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Courthouse final draft shaping up

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By MARY KELLI PALKA

The Times-Union

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton said he is a few weeks away from finalizing the designs for the new Duval County Courthouse.

First, he is trying to tie up a few loose ends and shore up political support from the City Council and the most vocal users of the $232 million complex -- the judges.

Peyton said his staff is working on a way to add a seventh floor to the main courthouse, which had been included in original plans. The mayor decided a couple of months ago to eliminate the seventh floor, along with a dome, rotunda and millions of dollars in other features, to help cut budget costs that by some estimates had reached $287 million.

Peyton said the main courthouse building's design would prevent adding another floor to it later for expansion, so he's trying to find a way to add another floor now.

Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran said Wednesday the judges had requested the seventh floor be added back. The sixth and seventh floor would include judges' offices and hearing rooms, plus room for expansion.

Peyton met with Moran and County Judge Mallory Cooper on Wednesday to discuss some of the recent considerations.

"I'm really pleased with the efforts they're making to try to make it work," Moran said. "We can't ask for more."

Peyton's chief operating officer, Dan Kleman, said the addition of the seventh floor would cost about $6.2 million. He said that money could come from additional cuts to some mechanical features in the new building and some contingency money, set aside for unexpected costs.

Peyton is considering a plan to build the main courthouse a little farther east than originally expected. It would still sit on four blocks of land that intersect at Clay and Monroe streets, but there would also be enough room on two of those blocks for a couple of additional buildings, to accommodate growth for the next 50 years. The complex would also include the renovated federal courthouse. The additional buildings would probably not be needed for another couple decades, Kleman said.

Voters in 2000 approved a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for the Better Jacksonville Plan, which included a $190 million courthouse. The budget has since gone up to $232 million, while the features and amount of space for future expansion in the planned buildings have decreased.

Moran, along with other judges and courthouse users, have expressed concerns with some of the planned cost-saving cuts, saying they would compromise the security, quality and functionality of the new complex.

"We're trying to address as many of those concerns as we can, without going over budget," Peyton said.

Also, Kleman is expected to meet with council members over the next few days to discuss a variety of issues, including the courthouse.

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I just wish I had never seen the original design. It wouldn't be such a let down, if I hadn't seen the grand design. But I'm trying to be optimistic about this new design. I mean, anything is better than the nasty surface parking that used to be there. I just really liked the dome and rotunda. Oh well...

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Fuller details courthouse concerns

by J. Brooks Terry

Staff Writer

As updated designs for the new Duval County Courthouse continue to change, Clerk of the Courts Jim Fuller has remained largely silent.

Friday, that silence was broken when Fuller met with a handful of Council members to voice his concerns with the well-publicized project.

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why is it so expensive to build the damn courthouse?

Orlando County courthouse is bigger than that and cost cheaper. Even the biggest project in Orlando such as the Plaza with triple towers cost cheaper than that.

Why dont they just use a small land and build a tall one...

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why is it so expensive to build the damn courthouse?

Orlando County courthouse is bigger than that and cost cheaper. Even the biggest project in Orlando such as the Plaza with triple towers cost cheaper than that.

Why dont they just use a small land and build a tall one...

It would be probably cheaper to build up, instead of spreading the complex out, but I think, early on in the process, city leaders wanted a grand courthouse with huge public space, similar to the monuments and memorials in Washington, DC.

As far as the KBJ design goes, everybody knows its cheaper, but for whatever reason, Peyton refuses to take that route. Personally, I'd like to see this courthouse issue resolved as soon as possible, even if it means not using KBJ's plan. I'm to the point now, where I'd like to see what adjustments have been made on the revised Cannon design, since it was presented to the public.

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Well. I agree with lakelander. We already have the 'Big time' courthouse downtown that it built up. To complement the Feds, I think that the new courthouse should be more spread out. I have one word to say....KBJ.

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Mayor hopes courthouse has better luck at the DDA

by Bradley Parsons

Staff Writer

After a City design committee refused to support the City’s cost-cutting Duval County Courthouse design, the mayor’s office is preparing to appeal to the Downtown Development Authority to get construction back on track.

The Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s Design and Review Committee refused approval last week on a domeless version of the courthouse. The mayor’s office believes removing the dome will cut more than $2 million from the project’s runaway budget, which has grown to an estimated $268 million from the original $190 million. The ornate dome has been a frequent target for critics, many of whom criticized the original design as too extravagant.

Removing the dome may help the City’s bookkeepers, but the DRC found the new design unacceptable. Two days after the DRC’s decision, City Chief Operating Officer Dan Kleman directed the General Counsel’s Office to look into an appeal. Mayor John Peyton will need the DDA to overrule the DRC to obtain construction permits.

The Sept. 22 DDA meeting will present Peyton with the first opportunity to appeal. If, as JEDC and City officials expect, the mayor’s office presents at that meeting, the DDA board would consider the request like any of its action items. DDA managing director Al Battle, who also sits on the DRC, was the lone member to vote in favor of Peyton’s design, but he won’t have a vote on the DDA. The voting will be left up to the seven board members.

Although the votes will come from different people, both bodies will evaluate the project using the same criteria. DDA board chair Bob Rhodes said the DDA would evaluate the project using the design specifications in downtown’s master plan and zoning overlay.

“We will use the same legal basis for the decision,” said Rhodes.

One member of the board has already voiced his support for the mayor’s design. David Auchter, also a vice president at the Auchter Company, said the DDA would evaluate the project by different criteria than the DRC. The DDA considers the project’s importance to downtown and its relation to the City’s master plan for the area, he said.

“We’re certainly respectful of the DRC’s recommendation and we take it seriously,” said Auchter, who noted that DDA board vice chair Denise Watson chairs the DRC. “But we also look into the larger context of its effect on the area as a whole.”

While the absence of the dome will take away from the building’s aesthetic appeal, Auchter said the DDA’s decision would also take into account the budget implications of the new design.

“We have to remember we’re operating with taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We need to strike a balance between attractiveness and being cost conscious.”

I think the city should follow its own policies/standards and adhere to its own board rulings. If the city creates a loophole or uses it's in-house attorneys to bypass/overrule the DRC, so will everyone else. It is the height of hypocrisy for the city to expect private business to spend the money necessary to build something of quality and not do the same itself.

I also don't understand how the city can be asking for a design approval. Doesn't the Mayor have to get the city council to approve the additional funds for the latest version? The last design I saw was before the wings and seventh floor were added back in. Maybe I have missed something.

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Councilman asks Mayor's Office for courthouse info

City Councilman Lake Ray has made a formal request to the Mayor's office for documents backing up Mayor John Peyton's assertion that delaying the County Courthouse project by up to nine months would cost "tens of millions of dollars."

In a 16-point request submitted Sept. 22, Ray asked for documentation regarding the selection of architectural design firm Cannon Design and the choice of Global Performance as the consulting firm on the project.

"I want to see the documents and that they are authorized by the correct people," said Ray.

Ray is asking for memos, electronic files and architectural drawings to gather information about labor and materials costs for the project. Initial plans called for the new complex to cost $232 million, but the estimated cost now stands at $268 million.

"Provide the documentation that must exist in your files to support the claim that delaying the construction for a five- to nine-month period will cost tens of millions of dollars," the request stated. "Please provide the documents signed by the consultants justifying the statement.

Ray hoped to be able to review the documents within three days of his request, and said once the documents are turned over there will be a special meeting of the City Council on the Courthouse at 2 p.m. Sept. 28.

^^ From the Business Journal website

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