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bobliocatt

City to stick with courthouse designer

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By MARY KELLI PALKA

The Times-Union

Switching architects on the new Duval County Courthouse complex would push the project further over budget and past schedule, according to a recent report from a city consultant.

Chief Operating Officer Dan Kleman said the city plans to continue to use Cannon Design to work on a new $232 million courthouse in downtown Jacksonville to be completed in December 2007.

If city officials had decided to use a design by KBJ Architects, it could push the cost up to $262.7 million and the completion date back 11 months, according to a recent report by Global Performance of South Carolina. KBJ was one of the firms that competed to design the courthouse complex, but lost to Cannon.

About $12 million of that would be additional contingency to KBJ's budget to deal with the unexpected. Much of the remaining extra costs come from Global Performance's assertion it would take an additional 11 months to complete KBJ's design.

Kleman forwarded Global Performance's report on to KBJ officials, with a note that said the city will be continue using Cannon Design. City officials have previously said it would take too much time to start over now.

KBJ's Tom Rensing said his firm has had independent companies validate its cost estimates and are confident that they could keep within budget. He said a more thorough review would prove that.

"We at KBJ respectively disagree with Mr. Kleman's unvalidated conclusions and how they were arrived at," Rensing said.

Global Performance didn't do a comprehensive review of KBJ's design, said Aaron Jordan, project manager for Global. He said it would take too much time and money to do a more detailed review. Global Performance has been working the past few months under a $83,000 contract with the city to help oversee the courthouse project. A few months ago, the company did an audit of the courthouse project and found that it was substantially over budget.

Critics have said the Cannon design has been over budget from the time it was selected in 2002. Mayor John Peyton said he has had to cut about $100 million from the project since he took office a year ago. In doing so, he's had to cut major architectural features from the building, plus leave little shelled space to grow without having to build onto the courthouse.

KBJ officials said their plans would accommodate users of the complex through 2020, within Peyton's $232 million budget and within the December 2007 deadline.

KBJ officials have said their plan calls for a new main courthouse to sit on two city blocks, versus the four city blocks under the Cannon design. KBJ officials have said the city could save at least $5 million by selling the two extra pieces of land it already purchased.

But that probably won't be enough of a savings, Jordan said.

Chief Circuit Judge Don Moran, who's been a critic of some of Peyton's cost-cutting measures, said it was the responsibility of the city to see if KBJ officials could meet the budget.

Moran said Monday he was satisfied with the review.

"I think it's good that somebody looked at it and made a decision," Moran said.

The Cannon design is expected to have 31 courtrooms when it opens. KBJ's plan includes space for 43 courtrooms. Both plans incorporate the use of the renovated old federal courthouse as part of the judicial complex.

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Something sound fishy here. The consultant even admitted that he didn't do a good job estimating because it would have taken too much time & money.

Also even if the design does cost $262 million, that's still cheaper than the smaller, but land consuming $232 million Cannon design that will need a $40 million expansion about 5-10 years after its completed.

At this point, I'm starting to feel like whatever is the plan, lets get this thing under construction. Its been delayed enough and the price is going to keep going up.

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CURSE WORDS!!! :angry:

I was really hoping that they would switch to KBJ. Even if Cannon's design is cheaper, they should still be fired from this project, just because they wasted everyone's time. If they build that POS "economy class" building, I probably won't even go see it. It's very disappointing...

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This is disappointing. I prefer the KBJ design and I hope that Peyton will realize that the Cannon design will not be sufficient in the future.

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^I am to begin to think Peyton doesn't really care if it will cost the city twice as much in the future if he goes with this $232 million design. He'll be long gone out of office by then.

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I wish, but it might be too late. There's a site that lets you start free online petitions. I posted it somewhere in the Jax Forum. But by the time we got enough sigs, it would probably be too late. Anyways, I'm done with the whole thing. It's up to them, and I have a feeling they won't make the best decision anyways...

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I agree with Lakelander that this seems fishy. If Global couldn't give it the time it deserved, they should have said so, and not made a judgement.

Peyton and his folks should sit down at the table with KBJ and let them make their case. Peyton should offer to give the job to KBJ with the understanding that if the $232 million budget isn't met, then KBJ's fees are reduced dollar for dollar until they reach 0. If they come under the 232m budget (without sacrificing with lower quality materials, etc.), they keep the savings. I don't know how likely it is that KBJ would take this offer, but it would show if KBJ will put it's money where it's mouth is.

Regardless, I think Canon should not get the job. They are at least partially (if not mostly) responsible for this fiasco. The long-term savings of the KBJ design, the smaller 2-block footprint, and the superior appearance, leave it as the best choice.

While I can appreciate Lakelander's frustration, I think it is more important to get the courthouse right, even if it takes longer. If done right, the courthouse could last a century or longer as a distinguished symbol of great architecture. I remember Charleston spent over a DECADE to clean-up and get the permissions needed to build it's Aquarium on it's chosen waterfront location. The cost doubled in the process, but no one questions that decision now. The mayor stuck by his decision and he is still mayor, some two elections after the aquarium finally opened.

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Although this issue is very frustrating, i agree with you Vicupstate! This is a monumental project that deserves to be built in the best way the benefits the local community as a whole, even if it means being delayed for another year. Obviously, Cannon's design doesn't do that. If what is on tha table now, was presented during the design competition, they never would have come close to winning anyway.

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