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City County Building Renovation is Largest Ever 
City County Renovation

Ninety-three City employees have been in their new work space only a few months, but the impressive renovation is already starting to transform the way the City does business.

It’s the largest redesign in the City County Building since it opened its doors in 1979.

In late December 2018, three City departments moved into their new spaces on the fourth floor:  Engineering, Plans Review and Inspections, and Planning. This completed Phase 2 of the new project and followed Phase 1, which restored the public hallway on the floor. Phase 3 involves relocation of some Fire Department employees, and renovation is now underway.

With customer service and creativity in mind, the 24,000-square-foot renovation has combined these teams that for many years worked on different floors.

The City’s goal in launching the renovation project? A better public customer experience. And from early public and employee response, the redesigned floor has already made it easier for the City and its customers to do business. 

Easy collaboration among departments in the renovated space that is both efficient and intentional is also a priority. 

Deputy to the Mayor and Chief Operating Officer David Brace calls the redesign the start of an even bigger process. 

“It’s a journey,” says Brace. “This project is the start of making our developing process easier. It is one big step in making our customer experience better and empowering our employees as they make decisions and work efficiently with other departments,” he said.

“We know future improvements are important. So we want to be responsive to Development Services’ needs, and we’ll also be measuring our progress in customer service.” 

Instead of the property owners heading for different parts of the building for a building permit, they now walk a short 20 steps from the fourth floor elevator. Under the umbrella of Development Services, customers can get the engineering and plans and review assistance needed to move their home gazebo project or commercial neighborhood development forward. Just a few more steps through the lobby, and customers can work with Knoxville-Knox County Planning (formerly Metropolitan Planning Commission).

“Now our people are coming to the customer, rather than the customer coming to us,” said Kristin Grove, Public Building Authority Director of Property Development.

Digital Smart screens and staff welcome customers as they approach the service area they need. Once inside the work spaces of the departments, customers walk into naturally lit, fresh offices and spacious work stations. 

The new modern design called for taking down walls and putting up new ones in strategic areas to ensure the massive windows’ natural light and breathtaking views of the Tennessee Riverfront reached far into the new, open spaces. 

This mood-boosting byproduct of the redesign for both customer and employee is not the only benefit.

“The open areas and close proximity to other departments make it easy and quicker to work together,” says Micah Herren, PBA Property Development Operations Manager. 

“It’s an open concept of flow that makes it easy to collaborate, reach out to colleagues and ask for a project review. Before this phase was completed, work was spread out over the fourth and fifth floors, and so were our customers,” Herren said.

“Before this renovation, people were working with colleagues in other departments that many had never met,” said Chris Howley, City Engineering Planning Chief. “It’s easy now to discuss questions with people who are working on the same project from another department.” 

“At the end of the day, we’re already seeing improved customer services. You simply walk to the Development Services desk, and you don’t even have to know what kind of permit you need. The help is right there.”
Brandon Littlejohn, City Development Services Coordinator, also says customers are already noticing and commenting that they like the clean, lit space and having everything on one floor.

“Our permit technicians now have their own work spaces with customers,” he said. “Whether you want to build a restaurant or a chicken coop in the city, you come here. Our technicians are the front face of this office.”

With new conference rooms that include interactive 65-inch screens, customers can see their project with Engineering and Plans Review staff. “Our customers see what we see,” Littlejohn said. “This is huge for them.”

For Plans Reviews and Building Inspections, customer service is a mindset today, and the redesign of the fourth floor is making it easier to build a team that sees the bigger picture.

“We don’t swing the hammer, but in our review of commercial and residential developments and in our inspections, we make sure these structures stand the test of time and are energy efficient,” said Peter Ahrens, Director of Plans Review and Inspections.

“We’re better stewards today of the customer’s needs, and that’s in part due to the new floor redesign. Everyone who is working on the same project now from several departments is working just feet away from their other colleagues.” This natural collaboration makes the work more efficient, he says.

Ahrens also believes when customer service is a top priority, it helps drive economic development. He is so sure of this, he recently invited Knoxville Chamber leaders to talk with his staff about how Development Services’ work is part of the city’s economic growth.

“We have planned this project for a long time,” Brace says. “We want the change to continue to be as smooth as possible. Co-locating all our Development Services is a good first step and the start of a great customer experience as well as an improved co-working experience.”

The architect for the renovation is Johnson Architecture, Inc., and the contractor is Johnson & Galyon Construction.
Posted by On 04 April, 2019 at 9:50 AM