Brian Meade, AIA and Maggie Krieger, AIA
Strengthening our sense of community and social connection is more important than ever in this time of social unrest and global pandemic. As public resources contract, it is important to maximize the return on investment in new municipal developments – both in terms of cost savings and improved operations as well as building a community culture in which people feel connected to one another. Colocation Developments are a powerful opportunity to advance these goals.
Colocation Developments are facilities that intentionally combine multiple building types or operations to increase social, operational and economic benefit. Communities can realize many advantages from this approach including maximized building functions and increased community engagement through shared use of facilities.
There is almost an unlimited amount of colocation combinations that a municipality can develop to better serve a community. Many municipal building types and operations pair well naturally as they provide related services and community functions. Some combinations that offer great potential include:
City Hall / Municipal Court
City Hall / Library
City Hall / Police Department
Police Department / Dispatch Center
Police Department / Municipal Court
Police Department / Fire Department / Training Center
Library / Community Park
Social and community advantages are often realized through Colocation Developments because they create spaces that are more accessible to both the community and staff that work in them. A single location hub for a variety of services and functions can increase community engagement and program impact. These benefits strengthen social infrastructure and community culture.
The Edwardsville, IL Public Safety Complex is an example of a successful Colocation Development that not only provides police and fire services, but also provides the community with new park and meeting spaces in a central neighborhood location.
Operational advantages to a Colocation Development can vary depending on the type of colocation combination, but there is always some degree of shared program space realized. Often these spaces include lobbies, meeting rooms and event spaces, public restrooms and fitness rooms. In addition, site amenities such as parking, civic plaza space, and staff break patios can be shared by municipal staff and / or the public. Often this results in a building that has a higher and more efficient daily utilization.
Open communicating stairs and lobbies in Colocation Developments can serve a social advantage by connecting various users from different floors or departments in a welcoming manner. These interior spaces can be filled with community art and comfortable furniture settings.
Fiscal advantages of Colocation Developments are realized in several forms, from construction and infrastructure savings to building operation and maintenance efficiencies. A critical benefit to a shared facility configuration is the building site itself, with reduced costs incurred for site development and ongoing site maintenance. Shared building program spaces reduce square footage requirements which can lower design and subsequent construction costs. With shared site and building infrastructure, a municipality is able to eliminate duplication of building requirements, saving on initial construction cost, and building operation costs.
The Hutto, TX City Hall and Library is an example of an adaptable Colocation Development that hopes to become the anchor of a future town center development. The library space on the first floor can become city hall expansion space in the future if needed.
Challenges for a Colocation Development may include operational changes of the different departments that will share the facility. With that in mind, there are factors for each community to understand and weigh. For example, it is important to consider the complementarity of department combinations including differing operational hours/staffing and community use patterns. To maximize the benefits of a shared facility, streamlined communications regarding the use and scheduling of shared space is key. And, it’s important to understand and mitigate any usage conflicts that may impact a sense of safety, security, or well-being for both the community and staff.
At a time when maximizing resources and creating positive community connection is critical, Colocation Developments offer communities important social, operational, and economic benefits. Through strategic planning, design and municipal department cooperation, tangible, positive impacts can be achieved.