Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to take a hard-hat tour of the new Silver Spring Civic Building, which will finally open this July after years of planning and anticipation.

The Civic Building is located at Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring. According to the Gazette, the 42,000-square-foot, $22 million facility will contain an art gallery, an 800-person auditorium with a dance floor, classrooms and meeting rooms available for community use, and offices.

Civic Building Close-Up, April 2010Construction Workers In Scaffolding

Outside, the future Veterans’ Plaza is still a construction site — and for those dining nearby, a free show. Work continues on a new ice rink, complete with a canopy that’ll glow in the evenings. In the warmer months, the rink will be used as an amphitheatre for concerts and other performances.

Civic Building Lobby

Inside, bright colors dominate the building’s lobby and adjacent auditorium, along with the stained wood that wraps around the building inside and out.

The Civic Building is oriented to be on axis with Ellsworth Drive, meaning that you’ll be able to stand at the front door and look straight into the Discovery Building a block away.

Sad Tape FaceCourtyard

We weren’t really allowed inside the courtyard, though you can see that trees are planted and pipes laid for a special, water-saving irrigation system. When completed, this space will serve as a space for informal gathering.

From the front desk, visitors will ascend a flight of stairs to the second floor, where classrooms and government offices are located.

Main Hallway (Upstairs)

Upstairs, this hallway will lead to a suite of offices originally set aside for the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, though other county agencies will now have space there as well.

Many of the building’s windows — specifically, those between the first and second floors in any double-height spaces like the hallway above — are frosted with little penguins, the unofficial mascot of Silver Spring.

A second-floor classroom enjoys panoramic views of Downtown Silver Spring, courtesy of those nifty wraparound windows I’ve been ogling over the past year.

Two floors down, the entire basement has been given over to Round House Theatre in return for $1 a year in rent, as part of an agreement made several years ago. There will be a practice studio designed to mimic the stage at the actual theatre, located a block away on Colesville Road, ten individual offices, and a large area for cubicles. The suite even has its own private entrance, located on Veterans Place, a new street behind the Civic Building.

Basement EntranceCivic Building Porch

Regional Services Center director Reemberto Rodriguez (pictured, above right) has been leading a community-wide discussion about the use of public space in the community, both at IMPACT Silver Spring‘s yearly networking event and on his blog, Silver Spring Speaks. While the Civic Building adds much-needed meeting space and replaces the popular “Turf”, which was removed two years ago, it’s unclear how much space will be available for the community when the complex is finished.

Check out this slideshow of the Civic Building’s progress over the past year, including photos of my tour.