Topeka City Council Chamber renovated with new seats, floors


The Topeka municipal council chamber has been given a facelift.

The $ 225,000 renovation project was in response to COVID-19 to make rooms safer for city council and city court meetings.

“It was not a planned project,” said Hannah Uhlrig, deputy director of public works. “It wasn’t something we intended to do.”

Half of the $ 225,000, which came from the CARES Act, was spent on construction. The other half was used for furniture.

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One of the biggest changes people will notice when entering the Topeka City Council rooms are the updated seats.  Spaced chairs now replace the anchored row seats that made it difficult to move around in the past.

Most of the work has been done in the gallery, including new seating and flooring.

The old, orange, narrow theater-style seats have been replaced with chairs that can be moved for mixed use of the space, instead of being bolted to the floor. The chairs are also durable enough to be regularly disinfected.

“They’re definitely more puffy than your standard stacking chair,” Uhlrig said.

The new chairs are also much larger. While the old bedroom seats were 17 inches wide, the new chairs are 23, 27, and 35 inches. The gallery can accommodate 100 chairs. However, the city decided to release only 50 to encourage social distancing.

The monitors provide live feeds and remote access to Topeka City Council members and the public inside the renovated space.

“This (the renovation) was really about providing that safe space, because we wanted people to be comfortable coming back and using the space in the safest way possible,” Uhlrig said.

The wooden gallery floor has been replaced with a slate gray laminate.

“The flooring had to be replaced because once we removed these (old seats) there was no more repair for the parquet,” Uhlrig said.

The city chose neutral colors for the renovation, which also included new laminate countertops and carpeting in the city council podium. The lighting has been updated to LED.

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A new Topeka emblem adorns the back walls of the Topeka City Council chambers.  Prior to the renovations, an unused polling station occupied this wall space.

“Knowing that the city does not have the budget to do renovations on a regular basis and that this is not the central point where we spend our capital money,” Uhlrig said, “we opted for a range of more neutral colors that could certainly stand the test of time. We all got a bit scorched with the burnt orange that was in that boardroom. “

The project lasted two and a half months.

Although the renovations were not planned, Uhlrig said they were overdue.

“Our municipal engineer has been with the city for 20 years and doesn’t remember anything of importance that was really done in this room,” Uhlrig said. “It’s something that was needed and looking at our spaces and knowing how much traffic we have going in and out of here. We have a lot of turnover in this space.”

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