When Anthem, a master-planned community north of Phoenix, was looking to establish a home for its community council, the growing district quickly decided to convert an office building at the entrance to the community. Starting with a 26,000-sq-ft office space that was constructed in the 1990s, the project team converted the existing structure into a 36,500-sq-ft Civic Building featuring council meeting spaces, a fitness center, craft room as well as a home for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Design firm Holly Street Studio Architects—which has become known more for its new construction projects—eagerly accepted the tenant improvement, or TI, assignment.

"We were really excited about being selected for Anthem specifically because it was a TI," says Diane Jacobs, principal for the Phoenix firm. "It was a huge departure from what we had done."

The architect partnered with Brignall Construction, having worked with the firm on a Heard Museum improvement project more than 10 years ago.

"The thing I love about [Brignall Construction] is they are very data driven," Jacobs says. "Even though they watch the budget, they are interested in what the clients need. It was a design-build project and that is really where our industry is going to thrive: with collaborative project teams."

The designer and contractor mapped out a phased approach to the project, with construction of the Maricopa County Sheriff's quarters planned as the first stage, followed by creation of the community council's offices and finally the main public gathering space.

As work began, the project team kept precise inventory of the building's existing systems, which led to a seamless reuse of doors, hardware, millwork, light fixtures and equipment.

The architect presented a scheme that departed from the original requests and required a leap of faith from the owner—creating one large council gathering room and a building without corridors.

Designers incorporated drapery systems and sliding glass doors to allow the building's owner to change the room into six different formats, enabling Anthem officials to use the space to accommodate weddings, council meetings or fitness activities. Versatility was a top priority for the project owner.

The millwork was a significant part of the building's design and is the organizing feature for the new facility. Enclosures built of millwork create spaces for small groups; efficient storage; private areas for use during large events; alcoves; and built-in benches. This core millwork element—which includes acrylic panels, custom metal work and integrated audio-visual equipment—was crafted after multiple sessions between designer and contractor.

Judges connected with the intended design feel of a "living room," something that Jacobs says was not initially an easy sell to the Anthem Community Council. The early hesitation from some community council members was overcome when the project was finished, she says.

"At the opening, one of the officers of the board came up to me and said, 'Thanks for listening to everything we said and doing none of it,'" Jacobs says.

There were no OSHA recordable incidents in more than 12,800 hours.

Anthem Civic Building

Anthem, Ariz.

Key Players

General Contractor Brignall Construction Co., Phoenix

Owner/Developer Anthem Community Council, Anthem, Ariz.

Lead Design Firm Holly Street Studio Architects, Phoenix