Southern Indiana
John Boyle | wfpl.org

New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan welcomes residents and government officials to the new city hall.

New Albany now has a new city hall in its historic downtown, about three years after deciding to relocate government operations.

City officials cut the ribbon on the new government headquarters in the former Reisz Furniture building last week. In 2018, city council members voted 5-4 to purchase the property.

The city previously spent decades renting the third floor of the City-County Building, which is also occupied by the Floyd County government. New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan, a Democrat, said it was time for the city to have its own space.

“For far too long, our city government has been a renter in its own downtown,” he said. “For far too long, the people in New Albany deserved a home, a permanent home, a home that represents the growing interest and success of our city for the last decade.”

The city will pay $570,000 annually over the next 15 years for the former Reisz Furniture building. The mid-19th-century building was dilapidated when the government agreed to purchase it.

It took about three years to fully renovate the building. Contractors encountered several challenges during the process, including rotted wood in the support beams and leaning walls.

Democratic city council president Greg Phipps said “naysayers” criticized the project’s supporters along the way.

“Some said that we should renovate the third floor of the City-County Building,” he said. “Others suggested renting office space in a downtown office building for city government. Others criticized the scope and the cost of renovating this building. But I’m proud to say that the naysayers didn’t win. And they didn’t win because of Mayor Gahan and five city councilmen who had a vision.”

Republican city council member Al Knable, who is running for Floyd County Commissioner next year, was one of the four votes against the project in 2018. He said the city missed an opportunity to come together during last week’s ribbon-cutting, instead of dismissing those who had problems with the project.

Knable said the city and county should’ve worked together to improve the aging City-County Building or create a new joint space, instead of taking on the costs alone.

Despite his previous opposition, Knable said he has moved on and is happy with how the renovations to the Reisz building turned out.

“It’s a beautiful building,” he said. “It’s going to serve its purpose. Let’s get in there, let’s put it to the best of use in serving the people of New Albany, who paid for the building and will be paying for it.”

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.