The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
City Council sets courthouse height at three stories
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
The Fredericksburg City Council decided at a work session Tuesday night to keep the new courthouse three stories tall.
The work session was for council members (current and incoming) to discuss the status of the $35.4 million project and recently submitted detailed design review plans with First Choice Public–Private Partners, the team the council selected to design and build the new courthouse.
Judge Gordon Willis and Judge David Peterson, Sheriff Paul Higgs, members of the Architectural Review Board and city staff were all in attendance at the work session. Councilman Fred Howe III was absent from the meeting due to a prior business engagement.
The council reviewed the progress that’s been made on the project up to this point and then reviewed changes presented by First Choice. “I think this design–build team is seeking clarity from this council,” said Bill Downey, the construction manager hired for the project.
The options offered by the design–build team, First Choice Public–Private Partners, result from suggestions submitted by council members, city staff and the architect. However, a few suggestions were not discussed Tuesday night because the First Choice team did not think they would be the best options for the project.
Downey went through the following options and their cost value changes with the council.
Leave one courtroom and one judge’s office for the General District Court on the second floor unfinished and leave space as “warm lit shell” space with functional safety systems. (savings: $248,322)
Alternative footprint and exterior elevation with minor reductions in building square footage (savings: none)
Eliminate the General District Courts from the building program, eliminate an entire floor from the new building. (savings: $1,590,847)
Break out costs associated with the Circuit Court Clerks storage spaces (savings: unknown)
The council had two major decisions to consider—to determine the height and the exterior changes of the new courthouse.
They decided on three stories for the height.
The decision the council did not make was about exterior changes, suggested by Andrew Moore, the director of urban architecture for project architect Glavé & Holmes. Some of the proposed changes were to soften the edge of the mansard roof and add indentations to break up the solid façade of the exterior walls facing Princess Anne Street.
Moore has attended the last few ARB meetings and has revised the design to address some of the board’s concerns over overall building height, degree of variation in wall planes, cupola height and size, mansard roof profile and other design details. He showed the council the design modifications, but council deferred the decision to the Architectural Review Board to discuss.
City Manager Beverly Cameron reminded the council that the only immediate decisions that need to be made are about the new courthouse—not necessarily what to do with the General District Court, the Renwick building where the Circuit Court is now or other issues such as parking—all things that council members have indicated that they would like to see more detailed plans for.
Cameron told the council at the end of the work session that he felt they had made good progress.
Another issue that was brought up by council members was how much the stakeholders, or the actual users of the courthouse, were consulted in the design process. The designers—and others in the room, including Willis—assured the council that many of the stakeholders such as the judges, the court clerks and the sheriff were consulted in the design process.
The council agreed to have at least one more session to make other important decisions regarding the future of the project but did not set a date.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413