PORT ORCHARD — The county has plans to build a new 218,000-square-foot Kitsap County courthouse.
County officials, including Commissioner Charlotte Garrido and administrator Karen Goon, told Port Orchard city council members that the four concept options they viewed would likely differ considerably from the final renditions when cost estimates are refined. The county plans to pay for the new courthouse through non-voted bond debt.
Ron Thomas, president of Thomas Architecture Studios in Olympia, said the firm had been asked to analyze the county’s space needs through the 2040s, taking into account that the current courthouse’s 11 courtrooms are inadequate for current needs. Thomas said a five-month analysis of the county’s nine departments and Superior and District courts that use the current facility helped his firm to develop a feasibility study for a new “100-year building” that ultimately was envisioned into four options for consideration.
Thomas said the presentation for the proposed courthouse, which would be constructed at the corner of Division Street and Cline Avenue, was made to city officials because the building campus would fall within the City of Port Orchard’s boundaries. The city’s leaders are, in fact, in the middle of revamping Port Orchard’s zoning ordinances. Much of the concept work would require a variance from the city due to its height restrictions. The county’s government cluster is also within Port Orchard’s view protection district, which adds more restrictive requirements to the courthouse’s finalized design.
For those who work and use the county’s current courthouse, a new, larger structure couldn’t come sooner. Built in 1935, the 139,000 square foot building has undergone a hodge-podge of renovations and additions beginning in 1947.
Of the current courthouse, Thomas said that “To say it’s chaotic would be a compliment. The [county] commissioners are united in their desire to see something constructive come out of this study.”
Thomas told council members that as it stands today, the county’s judges are lacking a sufficient number of courtrooms. And most of the courtrooms currently available are too small and substandard.
“Only two of the 11 courtrooms are even close to the proper size,” he said.
Of the four design concepts, Thomas said the fourth option — he labeled it as the hybrid option — is the preferred concept. He said that with a lobby at the corner, its two-story building base is in line with Port Orchard’s zoning. It would allow for later internal and horizontal expansion; good internal “wayfinding”; the best opportunity for a public plaza; and with good light and a view.
When a final design is completed, an obvious improvement from the existing courthouse arrangement would be better security at the building’s entrances and inside the facility.
Another change for the better would be additional parking spaces to relieve a critical shortage that now exists. Thomas said an estimated 830 spaces would be available to building staffers and users, a significant increase from 532 spaces now available. It’s most likely that parking will continue to be at ground-level lots. The costs to build a parking garage or underground parking would be cost-prohibitive, Thomas said.
Thomas didn’t put forward a cost estimate for the new courthouse, saying a reliable figure couldn’t be made until a final design concept is selected and other budget factors were considered.