City OKs third architect for courthouse

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


On Monday, Franklin’s City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract with the architectural firm Glave & Holmes for design work related to the renovation of the Southampton County Courthouse.

With Franklin’s approval on record, the contract was to go before Southampton County’s Board of Supervisors yesterday evening for a final vote, but by press time on Tuesday afternoon, the meeting had yet to begin. In the event that final approval and a notice to proceed is given, Glave & Holmes will become the third architectural firm to be contracted for the courthouse project since 2016.

Previously, the firm PMA Architecture had completed a space needs analysis, which had recommended that if renovation was preferred over new construction, the existing 23,000-square-foot courthouse be expanded to 38,000 square feet for a cost of approximately $16.5 million. Then, in September 2016, the county entered into a contract with its second firm, Moseley Architects, which after reviewing PMA’s analysis in 2017, had recommended a 44,000-square-foot courthouse at a cost of $26.3 million for a renovation or a cost of $26.5 million for new construction.

This increase in space needs and cost, as reported in a series of Tidewater News articles last year, had been the result of a plan developed by the county’s Courthouse Planning Committee — a group of project stakeholders including judges, court clerks, Commonwealth Attorney’s Office personnel and representatives from the county’s and city’s governing bodies — to merge Franklin’s General District and Juvenile & Domestic Relations courts with those of Southampton County. Then, in mid-2019, Franklin’s City Council reversed course on this plan, voting instead to keep its lower courts in their current Pretlow Street location after learning that the committee’s recommendation to the Board of Supervisors had been made without the matter first going before Franklin’s entire Council for a formal vote. Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt, whose predecessor, R. Randy Martin, had been involved in the committee’s recommendation to combine courts, later discovered in July 2019 that a state law from the 1970s requires every independent city in Virginia except for Emporia and Williamsburg to have its own General District and J&DR courts.

According to Glave & Holmes’ proposal, the firm plans to have a floor plan and renovation timeline by May 18 of this year for a fee of $147,950, with the city being responsible for just over 30 percent of the cost. This work will include a new analysis of the courthouse’s current condition and space needs, a hazardous materials survey and a building laser scan, which Jarratt explained has not been done before and will help the architect locate any previously unknown or sealed-off spaces. No definite cost figure has been given yet for the actual renovation work, though Glave & Holmes representatives estimated that the construction could be done for around $8 million during their interview at a joint Supervisors/City Council meeting in November last year.