Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Courthouse Back in the News

In this morning's Register-Star, Francesca Olsen has an article about the progress of renovations to the Columbia County Courthouse to achieve ADA compliance. In the article, County Public Works Commissioner David Robinson is quoted as saying that the project, which was supposed to break ground this month, is still "in the beginning stages of design and development." The important questions not answered in the article are: Have they hired an architectural firm? And if so, which one?

Renovations to the courthouse have been the topic of discussion for more than a decade. In the late 1990s, the county hired Mesick Cohen Wilson and Baker to design a new wing for the building. The addition would have extended back from the courthouse along East Court Street and housed, among other things, an elevator to provide handicapped access to the main building. People who cared about the magnificent Warren and Wetmore courthouse and were paying attention at the time felt comfortable with the choice of architects. In 1992, Mesick Cohen Wilson and Baker did the restoration of Hudson's historic train station. They are also the firm recently chosen by Historic Hudson to oversee the stabilization and restoration of the Plumb-Bronson House. They could be trusted to understand the principles of compatibility between new construction and historic design.

Unfortunately, during the design process, things went wrong. The Buildings and Facilities Committee of the time doubled the size of the wing, adding space for the District Attorney's office, and then got upset and dismissed the architects because the estimated cost of the project increased 50 percent.

The courthouse is part of the locally designated Union-Allen-Front Street Historic District, which means that any alterations to the building require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

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