De­sign team tours project site

Home of new courts build­ing planned for down­town Ben­tonville

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TOM SISSOM

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 tsis­som@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter at NWATom.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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.

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