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Public to judge courthouse plans
Fredericksburg will let residents weigh in about new courthouse for first time in public hearing Tuesday.

View all of the proposals for the new courthouse complex.
Date published: 5/15/2011

BY ROBYN SIDERSKY

Fredericksburg residents this week will have their first chance to weigh in on proposals the city has received for building a new courthouse.

A public hearing is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers of City Hall, and city officials hope it will draw a good crowd.

"That's the focus of the evening: for citizens to provide comment or input to members of City Council," City Manager Beverly Cameron said.

Five teams of developers submitted eight proposals, ranging in cost from $31 million to $41 million. They were presented to the City Council in March, and city staff has been reviewing them since.

A consultant was hired to evaluate the proposals, but so far the council has refused to make that report public.

The courthouse issue arose in 2005, when Circuit Judge John W. Scott Jr. sent a letter signed by all eight circuit judges asking for a new court complex. Courts officials say the current facilities have many safety shortcomings and are inadequate for the types of cases and criminals that the city faces today.

In response, the city hired Moseley Architects to study what kind of facilities would meet the system's needs. That study found a need for more space to handle a growing caseload and staff.

There are three city courts of varying age and condition downtown: Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court. The proposals call for consolidating at least the Circuit and General District courts at one site.

At least four of the seven council members agree it's time for a new courthouse. The building at 815 Princess Anne St. that houses the Circuit Court dates to 1852.

"I think Fredericksburg is going to need a courthouse at some time," Mayor Tom Tomzak said. "There's never going to be an ideal time."

"The simple fact of the matter is that it was established some time ago that the existing courthouse cannot be adequately renovated for space or security," said Councilwoman Mary Katherine Greenlaw.

"Most people think it's just a decision that has to be made, and we need to make it and get on with it."

Greenlaw pointed out that interest rates are good right now and said the city should take advantage of that.


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2005: Circuit Judge John W. Scott Jr. sends letter signed by all eight Circuit Court judges requesting new courthouse.

AUGUST 2007: Moseley study completed detailing need for new courthouse.

DECEMBER 2007: City Council members choose the Princess Anne Street post office site as the location of new courts, turning down another proposed site off Lafayette Boulevard. DECEMBER 2008: Council members are presented with more information on the post office proposal. A majority appear willing to keep moving forward with what is expected to be a $47 million plan, but a month later they change course and hire a new consultant to look for cheaper options.

OCTOBER 2009: Glave & Holmes study presented to council cites fire station on Princess Anne Street as best location for new courthouse facilities.

NOVEMBER 2009: Council authorizes city manager to prepare to move forward with a $39.7 million plan to build a new courthouse on fire station site.

JULY 2010: Councilman Fred Howe III asks council to consider Executive Plaza on Caroline Street for new courthouse.

NOVEMBER 2010: City requests private proposals to build courts on fire station site, Executive Plaza or in that vicinity.

MARCH 2011: Council receives five proposals on new courthouse facilities.

APRIL 2011: Council receives report from a consultant reviewing courthouse proposals

TUESDAY: Council plans public hearing to present courthouse proposals to city residents. END OF MAY: Council hopes to trim list of proposals.

CLANCEY & THEYS

This plan calls for one centralized building for all three courts on the site of the fire station at the corner of Princess Anne and Wolfe streets. The courtrooms would be stacked on three floors, and the basement level would be for office space and parking. It would have room for five courtrooms but be able to expand to a sixth, if needed. Construction would take about 33 months and cost $31 million, not counting the $5 million to $6 million cost of building a new fire station at the site of the old regional jail.

W.M. JORDAN

This plan would use land already owned by the city and not move the fire station. The Circuit Court would be on the site of the existing Juvenile and Domestic Relations building and the General District and J&DR courts would be together in another building on the site of the existing General District Court building. The project would be done in three phases, and the three courts would not be relocated at the same time. The cost of the project is $32.6 million and would take 36 months. This plan also includes renovating the Renwick building, which is where the Circuit Court is now.

HENSEL PHELPS

This plan would tear down the Executive Plaza at 601 Caroline St. and replace it with a new courts building, which would use the parking garage next to it. All three courts would be in one building, with five courtrooms and the ability to expand to add three more. It would cost $38 million and take 25 months.

FIRST CHOICE

First Choice offers two locations on Princess Anne--one where the fire station is now, and one where the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is now. The J&DR location would put the courts in two different buildings and connect them with a tunnel. The fire station location would put the Circuit Court and General District Court in a new building, but would have to find a new place to put the fire station. The plan suggests putting it on Amelia Street. The J&DR location would cost $36 million and take 30 months and the fire station location would cost $41 million and take 36 months.

DONLEY'S

Donley's proposes three sites, each costing $34 million. The first would be where the fire station is. All three courts would be in the same building. It would take 44 months to complete. The second would be where the Executive Plaza is on Caroline Street and would demolish the current building. It would take 37 months to complete. The third location would be on Sophia Street and have riverfront views and be central to downtown. It would take 36 months to finish.

ON THE NET: To read the full courthouse proposals, visit fredericksburg.com

WHAT: Public hearing on city courthouse proposals. WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Council chambers, City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St.

COMMENT: You may email comments about the proposals to courtproposal comments@fredericksburg va.gov.