New county courthouse approved

January 06, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

The Annapolis Historic District Commission last night gave the go-ahead for construction of a $43 million Anne Arundel County courthouse in downtown Annapolis.

The approval was contingent on several cosmetic changes in the design, and on county officials returning to the commission with more details on landscaping, lighting, signs, and renovations of the existing court house.

The approval means the county can proceed with site preparation, expected to begin this summer. Work will progress in phases, with completion scheduled for 1998.

Last night's action was a relief to county officials who said they needed the commission's blessings this month if they were to have time to include construction money for the courthouse in the fiscal 1995 budget.

Commission members said they generally liked the design of the 250,000-square-foot building, although they asked architect Howard Melton of the Washington firm Spillis, Candela and Warnecke, to make a number of design changes, including modifications of cornices, windows, garage doors and a glass wall.

Although visitors to the courthouse may never notice whether the top of a window is curved or straight, those were the kinds of details that commanded the attention of the commission.

The project is the largest the commission has ever had to consider. It began studying plans for the courthouse last spring, and gave preliminary approval to the project in June.

Although the project has been under scrutiny for more than six months, commission chairwoman Donna Ware said the time invested was not unusual. "Any project of such magnitude can't be hurried," she said.

Jerome W. Klasmeier, county director of central services, which

manages public buildings, praised the commission for its diligence and cooperation.

"I think the project is all the better for their work," he said.

He said that once County Executive Robert R. Neall and Annapolis Mayor Alfred Hopkins came out in support of the project, "it was only a matter of time before we worked out the details."

Jeffrey Halpern, a member of the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of American Institute of Architects, said his organization would have liked to have seen a more bolder design, but he added, "it fits in Annapolis."

The new courthouse will be built behind the current one and linked to it by a glass corridor.

The cornices, brick and windows blend in with the surrounding buildings. The building will include glass atria that resemble greenhouses.

The county has talked about building a new courthouse for several years. At a meeting last month, county Circuit Judge Eugene Lerner said a new facility was desperately needed because security at the current courthouse is inadequate.

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