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Facelift for old Calexico City Hall

April 26, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Rick Eckloff of El Cajon's DEZ Construction made like Bob Vila on Thursday as he explained how this city's old City Hall is being renovated.

To his right, his co-worker Tony Torres shot a stubby nail, or pin, into the old City Hall's concrete basement wall to anchor steel studs the men were putting up.


The sound from the nail gun ricocheted off the basement's boarded-up windows.

"That's a power action wheel nail driver," Eckloff noted.

"Well, if you want to get technical," Torres said.

Between the friendly banter, the men cut thin steel studs with shears and placed them about a foot and a half apart to create a skeletal frame for new walls. To connect the steel studs and fasten them to the retaining walls, they used the power action wheel nail driver.


The new walls in the basement of the old City Hall will divide the floor space into storage areas, restrooms, a conference room and an office.

Last year the City Council approved spending around $400,000 to renovate this old City Hall, built in 1920, for use by the Mexican consulate.

Since March, dozens of DEZ Construction workers have been doing the renovating. They were about one-third done as of Thursday and hope to finish by the end of June.

In addition to fixing and shoring up the innards of the building, groups of workers have been tearing up Fourth Street to add parking spaces for the consulate offices and the nearby courthouse.

The workers have finished installing most of the frame work for the new walls on the main floor and have already changed the ceiling there from an arched design to a "T-bar" design.

"It's called a T-bar ceiling because it's shaped like a ‘T'," Eckloff said.

In the basement the old arched ceiling braces are still up. Eckloff said after all the studs for the new walls are installed down there, his guys will demolish the arches and install the T-bar ceiling.

A T-bar ceiling is great, according to Eckloff, because it's a lot easier to install lighting fixtures and air conditioning ducts. Most modern office buildings feature T-bar ceilings and fluorescent lighting instead of hanging lights and arched ceilings.

After the new ceiling is installed in the basement, workers will put in all the electrical work and then put up the drywall.

Eckloff said the thin steel studs used in construction of the walls are not stronger than wood studs but more versatile.

If someone wanted to move a wall in the future, "It's easier to tear it down and move it," he said.

Right next to where the guys were putting up the studs is a big, black Buffalo, N.Y.-built Cary Safe Co. safe. Unlike the new walls, that safe or the one upstairs won't be easy to move anytime soon.

In fact, no one is going to try.

Both safes are being left in the building but Eckloff's not sure for what they will be used.

Next to the where the two safes are stacked atop each other an elevator will be installed.

Besides the elevator and a handicapped access ramp at the rear entrance to the hall's main floor, the renovation work at the old City Hall is pretty basic.

Eckloff said there won't be a whole bunch of bells and whistles.

Instead, DEZ Construction and HMC Architects, the designers of the renovation, have tried to keep the building looking as close to original as possible.

He said that job will be easy because the building is still in fine shape despite being 80 years old.

"It's a very good structure. In some spots the walls are 17 inches thick and then up to 12 inches," he said.

After most of the interior work is finished the building's exterior will be sandblasted and painted with a "plastic-y, rubbery" paint that resists graffiti and inclement weather, he said.

In the near future, similar renovation work may be started on the old Carnegie Library next door.

"I've heard those rumblings," Eckloff said.

Mayor John Renison said city officials will be meeting with Mexican consulate officials this week to find out they are interested in partnering to renovate the library and turn it into a cultural arts center used by Mexican and U.S. artists.

If the proposed renovation of the library becomes a reality, the work would be coordinated with the old City Hall renovation to create a unified facility, Renison said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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