The level of excitement between Oak Creek and Bray Architects about the city's new library, city hall and fire station seems mutual.
For Bray Architects, it's getting to design "signature" buildings in the middle of a high-profile redevelopment project at the former Delphi property, near the corner of Drexel and Howell avenues.
A team of city officials who reviewed potential architects came away impressed with Bray's deep experience with public buildings and strong project and design teams. The group selected Bray out of five firms, calling the company a "natural fit" for the city's plans.
Bray Architects officially came on board Tuesday night with unanimous approval of the Oak Creek Common Council.
"What really excited us is that you want a signature building, and you want a building says, when you look at it, that this is what Oak Creek is about," Bray architect Steve Kuhnen said.
"How we get there, that's the challenge we have."
The council approved a contract worth about $1.2 million for architectural and other related services. It's part of a $19.5 million budget to construct and furnish a new city hall, library and fire station.
The city is paying for the buildings through its existing budget and public utility aid it gets from hosting the We Energies power plant, and won't require higher taxes, officials said.
"We think that there's some great efficiencies and some real cost advantages for the city building three buildings at once," City Administrator Gerald Peterson said.
Bray's fees were in the lower tier of proposals the city reviewed, Peterson said. He said he doesn't expect to spend all of the $1.2 million the council approved. Any savings would go into furnishing the buildings, he said.
Bray has designed the Greenfield police station, Mt. Pleasant Village Hall and numerous other municipal buildings and schools in Wisconsin.
The company will now spend the next several months working with the city on the design of its new facilities.
"There's a real level of excitement with the outcome" of Bray's selection, said Steve Chamberlin, the owner's representative for the construction projects.
The city hall and library are the first buildings planned for Drexel Town Square, a development project that aims to create a new downtown for Oak Creek at the corner of Drexel and Howell avenues.
The new fire station will be built at 255 E. Centennial Dr., just east of Howell Avenue across from the post office. The facility would replace Fire Station 1, 240 E. Puetz Road.
Officials are planning to break ground next year and open the buildings in 2014.
The potential for a "wow" factor for the facilities is there, Kuhnen said, though it has to be within the constraints of Oak Creek's budget.
"It can be a gift to the architect to say, 'This is the amount of money you have. Be as creative as you can.' Because it makes us really have to think," he said. "We're going to obviously take this very seriously and I think we can get a lot of 'wow.'