Construction can now begin on an anticipated renovation project to connect the Centre County Courthouse Annex and the Temple Court building in Bellefonte.
The Centre County commissioners on Tuesday approved a $1.3 million bid from G.M. McCrossin Inc., of Bellefonte, for the work, which includes the construction of a four-story addition to the rear of the buildings.
Designs for the project, provided by the county Tuesday, show the addition with what will become the main entrance on High Street. A raised walkway will connect the two buildings with the Centre County Courthouse, the plans show.
The county has been discussing a project to connect the buildings since it purchased the Temple Court property in July 2012 for $445,000. At the time, county officials said the building would provide more room for court operations.
The demolition of the former Garman Theatre and Hotel Do De, the neighboring properties, gave the county an opportunity to access the site for construction.
Steve Dershem, chairman of the commissioners, said work has to be completed by January, when developer Ara Kervandjian, who owns the neighboring properties, plans to start his own redevelopment project.
Kervandjian bought the former hotel and theater after a fire destroyed the buildings. He razed the damaged structures and announced plans to build workforce housing apartments there.
Earlier this year, the developer received almost $2 million in federal tax credits and PennHOMES funding to build multiple-family dwellings, and said he wanted to start the project by early 2015.
Dershem said the county has a construction easement that allows its crews onto Kervandjian’s property while they work, but that expires in December, meaning the first phase of the project must be done by then.
The first phase includes the construction of a 10-foot-by-140-foot, four-story structure behind the buildings and the construction of the walkway.
Later work will be internal, focusing on connecting the buildings inside, Dershem said.
“The question seems to be, ‘When are you starting Phase 2 — the construction in the annex and Temple Court itself?’ ” Dershem said. “We’ll start having those conversations this fall. At this point, we’re just happy to get this out of bid.”
The county received two bids for the first phase, and awarded the contract to the low bidder for $1.37 million.
Last month, the Bellefonte Youth Center moved out of its former location at the Temple Court building on Allegheny Street as the county prepared to start construction. In September, the youth center will set up again at 114 N. Spring St., which last housed a state liquor store.
The Do De and Garman lots have been vacant since demolition, which ended earlier this year. Both buildings were badly damaged in a 2012 fire.
Kervandjian and his company, Progress Development Group, plan to redevelop the lot and fire-damaged Cadillac Building to create 32 units of workforce housing apartments.
He previously said receiving state funding for his Bellefonte Mews development was a “huge win for the families displaced by terrible fires and for historic Bellefonte.”