Fredericksburg Architectural Review Board (ARB) members said Monday night that while the design-build team for the city's new courthouse has shown improvement with each iteration of exterior design changes, they still aren't happy with all of the elements.
During Monday night's meeting, ARB members broke down elements of the exterior design into 15 separate votes—down to details such as window trim and cornices—instead of voting on the full Certificate of Appropriateness of the exterior design elements and construction materials for the 78,000-square-foot facility, which will house the Circuit and General District courts on Princess Anne Street downtown.
The ARB has been dealing with the Certificate of Appropriateness and the design-build team, First Choice, since May. Last week, members tabled a vote until Monday night's session because they still had concerns with the design elements.
The board, a panel of seven residents that reviews applications in the Historic District to ensure compliance with the historic preservation ordinance, spent about two hours discussing the design elements and construction materials and working through the 15 separate motions at Monday's meeting.
New additions to the plans included adding "Fredericksburg Courthouse" onto the front facade of the building, installing two flagpoles for the state flag and U.S. flag that attach to the front entrance of the building and creating a custom sallyport door with a panelled appearance.
"Your plan has gotten better and better and better each time," ARB Chairman Jamie Scully said.
Exterior materials include an aluminum clad window, aluminum clad entrance door, a zinc roof, glass fiber reinforced concrete columns, a glass fiber mineral reinforced composite cornice, brick and calcium silicate, a masonry unit more commonly known as cast stone. The ARB had concerns about the glass fiber reinforced concrete columns, the glass fiber mineral reinforced composite cornice and the cast stone, and asked the design-build team to consider looking at other options.
ARB member Owen Lindauer thanked the design-build team for listening to their concerns from the prior meetings.
"I appreciate the fact that you heard our concerns and tried to address each one of those. It is not every day that that happens," he said.
ARB member Susan Pates said when she looks up glass fiber reinforced concrete columns and glass fiber mineral reinforced composite cornice, the first word she sees is "cheap."
"They certainly are not impressive," she said. "If there are only four of them (columns) at the courthouse I suggest you build them with real materials."
First Choice architect Andrew Moore said the team selected the construction materials based on the budget the city has for the project, and that these materials are best in class for this budget.
ARB member J. Gordon Brown said though he understands the budget constraints, "I am falling on the side of wishing we could do better." He said the exterior design has improved since the last time the panel saw it but that more study of some of the material choices could make it better.
"We are improving, we are getting there, but I guess I have to say in my opinion we are not absolutely there," Brown said.
That meeting is at 4:30 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall.
for details about some of the major decisions City Council still has to make about the project.
The courthouse project is at a critical 35-percent design phase and City Council already agreed to keep the new courts facility at three floors at a June 19 work session. The plans include two new General District courtrooms and two new Circuit courtrooms. City Council is considering leaving one of the General District courtrooms as a shell to save money and City Manager Beverely Cameron said council members should make this decision at tonight's work session because there's a deadline of Aug. 1 to move to the 65-percent plans stage.
As another way to save money, council members are also considering leaving the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in the Executive Plaza instead of renovating the current General District Court.
Council members are looking for ways to cut costs because a majority wants to see a use for the historic Renwick Building, which is where Circuit Court is held now, and to address the parking demands this project will have on downtown. But Cameron said council members don't need to decide on these two matters at tonight's work session.
The city has issued $36.7 million in bonds for a new courthouse facility that includes the following:
- Design new court facilities
- Renovate Executive Plaza first floor for temporary occupancy by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
- Demolish the existing structures at the corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets
- Construct the new courthouse at corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets
- Move the Circuit Court out of Renwick and the General District Court to the new courthouse
- Renovate the General District Courthouse and move the J&DR Court to the renovated former General District Courthouse