Our community has some decisions to make in the coming weeks and months, and because the courthouse and its functions impact us all, we want to make them together.
Renovate a portion of the current facility and later construct a new courthouse.
Expansion of the current courthouse would feature renovations to the Elliott Building (the former home of Bell Telephone), which is connected to the courthouse. This scope of work would require tearing down the existing facility and rebuilding a three-story structure.
When considering this option, it should be noted that renovations would provide an additional 20,000 square feet of space, not the roughly 40,000 needed. In addition, this solution would serve the county’s courthouse needs for approximately 10 years. After this period of time, the county would need to consider construction of a new courthouse.
Renovation and expansion of the current courthouse is estimated at $15 million, with an additional estimated construction cost of $42 million for a new courthouse, plus a projected financing cost of $34 million, for a long-term total of $91 million.
While it is difficult to be certain at this point in time, this option would likely include a tax increase for county residents.
This option provides no additional parking in the short term.
Adapt the former Kmart building.
The former Kmart building, located on Towne Centre Drive, is available for purchase and has a footprint of 89,000 square feet. The structure is sound and its appearance can be modified to reflect the character of the town of Abingdon.
Purchase and renovation costs are estimated at $25 million, plus a projected $18 million in financing, for a long-term total of $43 million.
While it is difficult to be certain at this point in time, this option would likely not include a tax increase for county residents.
This solution would be effective for 20-30 years or longer.
This option offers 350 dedicated parking spaces in the adjacent lot.
*Financial analysis provided by Davenport & Company, May 2019.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if the majority of residents vote NO on the referendum?
If the majority of residents vote NO, the courthouse will remain at its current location. This also means that the county is locked into the option of renovating and expanding of the current courthouse.
By law, the county could not hold another referendum on this issue for 10 years.
It should be noted that at any point in time, judges on the Circuit Court have the authority to order the county to renovate the courthouse in order to more fully comply with Virginia Supreme Court standards. Such an order would not require a vote and costs would be dependent on the language of the order itself.
If the courthouse does move, what will happen to the historic building?
Our courthouse building is a very visible and heartfelt part of Abingdon’s identity. If the public votes to move the courthouse to another location, county officials will work closely with the town of Abingdon and area businesses to maintain the facility’s historic stature and envision its future use.
While no decisions have been (or can be) made until after the referendum, some public suggestions for the facility have included a museum, office space for the town of Abingdon, a boutique hotel and more.
There are no current or foreseeable plans to tear down the 1868 portion of the courthouse structure. Additionally, any future use will have to comply with the established guidelines for Abingdon’s historic district.
Three potential solutions were presented to the public. Are there any others that have not been shared?
All viable options were presented to the public for consideration.
Over the past six years, the Courthouse Committee has reviewed and discussed the needs of the current structure and considered ways to move forward. As part of this process, engineering firm Thompson & Litton (T&L) compiled a 2016 study of what it will take to bring facilities up to Virginia Supreme Court standards. This is a public document which can be accessed here.
A portion of the T&L study evaluates whether it is feasible to keep operations on the current site via an aggressive construction and renovation program. (This is referred to in the T&L study as Option #1.)
The Courthouse Committee does not consider this a viable option because it does not offer a solution to the public parking issue, which is a central concern. It also requires some operations to be relocated into a separate building.
What’s the next step?
The board of supervisors encourages the public to make their preference known by voting “yes” or “no” on the referendum on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.
There are several available ways for you to share your ideas and submit questions:
Call or email your board of supervisors representative. Contact information for each board member is located here.
Email us. Use this site’s comment form to send us your thoughts and questions. We are reviewing suggestions, compiling opinions and responding as needed.
Schedule a public tour of the existing courthouse facility. Public tours will be scheduled prior to the referendum. Please continue to visit this website for updated information.
For relevant media coverage, click here.