Preservationist group likely to endorse new Circuit Court building plans

June 06, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

A preliminary design for a new Circuit Court building has been received warmly by an Annapolis historic preservationist group, which said the building fits in with the city's Colonial character.

"We are very close to being able to endorse the building," Ann lTC Fligsten, president of the Historic Annapolis Foundation, said Friday at a meeting unveiling the project's design.

Ms. Fligsten added that county officials, by including her group and other interested parties in the design process, have avoided much opposition that could have delayed or scuttled the project.

The design will be presented to the Historic District Commission, a volunteer panel that oversees construction in Annapolis and that must approve the project, at a 7:30 p.m. hearing Wednesday in the City Council chambers.

Architect Howard I. Melton's plan calls for a 250,000-square-foot building to be built in two phases over 3 1/2 years, with groundbreaking scheduled for August 1994.

Although not in a Colonial style, the building will have a brick facade with windows punched in, avoiding the glass fronts of many public office buildings. The cornices will be of stone.

Mr. Melton said his objective in designing the courthouse was not to make a rote copy of an historic building. "It's a 1990s building for 1990s people," he said. "Yet it needs to respect Annapolis, and we worked very hard to do that."

Historic preservationists expressed concerns early in the design process about the height and mass of the building, which will take up most of the block. Mr. Melton said he dealt with that problem by setting the upper floors farther back, so that only two stories of the building are visible from street level.

The public entrance to the courthouse complex will be through ** the original historic building fronting Church Circle. The original, built in 1824, will be renovated and used as a ceremonial courtroom. People will move through a small octagon-shaped connector, to be constructed of stone, between the older building and the addition.

All courtrooms and support services will be moved to an annex, built next to the historic building in 1952, while the state's attorney's building is razed and a new courthouse building is constructed. The first phase will house 14 courtrooms, with the possibility of adding four more if they are later needed. This phase should be complete within 18 to 20 months, making the completion date spring 1996.

When phase one is complete, all courtroom functions will move there and the courthouse annex will be torn down. The second phase will include construction of office and support space and renovation of the historic building.

The new courthouse and renovations will cost $43 million. The County Council approved $6.5 million for planning and construction next year, with most of the rest slated for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1994.

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