Justice facility design in question

Sticking points include location of entrance

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— The Denver-based architects designing Routt County's new courthouse brought two drawings to town Wednesday to present to committee members spearheading the effort.

The architects centered the two drawings on what committee members said they were looking for but those same committee members quickly shot down the two drawings, saying they were not "formal enough."

One of the drawings was "too lodge-like," according to Steamboat Springs City Council member Arianthe Stettner. People at the meeting agreed after seeing the drawing of the building that looked like a cross between Yampa Valley Medical Center and lodge complexes on the mountain.

The other drawing featured a design similar to the historic courthouse with simple rectangular windows and the same color of blonde stone adorning the majority of the building.

Members of the Judicial Facility Committee thought this drawing looked more like a commercial building with an entrance that reminded people of a hotel.

The architects appeared to be a little relieved after hearing the comments.

Architect Russell Sedmak said designers in his firm had felt confined to creating a building that was "mountain-like" and less formal because of previous comments at committee meetings.

"I was scared to go formal," Sedmak said. "So I'm hearing it's okay to go more formal?"

Nods followed from committee members who include area residents, architects, city and county officials and members of the art community.

Previous discussions of keeping the building at the same height as the current courthouse had also limited the architects' options. But during Wednesday's meeting, Stettner and others present said the city would not likely oppose certain design elements that would rise up from the roof, adding it could make the skyline more interesting.

For example, a simple bell tower, steeple, or dome could "add interest to the landscape," Sedmak said.

The biggest impasse at Wednesday's meeting involved the building site and where the front entrance should go.

The judicial committee has agreed the new building should go on Sixth Street across from the courthouse annex building.

It would be built on the site of the old Visiting Nurse Association building, next to Butcherknife Creek. Part of Sixth Street would be closed to the public and replaced by open space that would help create a "campus" feel.

The problem is many committee members disagree on where the front entrance should be located.

The architects currently have it facing toward Sixth and Oak streets on the northeast side. A curved driveway would allow people to be dropped off near the front entrance and vehicles could continue to the current parking area, which would become a two-story parking structure.

Several members wondered if the entrance should be on the southeast side facing toward Lincoln Avenue where people in traffic could see the majesty of a new building.

Other members mumbled that an entrance on the southeast side would have it facing the alley that runs behind the Old Town Pub and the old courthouse.

Others said they worried about cutting a driveway into green space that has been planned for the southeast side.

The architects quickly sketched out alternative plans as the committee members threw out ideas.

Sedmak and his partner, architect Mark Johnson, said situating the building on the property is their top priority since it will affect architectural design.

They plan to take Wednesday's latest suggestions back to their offices.

All-day workshops on the courthouse's design will be held again on Aug. 2 and 3.

Routt County officials say a new courthouse is needed because of overcrowding and major safety and design problems that plague the current historic building.

The county will ask the voters to approve a bond measure in November of 2002 to finance the new building.

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