The total cost of the new courthouse project has increased from predictions made last February, now that part of the design phase has come to a close.
County commissioners approved the schematic design for the project at their Monday, Nov. 18, meeting in the consent agenda after lengthy discussion at the work session earlier in the month.
Schematic design approval allows Silling Architects and other partners in the project to move on to the next step. The new estimated cost came in at about $109 million, up from closer to $100 million nine months ago.
“I like the design,” said Commissioner Blake Kiger. “I like the design elements. I like the glass. I think you’ve done a nice job of pulling together — it’s going to stand out, but stand out in a good way because it’s going to be such a prominent piece of downtown Concord, and taking those natural elements that you talked about.”
The courthouse project is broken into three parts. GMP1 focuses on site enabling, which is site utilities and the demolition of the 1971 jail as well as installing an elevator. GMP2 consists of new construction, and GMP3 is renovating the old courthouse.
“We have to consider all three of these pieces at one time so that we really understand all of the parts of the pieces, and we can account for the things and we can estimate the entire project,” said Tom Potts of Silling Architects.
Schematic design helped firm up the details of the three phases. Silling worked with the actual staff members who will use the courthouse to identify flow and other needs.
They defined all the building requirements such as materials, structural needs, power and lighting logistics and furniture. Then staffers developed building elevations, which is the form and character of all the pieces of the new building.
Through it all, Silling also worked with other stakeholders such as the city of Concord, county planning, emergency personnel, local business owners and others.
“There’s a lot of collaboration with other stakeholders other than the users,” Potts said.
Schematic design work wrapped up at the end of August, and those documents went to Messer Group, the construction manager at risk for the project, as well as a third-party estimator, KCM Consulting, to come up with an estimated total cost.
The numbers came back with a total of about $109 million. The first phase, GMP1, is estimated at about $6.7 million, with Phases 2 and 3 estimated at about $88.2 million and $14.1 million, respectively.
That total cost includes $8.5 million in contingency put there by Messer — in addition to the contingency already included by the county — to account for any parts of the scope they haven’t identified yet.
It also includes $2.5 million in market escalation costs since the renovation of the old courthouse in Phase 3 is set a few years down the road.
Design of the building itself uses warm and natural materials, with plenty of glass for natural light. It wraps around and features the historic courthouse and softens the look of the existing courthouse.
“It was a state-of-the-art building in 1975,” Potts said. “But in a lot of people’s opinion, you know, it’s a bunker. And so, part of what we’re going to do there or we propose to do, as you can see, is deconstruct the Union Street side and the historic courthouse side with a fair amount of glass. The whole idea is that circulation. Once you go through the entry that’s sticking out on the left of the courthouse, there’s a circulation path that you’re always focused on that historic courthouse.”
Both the new and old courthouse buildings together will accommodate 318,000 square feet, including 45,000 square feet worth of shell space for new growth.
“The current plan, in my view, meets our needs now and for a considerable period of time thereafter,” said Judge Marty McGee. “It has also incorporated considerable shell space to continue to meet our needs as we grow. It is designed for a safe place to resolve disputes in our community, whether those disputes are resolved in a courtroom or a child remediation conference room. It provides jurors with a space that recognizes and symbolizes their importance in our judicial system.
“In my view, the generation of Cabarrus County citizens who built our historic county courthouse got it just right. In its time, it was a building worth of its important function in our society, a place to provide justice. It also continues to remain one of our most recognizable symbols in our community. It was durable enough to remain our courthouse for approximately 100 years. I find that generation’s work to be inspiring,” McGee said.