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Justice center plan approved

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday blessed a conceptual plan to build a new judicial facility at the corner of Oak and Sixth streets in downtown Steamboat Springs.

“I really like what we’re seeing here,” Commissioner Doug Monger said. “We’ve addressed our space needs in the most economical fashion. I’m seeing super-efficient use of the space we have, and yet, we’re not building a gaudy building.”

The vote by the commissioners does not signify final approval of the plan. In fact, it is expected to change. Nor has the county decided on a financing plan for building the structure.

Gaudy though it may not be, the proposed building is substantial, with a 42-foot roofline and space for four courtrooms, plus expanded offices for the court staff and judges chambers. The district attorney’s offices will also move to the new justice center. An unfinished basement area (garden level in the rear) will house the probation department, which currently rents its offices. And there’s room downstairs for future expansion, whether the need is for additional records storage or courtrooms.

Project manager Tim Winter presented the plans to the commissioners and said the architectural firm, HLM Design had worked over the weekend making changes recommended by a panel of citizens called the Judicial Facility Design and Construction Committee. The committee had asked for adjustments in the amount of red brick on the building, and modifications to a dramatic entry tower that will address Sixth Street, immediately across from the existing courthouse annex.

“The tower is causing the most discussion,” Winter said. “I think you could put 50 people in a room and each one would have a different opinion of how it should look.”

The building is offset 45 degrees on its roughly rectangular lot, with the entrance tower addressing a green space that would be created by abandoning the northern portion of Sixth Street between Lincoln Avenue and Oak Street.

Commission Chairwoman Nancy Stahoviak told Winter she hopes the city of Steamboat Springs will approve abandoning the street section (the alley way between Lincoln and Oak would still be accessible to vehicles) because that step is central to the county’s vision for its downtown campus.

The county also intends to build a two-level parking structure in an existing parking lot on the opposite side of the courthouse annex from the new judicial facility.

Winter added the architects worked to design a building that would emulate both the historic courthouse and the modern annex, without overwhelming them.

Winter said the unfinished lower level of the building represents the potential to expand the building in the future, because the site doesn’t afford room for “horizontal expansion.”

Court Administrator Evan Herman agreed.

“The idea is, 30 years from now, or even 80 years from now, not to be out of space and facing the same problem.”

Winter said the commission’s approval of the conceptual design clears the way for the next step, which is to deliver the conceptual plans to the city for a pre-application conference on Dec. 4. He will present the plan to a joint meeting of City Council and Planning Commission.


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