Fredericksburg City Beat

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Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or

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And then there were three

In a closed session last night, the City Council narrowed the five remaining courthouse proposals to three.

The three left standing are from W.M. Jordan, Donley’s and First Choice.

HERE is the proposal W.M. Jordan made to the City Council in March.

Below is one of the concept drawings.

HERE is the proposal Donley’s presented to the City Council in March.

Below is one of the concept drawings.

HERE is the proposal that First Choice presented to the City Council in March.

Below is one of the concept drawings.

The next step is for the City Council to get more information from each.

What do you think of these options? Take the poll below.


  • Matthew Kelly

    Before we start picking out brick colors, flooring and window treatments could we get a little more information:

    1. Why are we building court facilities now?

    2. Only one court has significant issues so why are we dealing with all three courts?

    2. What impact is the debt service going to have on other city services and priorities?

    3. What about the issues brought up in the recent OpEd by Rob Tanner–Do a new facility need to be this big? What about doing a space/needs analysis? What is the level of technology in the proposals?

    None of this should be proprietary information. Any help you can provide in these areas would be appreciated.

  • James M.

    Dont you think this poll is misleading? The selections are in the exact opposite order of the proposals.

  • brandonj

    Considering the economic times that we live in and the extensive costs involved, WM Jordan’s proposal at 32 Million is the best solution. While many may not like the look of Executive Plaza and may want a new fire station, neither of those are essentials and should not be changed at this time. Those buildings are in good condition and do not need to be replaced or redeveloped. However I will say that if at some point the city can work out a private redevelopment deal on Executive Plaza that is advantageous to the taxpayer, they should go for it.

    The other proposals from Donley and First Choice involve acquisition of privately owned property, further reducing the tax rolls-not the best move, IMO. WM Jordan’s proposal uses only property which the city already owns, and replaces buildings which will require significant investment in the not too distant future. It addresses renovation of the Renwick building, and it replaces the current J & DR Court building (a former funeral home built in 1939) as well as the current Circuit court (an older building as well). These two buildings are aging and are of limited use to the city in their current condition. Jordan’s proposal best utilizes existing resources, and costs the taxpayers the least, while ensuring that the courts have adequate, secure facilities. The choice seems clear-it’s astounding to see how many seem to favor First Choice’s proposals-which are the most expensive. Perhaps those voting are either not taxpayers or are voting based upon wishes rather than fiscal reality.

  • ceb

    None of the above – those drawings of open space and lots of parking are so far from reality, it is ridiculous.

    1. The new courthouse should not be downtown where land is expensive and there is no parking. Put it out at Celebrate VA and sell the existing buildings to a re-developer (like Maury Commons).
    2. We don’t need another Taj Mahal. The Burg is a bit over 20,000 people not 200,000.
    3. Jordan’s looks like a warehouse. Donley’s designed a motel. First Choice is a schizophrenic montage of design – dutch roof, Jeffersonian columns, palladian windows and a Charleston cupola. What a mess!

  • brandonj

    ceb, your argument has merit, but there is NO chance that they’ll move the courthouse out of downtown. That idea was floated early on with the proposal that the city use the site of the former city jail on Lafayette Blvd. They weren’t even willing to go as far as Lafayette Blvd-so they’re not going to go to Celebrate Virginia.

    As for selling the city buildings to a re-developer, there are problems with that. The buildings that the city would sell (the JD & R Court, Circuit Court, maybe Executive Plaza) would all most likely need to be razed and new buildings put in their place, as they are not exactly adaptable to other uses (except MAYBE for the Executive Plaza). Developers are not exactly lining up to buy buildings and raze them (even downtown) in this incredibly poor real estate market. It’s just too big of an investment with poor prospects of being able to resell/lease the property and make a profit in a reasonable amount of time. Financing is tight for both the developer and the homeowner and there aren’t many people right now looking for high end condos like what were put in the old Maury buiding-a project where the existing building was useable.

    As for the designs, none of them thrill me, but we’re talking about a part of Princess Anne that has a mixture of architectural styles-just look at the Post Office. And the current buildings aren’t terribly attractive-especially the current JD&R building (an old funeral home which was closed years ago in part due to its age and renovations that would have been needed)-any of the buildings proposed would be an improvement. Also, I would consider the fact that buildings often don’t look quite like the renderings in proposals. We won’t get a Taj Mahal, because the land that they propose to build these buildings on couldn’t hold a Taj Mahal. However, we do need adequate space for the courts-especially given the growth in this area.

    While I agree that ideally city government should move out of downtown and allow prime real estate to be used by businesses and residences which generate tax revenue, it won’t happen in Fredericksburg. So, considering that City Council isn’t going to move the courts to Celebrate Virginia, and they’re not likely to request new proposals to address issues Mr. Kelley raised, I’d say the best bet we can do is choose Jordan’s plan. It’s more attractive than what’s on the site now, will meet the space and security needs, utilizes land the city already owns (thus not reducing tax rolls) and most importantly is the least expensive option to the already cash strapped taxpayer!

  • Adam A.

    I agree with James. They flipped the order for the poll. That is really misleading. The Jordan proposal makes the most sense. Less money, and no space to acquire.

  • Royal Runner

    Why does the order matter? just pick the one you like. honestly, from an architectural point of view, one od these are dynamic in anyway whatsoever. The new courthouse should be bold, contemporary, and a symbol of Fredericksburg’s future. It’s not 1787 people.

  • ceb

    I don’t buy the idea there is NO way they will reconsider the downtown location. Parking alone mandates it. Voters can force it and need to. The old jail site is suitable too. Are we consigned to having a trash pit there forever?

    It is premature to say a developer wouldn’t be interested in the downtown buildings. They wouldn’t be available for several years and the economic climate could be totally different by then.

    This plan is a short sighted and unimaginative boondoggle that will cripple the city for many many years.

  • brandonj

    Ceb, I know what you’re saying, and I wish you luck. I do not anticipate that the voters will be given an opportunity to vote on this, and if by some chance they do, I’d be willing to bet that only the 3 proposals being considered now are on the ballot. Or perhaps it will simply be a yes or no proposition regarding the financing (most likely). I’ve been around this area my whole life (with the exception of time in the military) and part of my family has been in the area for generations-some things never change: parking has always been and will always be tight downtown and the city government will always be downtown. We MIGHT be able to get the Fire Station moved out of downtown, but the court house and city hall? They’ll never let that happen-not in our lifetimes. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on the city moving the courts out of downtown.

  • Rufus

    The correct answer is “we don’t need a new courthouse.” – the fourth choice. Something is fishy about the responses.
    There are too many for First Choice, as though their employees were ordered to vote for that.

  • Matthew Kelly

    While the local media doesn’t seem interested in taking a closer look at the process and the proposals there are those who are concerned and have the expertise to comment on those concerns. While I do not support building a court facility at this time I would ask that those that do to read Rob Tanner’s OpEd:

    All these proposals do is move the existing space and usage of the courts into a new building. There is no allowance for technology, better utilization of space meaning a smaller building, taking advantage of building design to minimize heat & A/C costs. The firms who submitted these proposals were not allowed to interview the people using these facilities! They were provided with the Moseley Report on court needs (yes, Moseley is part of First Choice who is one of the proposers for building the facility) and told to submit proposals. What we are building is an oversized 20th century court facility for the 21st century.

  • Cassy Manning

    I haven’t really been following this but the comments I’ve heard from folks follow along the lines of Matt’s comment about the brick color and window treatments. I’ve heard about looks and location preferences, building height, and what you will be able to see from where, but nothing about costs and functionality. Perhaps they are discussing this in closed session because Council and the Mayor really don’t want us to know how superficial the analysis has really been. It’s not government in the sunshine, it’s government in the dead of night.

  • Watkins

    WE DONT NEED A NEW COURT HOUSE. It will just raise our taxes in this time of recession!!!

  • Matthew Kelly

    Which makes more sense? A community of 24,000 people building and supporting court facilities to serve a regional population expected to reach 600,000; or building a regional facilities that will serve the community of 24,000 people?

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