Evidence of the work being done inside the Temple Court Building is visible through the windows of the structure along Allegheny Street: exposed stone and brick, unfinished floors and materials of the construction workers doing the job.
The project to expand the Courthouse Annex is in its second phase, involving gutting and renovating the inside of Temple Court to add office space for courthouse employees. The county purchased the building in June 2012 to deal with overcrowding in the main courthouse.
Three years later, completion of the project is in the foreseeable future. The project is tentatively expected to be completed by late November, said Denise Elbell, Centre County director of financial management and deputy administrator.
The juvenile probation and probation departments are slated to go in the first two floors of the building and the district attorney’s office to go on the top two, Commissioner Chris Exarchos said. The basement of the building is also getting worked on and will be used for record storage, and the first floor facade will also get an overhaul.
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The first phase of the project, construction of a four-floor addition behind the annex joining the two buildings, began last summer and wrapped up in February. An entrance on the addition will become the main entrance to the building and the current one on Allegheny Street will be closed.
The first phase of the project cost about $1.5 million and the bid for the second phase was approved for $3.1 million, Exarchos said, but work on an older building like Temple Court, built in the 1800s, can present unexpected challenges and unforeseen problems that need to be addressed, some of them costly.
During work on the first phase last year, foundation issues that threatened the stability of the Temple Court building added $166,000 to costs. The commissioners voted Tuesday to approve other change orders totaling more than $20,000. Additional work on the second phase could add between $400,000 to $500,000 to the renovation price tag, Exarchos said.
All costs of the renovations are covered by the county’s capital fund, Exarchos said, with no state or federal grant money contributing to the costs.
Even with the added expenses, Exarchos said renovating the structure would be cheaper than building a new one somewhere else and has the added benefit of restoring a historic site downtown.
“For a lot less money, we get to save a building and meet our needs,” Exarchos said. “So it’s a win-win for the downtown historic district and our space needs.”
Elbell said construction of a raised crosswalk across High Street leading from the grounds of the main courthouse to the annex and a decorative stormwater retention garden is slated for next year.
While work on the building will end this year, Exarchos said the offices will probably not be occupied until next year. That could open the possibility for work inside the main courthouse across the street.
The fourth floor of the main courthouse will be vacant when the district attorney’s and probation offices move to Temple Court, opening the possibility for renovations and upgrades to that building, to include possible additional courtrooms to be used by senior judges presiding in Centre County.
“We’ll finish what we have now and check our financial position, but that would be something in the future,” Exarchos said.