For more than a year, most of the work to transform the former AT&T building downtown has been shrouded behind five stories of scaffolding and black debris netting.
On Tuesday morning, the wraps came off the downtown monolith to reveal a glass-clad office building featuring a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Old Courthouse Square.
“It’s like Christmas morning for me,” said Cory Lacey, the superintendent on the project for the Hugh Futrell Corp.
The informal unveiling is the latest milestone in the long-anticipated project, dubbed, for now, Museum on the Square.
The two confirmed tenants for the building are Luther Burbank Savings, which is working on improvements to the fourth and fifth floors, and TCLD Architecture, which designed the project and will relocate its offices to the second floor.
Peter Levelle, a TLCD designer, took a stroll around the block to see the progress on his new office space Tuesday afternoon.
“I think it’s a welcome addition to the square,” Levelle said.
When he took a job with the company in December, Levelle said the chance to work in an open, high-ceiling space with lots of natural light was a major draw.
“It’s going to be one of the greatest creative spaces in the North Bay,” he said.
The $16 million project is about six months behind schedule but has come far in the last year, said developer Hugh Futrell. The removal of the scaffolding is a key milestone and a “fun” part of the project, Futrell said.
“I’ve seen the view from the inside, and the view from the outside is just as spectacular as the view from the inside,” Futrell said.
The building itself is about 90 percent complete, he said. The first floor and lobby still need some work and the gleaming metal skin will be installed soon. About 167 coated aluminum panels will be placed over the concrete surfaces in coming weeks, Lacey said.
“It’ll truly take shape when all the metal panels are up. Then it’ll be just beautiful,” Lacey said.
The project has been more than a decade in the making. Several years after city officials began discussing what to do about the vacant concrete bunker — built in the 1960s to protect telephone switching gear from an atomic blast — the city purchased the building in 2007 with $3 million in redevelopment funds. Initial plans called for demolishing it, but Futrell and his partners in 2010 proposed rehabbing it.
The project went through several iterations and potential tenants. An early plan to add five stories of residential housing atop the structure was scrapped due to post-recession lending constraints. The original museum envisioned for the site, the Sonoma County Art Museum, pulled out.
Whether the Museum on the Square ever gets a museum remains to be seen.
Backers of a museum dedicated to the history and diversity of the California wine industry, dubbed Wineseum, are still trying to raise money for the $6.4 million project. The group launched an effort to raise $1 million in pledges by the end of May, but to date has received just $127,000, said Wineseum board president Lindsay Austin. He said the end of May is “not a hard deadline.”