New Belville Town Hall Opens Doors to the Future
Joe Breault, Belville commissioner, holds up a piece of yellow legal paper with a sketch he drew six years ago of his idea for Belville’s new town hall. Today, that idea is now a building that community members can walk in.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Laura Glantz
“Six years ago the town of Belville was at a crossroads,” Breault says frankly. He claims it lacked identity, direction, and civic pride. This, coupled with an increasing rent and the cramped, poorly located space at the town hall’s previous location on Olde Waterford Way, sparked Breault’s idea. The Board elected Breault as a project manager for the municipal facility’s relocation and construction. This, they hoped, would give Belville a much-needed identity.
Now, the finished product is almost exactly like his original drawing. The 6,280-square foot town hall located at 63 River Road was completed two days ahead of schedule, despite a rainy summer, and a grand opening ceremony was held September 16. The building with its brick façade and pleasant landscaping welcomes citizens and visitors coming off of U.S. 74/76.
Breault is proud of the new facility as he walks through the single-story building boasting 14 rooms including a lobby, eight offices, two conference rooms with Wi-Fi and projector screens, a two-hour fire safe file room, and a staff kitchen and full bathroom. Natural paint colors inside are brightened by sunlight from windows throughout the building and in every office.
Grinning widely, Breault shows off the mayor’s office with its executive style furniture, saying how he wanted to make it extra special for current Mayor Mike Allen.
Looping around the hallway past a few more offices and a storage room, he ends up in the council chamber that’s connected with the lobby. Board members’ chairs are on a platform at the room’s far end with the town seal behind them. The words “In God We Trust” are boldly placed underneath it. The rest of the space is filled with rows of chairs for the public, accommodating up to 156 people.
After two years of planning and another year of looking for property, the town purchased the three-quarter-acre lot from Belville Properties for $525,000 last year on a 15-year mortgage. Breault says the location was perfect because it is convenient, has financial viability and future strategic placement.
Instead of renting or purchasing an existing structure, Breault saw the equity value of constructing a facility that would save money and the town could call its own.
“Basically building a structure is a no-brainer,” he says. “It’s money in the bank for the taxpayers every year.”
Town Clerk Athina Williams affirms that. “Now the citizens will have a facility that they can be proud of and that is owned by them.”
Construction went quickly after groundbreaking this past February. The town teamed up with Lisle Architecture of Wilmington and Graka Builders of Whiteville on a budget of $850,000. The only unexpected roadblock was changing the planned 8-foot landscaping wall along the parking lot into a 116-foot retaining wall due to excavating the parking lot area.
Unforeseen changes such as replacing the audio-visual equipment and security system during the final days before opening brought them $22,000 over the total $1.4 million budget, without which they would’ve been $7,000 under budget.
However, they were able to complete the building without raising taxes. “We do not spend money we don’t have,” Breault states. “And I’m very proud to say that.”
Director of Parks and Recreation John Bucher says, “People realize the town’s not in it for the money, they’re in it for the residents.”
The town staff, especially, has eagerly awaited the new facility.
Williams has been on the town staff for eleven years and seen the process from start to finish.
“I am very excited that the municipal facility is returning to the heart of downtown Belville,” she says, “and that the staff will now be in a facility that will allow them to provide the services that the citizens are in need of.”
Breault shares, “In the old building we were sitting in each others’ laps.”
Deputy Town Clerk Brenda Williams’ old office was just a kiosk. “I had to turn sideways to get in and out,” she says with a laugh. Working for the town for three years she’s excited to have a larger office space that now looks into the lobby of the new hall. “This is absolutely gorgeous and well worth the wait.”
New to the staff as of April, Town Planner John Allen says Belville’s town hall has previously been in spaces where it’s been difficult to conduct business. He is very excited the hall is designed to function as a town building.
“This building is so much better in every way,” he says. “It’s easier for our citizens to find us and interface with the town.”
Keeping with Belville’s motto of “Transitioning to the Future,” Breault sees the new town hall “as a catalyst to encourage growth.” He hopes the new facility will motivate other businesses to establish themselves around the hall.
Opposite the site, a $300 million Mayfaire-style property that would help create a town center was planned but is currently in litigation. However, plans for a bicycle and pedestrian path on N.C. 133 from the hall to Old River Road are in the works for next year.
“The bottom line is…it’s not just the town hall,” Breault says. “It’s a combination of everything we’ve done.”
This project along with other revitalization efforts, such as the Brunswick Riverwalk, their Farmers’ Market, and annual events, has made the town advance “at lightning speed,” he says. It’s stimulated housing values, changed the image of Belville, and the residents have a renewed pride in their town.
“It’s exciting to see that transition!” Breault declares.