Design team tours project site
Home of new courts building planned for downtown Bentonville
BENTONVILLE — Some first steps were taken on the path to a new courts building Tuesday as county and city officials, architects, engineers and other consultants toured the Second Street property chosen as the project site.
“We’re just going to walk the site, eyeball it and get a feel for it on the ground level,” County Judge Barry Moehring said as the group gathered outside the old Post Office on the corner of Second and Northeast A streets.
Chang-Ming Yeh with the National Center for State Courts saw some prospects for saving at least a portion of the Post Office, which was built in 1935, as a facade and part of an entrance lobby for a new courts building. He described his initial thoughts as having a “gallery arrangement” adjacent to the main lobby of the new building.
“We need to study the structure,” he said of the building housing Circuit Judge Brad Karren’s courtroom.
Discussion on a new courts building has gone on for years. Early studies identified possible sites in the downtown Bentonville area and another on county land near the Benton County Jail on Southwest 14th Street. The Quorum Court voted earlier this year to keep the courts downtown rather than moving them near the jail.
The county hired Hight-Jackson Associates to do architectural design
work on the building and signed a contract with the National Center for State Courts in Denver to provide courtroom design. The Hight-Jackson contract is for $122,500, plus additional costs, for phase I. NCSC will be paid $135,000, plus costs. The two firms worked on the initial study for a new courts building, presented to the county in 2014. That study and a second one commissioned by the county will be used as a basis for the new design work, Moehring said. Work in building designs will likely take the rest of the year to complete, Moehring said.
The county also will work closely with Bentonville on the project, Moehring said. Brian Bahr, the city’s community development director, was on Tuesday’s tour. Bahr said the city wants to be sure any new building of the size being proposed fits in with the rest of the downtown square.
“An 80-foot building would be the tallest building here,” Bahr said. “How do you make it work?”
The county’s plans will go through the city’s normal review process, Bahr said.
“We reviewed all their previous buildings out on [Southwest 14th Street],” he said. “The county is a partner with the city of Bentonville.”
The new courts building would be separated from the 21C Hotel to the north of the site by what Bahr said is most likely an alleyway that contains utility easements. Moehring suggested the space might be kept as an access point and a greenway, with the east end of it connecting to the recently completed hiking and biking trail running along B Street, which also is the site of a planned parking garage that will serve the courts building and the downtown area.
The building design is still in the conceptual stage and no decisions have been made or will be made quickly, Moehring said. That includes the decision on whether to use any or all of the old Post Office.
“Everything is on the table,” Moehring said. “The Post Office is definitely one of the considerations.” Tom Sissom can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at NWATom.
County Judge Barry Moehring and Chang-Ming Yeh of the National Center for State Courts walk Tuesday near the Benton County Circuit Court building in Bentonville. Moehring, along with other interested county personnel and consultants, took a tour of the chosen site for a new courts building in downtown Bentonville.
County Judge Barry Moehring (left) and Chang-Ming Yeh of the National Center for State Courts tour the Benton County Circuit Court building Tuesday in Bentonville. Moehring, with other interested county personnel and consultants, took a tour of the chosen site for a new courts building in downtown Bentonville.
County Judge Barry Moehring (right) points east toward Northeast B Street from behind the Benton County Circuit Court building Tuesday with Allie McKenzie, (left) and Chang-Ming Yeh, both of the National Center for State Courts, in Bentonville.