As Canal Winchester takes ownership of the former McDorman Auto Museum, the city has taken the first step in turning the East Waterloo Street complex into a new municipal building and community center.

During its Feb. 3 meeting, City Council unanimously approved legislation to proceed with a design-build concept and request proposals from companies that function as a team, with an architect and general contractor.

The concept, permitted under the city charter, can provide more flexibility and savings rather than seeking advertised public bids for multiple contractors and subcontractors, according to Bill Simms, the city's construction-services administrator.

"It does sound a little strange," he said. "It's not a noncompetitive economic situation. ... Our intention is to send the RFP (request for proposal) to four, or possibly five contractors, so they will be competing against each other."

The city was expected to close on the property Feb. 12, with a sale price for the nearly 24,000-square foot structure at $2.4 million. The building had been listed at $3.2 million by the widow of Bob McDorman, who opened the museum in 2014 and died a year later.

Turning the former museum into a hub for city operations is expected to cost at least $2 million, city officials have said.

The plan calls for the municipal building at 36 S. High St. and Town Hall, 10 N. High St., to be repurposed for other needs.

In addition, the neighboring Frances Steube Community Center, built in the 1980s, would be demolished to make way for additional public parking, which has been a concern for residents.

The community center on Trine Street would be moved to the new building, along with council chambers. Meetings are held in Town Hall, which has limited seating.

Also, the Columbus Metropolitan Library is looking at 8,000 square feet of space in the new building, which will be called the Bob McDorman Building, per the real estate contract.

The contract calls for the city to make 40 quarterly payments of approximately $73,000 from the general fund.

Simms expects to send RFPs to companies by the end of the month and return to council with a preliminary design contract by the end of April. The goal is to begin construction by midsummer.

"We don't want a situation where (contractors) have full plates, and they're not being as competitive in their pricing," Simms said.