Preliminary plans for Augusta County Courthouse renovation and addition released

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The new proposed Augusta County Courthouse renovation, which will take nine of the surrounding buildings and incorporate it into the new complex. This plan needs to be approved by the City of Staunton’s Historic Preservation Commission. (Photo: Submitted)

STAUNTON – New plans for the Augusta County Courthouse have been released. 

Augusta County has submitted an application for a certificate of appropriateness to the City of Staunton’s Historic Preservation Commission. The application includes descriptions, drawings, photographs, plans and documentation that are required by the commission, the release said.

A total budget for the project has not been released, but The News Leader has asked county officials for an estimate and did not hear back immediately. 

The main takeaway from the plans include rehabilitating the 1901 courthouse and the Echols Building, which are two buildings that were completed by Staunton architect T.J. Collins, the release said. The new plans show that they will be reusing the two buildings.

“Adaptively reusing these buildings will allow the 1901 historic courthouse to remain the county’s courthouse and an important focal point for downtown Staunton, while the Echols Building will help anchor the street corner presence,” the release said. 

The plan says the “historic exterior of the courthouse will be preserved and care will be taken to complete the rehabilitation work” which will preserve the building’s character and history.

In 2016, an initiative to build a new courts complex in Verona, which would satisfy space needs at a lower cost than building a new facility in downtown Staunton, was put to referendum but failed with 67% of voters not in favor. Since then, it’s been four years of back and forth with plans between the county and the City of Staunton.

Things with the county courthouse started to move a few weeks ago. With a new Staunton City Council, the board is able to move forward with courthouse renovations. Previously, city council would not allow the county to do anything with the buildings adjacent to the county courthouse. 

Originally, the idea for the new county courthouse complex dealt with the district court building. The county owns the land and the buildings, but both are located within the city limits. 

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Back in the summer of 2018, proposals were submitted for a three-part plan: Renovate the vacant Beverley Manor Elementary School to house temporary courts, demolish the existing district courts building and build a new facility, and renovate and expand the existing 1901 circuit courts building — estimated to be around $60 to $70 million, according to county staff.

The supervisors in September 2018 approved a $5.3 million contract with Moseley Architects of Richmond to plan and design the multi-stage renovation and expansion.

The Augusta County Courthouse project has been on the Board of Supervisors priority list for decades. The courthouse must meet contemporary and specific needs for the Circuit Court, District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations court, as well as related court functions such as the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s offices, the Court Services Unit, and clerks’ offices. Operational and security needs for the courts system are not being met by the current space.

Now, plans have shifted. Over the summer, plans moved towards the expansion of the 1901 Circuit Courthouse instead of the construction of a new courts facility at the current District Courts Building site. That meant acquiring the buildings surrounding the courthouse.

The buildings adjacent to the county courthouse are in a designated historic district, so the county needs a Certificate of Appropriateness with the Staunton Historic Preservation Commission. Two weeks ago, Augusta County secured purchase options for nine properties surrounding the Circuit Courthouse in downtown Staunton. The county also unanimously voted to approve an amendment to the courthouse expansion project.

What’s in the new plans

The courthouse’s north and east elevations will be partially enclosed with a new addition — that will remain visible within the building’s interior. Barrister’s Row will be enclosed within the addition and serve as the main pedestrian access on the first floor, with main public entry and security screening off South Augusta Street, the release said.

The five-story expansion will work with the character of the current courthouse. The expansion’s exterior materials will include red brick and stone, complementary to the current courthouse and the existing Echols Building, the release said. Exterior synthetic wood trim will reflect the neoclassical revival and beaux-arts style of the historic courthouse, the release said. There will be a large window opening at the south elevation of the expansion, which will give views of the historic courthouse from all building levels, the release said. 

“We have a team of professionals on board who bring a wealth of experience in historic preservation consulting, identification of historic materials and technical preservation expertise,” said Candy Hensley, assistant to the county administrator, is serving as manager for the courthouse project, in a release. “We are excited to present this proposal to the historic commission.”

The application was facilitated by Moseley Architects with sub-consultants, Timmons Group and Sadler & Whitehead Architects. Moseley Architects is an engineering and architectural services firm based in Richmond and has over 50 years of experience partnering with more than four dozen counties and cities in the Commonwealth to design over 125 court facilities, the release said.

The commission will discuss the proposed certificate of appropriateness at a public meeting on Oct. 27.

Full plans can be found at co.augusta.va.us/government/board-of-supervisors/courthouse-information.

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You can reach reporter Laura Peters at [email protected]. Follow her @peterslaura.

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