Westland City Hall Big Box Retrofit

Adapting a vacant, blighted big box retail building into a progressive, efficient, and green City Hall improves a community in more ways than one.

An adaptive reuse plan allows a city to turn a trouble spot into a connection point for residents and their government.

After a half a century of operating over an underground stream, the City of Westland’s city hall building was perpetually flooded, leaking, cracking, and even in danger of sinking. Between 2004 and 2012, the city had sunk $500,000 into band-aid fixes just to keep the building open and semi-functional. Even then, the 13,000 square foot space simply couldn’t hold all the city’s departments. Westland was operating out of five different buildings scattered around the city. The setup was inefficient for the government, inconvenient for residents, and a big deterrent to new development and businesses coming into the city.

In another part of town, at the entrance to the city’s shop and dine district, sat a defunct 64,000 square foot former Circuit City. The building has been vacant for over a decade and had little or no value for re-use as retail or anything else. But could this eye sore potentially become home to a new city hall, solving two of the city’s problems at once? Though it would be a challenging retrofit, OHM Advisors thought yes.

Through innovative engineering and architectural design, we were able to transition an abandoned building into a functional, attractive, and energy-efficient community resource, all for about 20 to 25% less than constructing a new facility. The solution brought all the city’s departments under one roof while creating a sense of transparency and connectivity between the government and its constituents. It saved the old big box building from eventually being torn down and landfilled. And it created a vibrant new entrance to the shop and dine district, attracting new investment to the area.

Thinking Differently

Thinking outside the big box.

OHM Advisors had to think creatively to make the required program fit into the existing structure, including adjusting large meeting rooms and council chambers to fit between the column bays. Beyond getting the pieces to fit, we had to make sure the building worked for how the public would use and access it. At the main entry, we put all of the city’s services along a large, arcing counter, providing the convenience of one-stop shopping for the community. We placed the city council chamber off the main entrance, separated by a glass wall to create a sense of transparency. The mayor’s administrative offices are also just off the entrance, implying a direct relationship between the mayor and his constituents.

Inviting the public inside.

To alter the outward appearance of the old Circuit City to look like a legitimate city government building, OHM Advisors’ design called for removing the entire front of the building and replacing it with expansive glass windows. This promotes a feeling of transparency while connecting the indoor space to the new large, outdoor public green spaces, formerly Circuit City parking lots. We added a large entrance canopy to create visual interest and to clearly identify the main entrance to the building. We also created multiple entry points into the building to bring people in and support the various uses within the building.

Letting light into the building.

The new glass building front brings daylight deep within the facility, and significantly alters the big box aesthetic. New window walls along the length of the southern wall further leverage natural light for employees and the public. In areas where employees do not have direct access to exterior windows, we installed broad skylights. Large open spaces and the ample use of internal glass in offices, conference rooms, and council chambers also helps to maximize available daylight. These changes not only cut energy costs, they also brighten the environment for workers and visitors while creating a sense of transparency and connectedness throughout the space.

Incorporating green technology.

OHM Advisors made use of the significant technology infrastructure that served the former Circuit City to infuse the building with energy-efficient features. LED lighting and sensor technology, a new HVAC system, exterior mounted sunshades, energy efficient windows, and auto flush toilets and sinks all give the building modern appeal and comfort while reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The green approach extends outside the building, where low-maintenance plants enhance the landscape. Be reusing the building, we helped save 64,000 square feet of building demotion debris from ultimately being sent to the landfill, by far the biggest environmental benefit of the project.

Connecting districts.

The project fits into the city’s larger vision plan for investing in public spaces and amenities for the community. The design includes public green spaces just outside city hall. And future plans call for a linear park to connect the public building to local neighborhoods.

"We've seen about $15 to $20 million in investment in Westland since the city hall project began. There's buzz in the business community. They see the city invest and they're more inclined to make changes, like updating their façade. There's also buzz in the commercial real estate, leading to new businesses coming in."  
James Godbout - City Council President, City of Westland, MI

Awards and Honors


Advancing Communities

From making city services easier to access, to revitalizing the Westland shopping and dining district and attracting new investment, to providing new public meeting facilities and outdoor spaces, to making a green impact, the Westland City Hall project benefits residents and businesses in almost too many ways to count. At the same time, it makes it easier, not to mention more pleasant and more comfortable, for city employees to do their jobs.

Perhaps most important, the project engaged the community. And the results are something in which the city can take collective pride. Residents feel more connected to and more involved in their local government, and they are reaping the rewards of this partnership in the how they live, work, and play. The City of Westland has set the example for adaptive reuse and all the ways it can benefit a community for years to come.

Full Services Provided

  • Architectural Design
  • Programming
  • Construction Documentation
  • Bidding & Contract Administration
  • Mechanical, Electrical Engineering
  • Site Civil Engineering
  • Landscape Architecture



Want to know more about this transformative, award-winning project?

Westland talks about the impact of a new City Hall on its community.

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