Delaware's city planning and community development department upgraded to new digs late last month -- and taxpayers didn't have to pay professional movers to help out.

That's because city employees picked up everything and carried it themselves -- from the second floor of City Hall through a new elevated walkway into the second floor of the former Delaware Gazette building, next door at 18 E. William St.

Dave Efland, city planning director, said his 10-member department was open for business every day of the move, with people coming in for a variety of building-related permits issued by the department.

"We moved not very far, obviously," Efland said, but preparations for the move were "years and years" in the making.

The city purchased the building in 2013 with an eye toward using at least part of the space to relieve cramped conditions at City Hall.

The planning department's new site marks the first expansion of City Hall's working space since that building was renovated in 1992, said Lee Yoakum, city spokesman.

The city in 2018 entered into a 10-year lease with Worthington-based co-working firm COhatch, which spent about $500,000 to renovate the first floor and basement of the former Gazette building.

The city also began steps to renovate the second floor, leading to the custom-built, elevated pedestrian bridge. The city last year estimated the bridge's cost at $275,000 and said it would be funded by municipal impact fees.

Residents who visit the planning and development department will access the new site by crossing the pedestrian bridge from the second floor of City Hall.

The city planning and development department issues individual residential and commercial permits, as well as permits for decks, fences, alterations, additions, roofs and similar work.

The permits are issued to a range of people, including residents, developers, business executives and contractors.

The department handles nearly 10,000 inspections, 2,000 enforcement actions and almost 500 various permits each year, Yoakum said.

In its new location, "Somebody came up to the window and said, 'Hey, this really looks like a planning and community development office now,' " Efland said.

"We all pitched in" to help with the move, he said.

"We got some really great help from the public works department. ... The IT department was just awesome. They had everything pretty much set up and were problem-solving and trouble-shooting. ... They were a huge help," Efland said.

The planning department staffers "were really incredible," he said, "particularly Julie Harding on my staff. She did so much work for this new office -- picking out colors, helping us get arranged, making sure everything ran smoothly. She just did an outstanding job. ... All the staff is so happy to be over here and have really a proper office."

The new location's 2,500-square-foot space is considerably larger than the department's old site, he said.

It includes a conference room to meet with residents, as well as counter and table space large enough to handle the oversized documents the department processes on a daily basis.

"We now have spaces where, together, we can do some actual planning," Efland said.

Yoakum said the department's move will free more space in City Hall for the city manager's office, the city's legal division and the community affairs department.

For example, a paralegal working for the city attorney works outside City Hall, he said. The new available space can create new options for city teams to work more closely together.

The city's human-resources department likely will move to the second floor as well, Efland said.

While final plans haven't been completed, he said, some level of renovation is likely to arrange space for the updated office layout in City Hall.

"One of the goals is just to make (City Hall) a little bit more receptive to residents when they come into that second floor," he said.

The second floor hasn't really functioned in the best way for residents, he said.

"It's the same with human resources," Efland said. "We want people when they are applying for jobs and have questions to be able to find those people easily."

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