tree, but Dr. Jennie Robinson who represents Huntsville’s District 3 suggested we adorn it with locally grown magnolia limbs.”

He said, traditionally, the greenery was for asking the land for forgiveness and thanking the land for the wood used in building the structure.

“We first started talking about this project 14 to 15 years ago,” said Brewer. “You should know the new city hall has been designed by the city and for the city, and every decision has been made with Huntsville citizens in mind.

Mayor Battle will not miss the buckets catching rain leaks in the old building. (256 Today)

“It takes into consideration how departments function and operates in order to serve the employees needs, and the environment is designed to foster collaboration and to make it more easily accessible and convenient to the citizens.”

As he so often does, Battle brought props and humor to the ceremony.

“The most exciting part of this new City Hall is we will no longer need these plastic buckets in the hallways to catch the rain when it leaks,” he said holding up a worn white plastic bucket. “Maybe we will smash the buckets as part of the ribbon cutting.”

He went on to say that since 2014 when the discussion for a new City Hall began, the city has worked with the City Council and held more than 30 community input meetings for what would be the people of Huntsville’s City Hall.

“It is a historic day for the city of Huntsville,” he said. “On a rainy morning 13 months ago, we broke ground on a $90 million municipal complex that will serve as a point of pride for the citizens for years to come.

“We wanted it to be an iconic building and it will be. It will be part of downtown and will blend with downtown to make downtown even better.”

The seven-story building has an adjoining parking deck that will allow the staff to work more efficiently, he said, and make the offices themselves more convenient for the public to get in and out to use city services. It is expected to be completed next year.

“It will be your building,” said Battle. “It will last 100 years and it will be a building that meets the needs of a growing city, and represent both the legacy of the past and the legacy of the future. It will save taxpayer dollars for decades to come and it will reflect what a No. 1 and No. 2 ‘Best Places to Live’ city should look like.”

Watch the raising of the beam below:

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