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westsider28

Possible new County Courthouse

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This thread may be a bit of a jump, but there's an article today that suggests a new county courthouse may be coming.  The article is titled "Councilmen 'embarrassed,' 'disgusted' by condition of county facility after taking tour".  It mentions flooding, mold, vermin infestations, and faulty windows.  Replacing the windows alone would cost $2 million.

 

Now your first question may be, "Why are county councilmen Roger Nutt and Dale Culbreth only now becoming aware of the deteriorating condition of the courthouse?"  Good question!  On the other hand, chairman Jeff Horton has known about the problems for years.  So why hasn't anything been done?  Starting the process at least?

 

Obviously, the main issue is money.  Horton mentions the fact that the State has shortchanged the county $28 million in the past several years with unfunded mandates, etc.  Anyway, he also says "...I'm prepared, if administration or council comes up with a viable plan, to do whatever it takes to get a new judicial center for Spartanburg County."

 

IMO, a new county courthouse is way overdue.

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This thread may be a bit of a jump, but there's an article today that suggests a new county courthouse may be coming.  The article is titled "Councilmen 'embarrassed,' 'disgusted' by condition of county facility after taking tour".  It mentions flooding, mold, vermin infestations, and faulty windows.  Replacing the windows alone would cost $2 million.

 

Now your first question may be, "Why are county councilmen Roger Nutt and Dale Culbreth only now becoming aware of the deteriorating condition of the courthouse?"  Good question!  On the other hand, chairman Jeff Horton has known about the problems for years.  So why hasn't anything been done?  Starting the process at least?

 

Obviously, the main issue is money.  Horton mentions the fact that the State has shortchanged the county $28 million in the past several years with unfunded mandates, etc.  Anyway, he also says "...I'm prepared, if administration or council comes up with a viable plan, to do whatever it takes to get a new judicial center for Spartanburg County."

 

IMO, a new county courthouse is way overdue.

So glad to hear that someone is FINALLY talking about replacing that disgusting building.  It's exterior is disgusting and it's interior is falling apart. 

 

Ditto for city hall and the county admin building.  These buildings are an embarrassment. 

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This thread may be a bit of a jump, but there's an article today that suggests a new county courthouse may be coming.  The article is titled "Councilmen 'embarrassed,' 'disgusted' by condition of county facility after taking tour".  It mentions flooding, mold, vermin infestations, and faulty windows.  Replacing the windows alone would cost $2 million.

 

Now your first question may be, "Why are county councilmen Roger Nutt and Dale Culbreth only now becoming aware of the deteriorating condition of the courthouse?"  Good question!  On the other hand, chairman Jeff Horton has known about the problems for years.  So why hasn't anything been done?  Starting the process at least?

 

Obviously, the main issue is money.  Horton mentions the fact that the State has shortchanged the county $28 million in the past several years with unfunded mandates, etc.  Anyway, he also says "...I'm prepared, if administration or council comes up with a viable plan, to do whatever it takes to get a new judicial center for Spartanburg County."

 

IMO, a new county courthouse is way overdue.

I believe that City Hall also has many issues. Why not build a new city/county complex? I guess that the current county administration building is in good shape and should not be in the mix (maybe in 20 years?)          

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I believe that City Hall also has many issues. Why not build a new city/county complex? I guess that the current county administration building is in good shape and should not be in the mix (maybe in 20 years?)          

The County administration building is just as bad. All three should be replaced with one new structure. I would really like to see the

City and County come together on this and do the taxpayers a huge favor for a change.

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I hope they go for the option of renovating it, even if they decide to build a new one. That building is the quintessential example of 20th century mid-century modern architecture in Spartanburg. If we lose that building we will ultimately regret it, just like the last courthouse. This is a long the same lines of losing all of our historic mill buildings. Please keep in mind that I hate that era of architecture and what it did to cities, but we cannot afford to just throw it away. I hope that the good intentions of our politicians in this case don't get overshadowed by small mindedness and penny-pinching when it comes to buildings that should be a source of civic pride.

 

Most people don't realize (or forget) that during the post WW2 era, the Victorian, Queen Anne, Italianate, etc styles of architecture built in the 20s-40s were not in favor or valued like they are today. Those styles were often viewed as too ornate. That's part of the reason why so many of the beautiful building façades were covered up with other materials if they weren't torn down entirely to make room for parking lots. The City of Spartanburg actually adopted a plan back in that period of time that advocated covering up buildings to create a more uniform (read: suburban) look.

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I'm not really a modernist fan either, but I agree that at least the section of the building fronting Magnolia should be preserved.  To me, the best plan would be to demolish the rear section, build a parking deck there, and build the new Courthouse on the corner of Daniel Morgan and St John on the current parking lot.  It would be attached to the parking deck and old section fronting Magnolia.  I would love to see something like Durham's new justice center.  It may seem unlikely, but Spartanburg County's population is actually slightly more than Durham County's.  I can dream, at least.   :thumbsup: 

 

Courthouse4.jpg

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I don't think this building is possible with the urban plan limiting office buildings to 6 stories. To go 10 it would have to be LEED platinum or have a residential component. That said, I would really like to see something like this in Spartanburg too.

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Actually, the Courthouse parking lot (and the whole site) is classified as DT-6, which allows up to 10 floors with no restrictions (up to 16 w/DRB approval).  In fact, as a civic building, a new courthouse would also have some additional flexibility in design.

 

See pages 4, 18, and 24 of the Urban Code (PDF).

 

So a building like Durham's would be permitted under the Code. :)

Edited by westsider28

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More County Council members are voicing their support for a new courthouse after getting a report on deficiencies of the current building.  However, there was no real discussion on how to fund it, other than a passing mention of a 1-cent sales tax hike (which would have to be approved in a public referendum).  They estimate a new courthouse would cost between $70 and $80 million.

 

I feel like that may be an underestimate.  We need a high-quality building that will last 50+ years, and one that we can consolidate all county services into (from their many, disparate current locations).  It also needs to have space to expand.  For instance, Wake County's new justice center has an entire floor that's unfinished, to be used for future growth/expansion. 

 

What would be the best way to fund a new courthouse?  How do other counties usually do it? 

 

I'm not sure about the combined square footage of all the various county buildings, so I don't know exactly how large our new courthouse would need to be.  The 10-story Durham justice center I mentioned earlier is 318,000 sq ft and cost $120 million, for reference.  Though they also have a separate 300,000 sq ft Human Services building that cost $90 million.

Edited by westsider28

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I don't know how other counties are funding their new courthouses but I'm definitely in favor of doing what is necessary to replace what we have now. 

 

What about combining both city and county offices?

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I haven't heard either County or City officials mentioning a combined city/county building.  So they don't seem to be considering it, unless there are behind-the-scenes discussions.  For what it's worth, I can't think of any city/county our size that has a combined city/county building.  Does anyone know of any?  It doesn't seem to be very common, for whatever reason.

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I haven't heard either County or City officials mentioning a combined city/county building.  So they don't seem to be considering it, unless there are behind-the-scenes discussions.  For what it's worth, I can't think of any city/county our size that has a combined city/county building.  Does anyone know of any?  It doesn't seem to be very common, for whatever reason.

Maybe not in the same building but in the same complex of buildings.  Hmm?

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Maybe not in the same building but in the same complex of buildings.  Hmm?

Doesn't Greenville? Didn't Union County and Cherokee Counties just finish new buildings with Union City and Gaffney City? I thinks it happens more than you think. It makes a lot of sence to combine. They would likely be able to secure financing easier too? Besides, look at the current sites that could be freed up for better development or reused for a new building.

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Greenville has separate City and County buildings.

 

It really doesn't make much sense to have one building unless you have a unified city-county government. Most of the work doesn't overlap, and budgets have to be kept separate. However, co-locating buildings on one site does make a lot of sense.

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Greenville has separate City and County buildings.

 

It really doesn't make much sense to have one building unless you have a unified city-county government. Most of the work doesn't overlap, and budgets have to be kept separate. However, co-locating buildings on one site does make a lot of sense.

Seems like I read recently where city council approved a new roof for city hall.   Now that's an awful building!

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Seriously. I sincerely hope the City finds a way to build a new one soon. Further, it's my opinion that government buildings should be built at an extremely high quality in order to have the building last forever; 40-50 years is entirely too soon to have to replace buildings funded by taxpayers. 

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A couple more articles in the past several days about the County facilities crisis.  Here's an article about the overcrowding at the California Avenue jail, so the County has had to continue using the detention annex across Daniel Morgan from the courthouse, which was originally supposed to be a temporary holding facility in 1989.  The conditions there are ridiculous: ants and spiders, plumbing issues, fire safety issues, meals have to be trucked in from the main jail, etc.  Estimates for expanding the main jail for the current inmate population is $15-20 million.

 

And there's more talk (only talk) about a new courthouse.  The article rehashes the issues with the current building, but also mentions judges parking lot security issues.  The State shorting the county $13 million over the last 5 years is brought up again.  The estimated cost of a new courthouse on the current site is $79 million.  Rep. Mitchell asked whether there are any large vacant buildings that could be used for the courthouse.  Are you kidding me?  You cannot skimp on this kind of thing.  That's what we've always done, and that has to change.

 

These facilities need to be built NOW.  No more excuses.  We've been putting off these necessary projects for decades.  It will never get any cheaper and the State will clearly never give counties any more money.  Sell bonds, borrow money, raise taxes (gasp!), but these facilities must be built (even at $100 million+).  And do it right (like Spartan said), so we're not in this same situation 50 years from now.  Unfortunately, I have next to no confidence that we'll get high-quality facilities with this short-sighted, cheapskate County Council in charge.

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Agree with gusto that a new courthouse, and a well-designed one, needs to be built now.  Unfortunately, I see three obstacles:

 

  1. Anti-tax sentiment that pervades our entire political process.  Politicians, regardless of what level, are terribly afraid of being labeled a "tax and spender". 
  2. As Westsider28 says, the current council is short-sighted.  Finding a large vacant building IS NOT the answer.
  3. Additional funding from the state is not going to happen.  Why?  See #1 and #2 above.

 

The good news is that at least we're at the talking stage,  Let's see what happens.

 

I still like the idea of a city-county-federal government "complex" but this is one of my pipe dreams.  The city and county have never done much in terms of collaboration.

Edited by roads-scholar
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If you want a complex, maybe we can put the courthouse & jail over in Whitney where the old Sky City & later Fred's used to be. That would give us county on one side and city department of social services across the street. The Clemson Ext is over there also.

 

There's also an old box manufacturer down the road that is out of business. We could probably put something in there also.

 

Spartanburg continues to fall behind progressive thinking cities or towns.

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If you want a complex, maybe we can put the courthouse & jail over in Whitney where the old Sky City & later Fred's used to be. That would give us county on one side and city department of social services across the street. The Clemson Ext is over there also.

 

There's also an old box manufacturer down the road that is out of business. We could probably put something in there also.

 

Spartanburg continues to fall behind progressive thinking cities or towns.

"Progressive thinking" is occuring in Spartanburg but not at the county admininstration level. 

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I think that core government services should be located in or near the city center. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending public dollars on quality buildings that can be a source of city pride and stand the test of time. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a brand new city hall that people will actually go out of the way to show visitors when they come to town? Wouldn't it also be nice if that same building were still being used 100 years from now? Spend more now, save money long term. It's a very simple and fiscally responsible thought process.

 

I also think that the County should try to construct a larger facility on the current courthouse land that would house the courts and the other offices across from the auditorium. My reasoning is, while it would cost more up front, the costs could be off set by selling the property on N Church and letting that generate some property taxes. It would also put several hundred white collar workers in the middle of downtown and within walking distance of Morgan Square.

 

The City should follow suit, too. They have offices spread all over the city, and in a place as geographically constrained as Spartanburg, it's just unnecessary.

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Considering how close the current courthouse is to Wofford, has any thought been given to putting the courthouse elsewhere and sell that land to Wofford? Wofford seems pretty landlocked as it is and the courthouse is a large site, relatively speaking. Plus it has great visibility.  

Ideally, the city and county could co-locate to a common site that needs some investment infusion. Dreaming I know, but could be very visionary if done right.  

  

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Do you mean the County Admin building?  Because that's the one across from the Memorial Auditorium on Church St.  The Courthouse is on Magnolia St between Daniel Morgan Ave and Saint John St.

But my reaction to that idea is heck no.  Wofford has a HUGE campus for a college its size, and they've been eating up a residential neighborhood for years to the point that it no longer exists.  If they want to grow, they can do it with more density, rather than their current sprawling low-rise development pattern.  Plus there is plenty of land available towards the hospital, if they really need more.  Not to mention Wofford's tax-exempt status would do nothing to help increase City revenues (I've heard that something like 1/3+ of all land within City limits is owned by non-tax-paying entities).  That land (Admin Bldg) is prime real estate on a major road that needs to be privately developed, preferably mixed-use (apartments/retail, etc).

Sorry if that response seemed harsh, I just have strong feelings on the matter. Nothing against you personally.  As far as a new County and/or City building, I think we're unfortunately a LONG way from that happening.  The County's just unwilling to spend the money, even as their current building deteriorates.  (The City maintains their building better, and doesn't have nearly the space shortage that the County does.)

Edit: Whoa, simultaneous post with spartanburgh.

Edited by westsider28

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That is actually the County Offices near Wofford. The County Courthouse is on the other side of the railroad tracks closer to QS1.

Your post confirms the difficulty in knowing which office is which. Both of these offices are in deplorable shape and the City Hall

building, City offices in the old elementary school are equally bad. I think the City and County should cooperate and build one new

multipurpose building for all of the above mentioned. That would free up multiple sites for development.

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Thanks for the clarification.  It does sound like a relocation/consolidation is in order.  

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