This project is in site acquisition with architectural design delayed until FY 2014–2015, based on the Judicial Council’s February 26, 2013 decision. The current expected completion date is 2 Q 2019.
Square footage: 301,464
Current authorized project budget: $277,164,000
In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change.
The proposed project would create a full-service courthouse in Modesto to replace seven court facilities - five in Modesto and the two outlying courthouses. Consolidating these facilities will enable the court to increase efficiency by retiring leases and centralizing operations. The project would improve security by providing enhanced entrance screening, separate hallways for the public, staff, and in-custody defendants, and properly sized holding areas for in-custody defendants.
The project would include space for four new judgeships and would enable the court to provide basic services currently not possible due to space restrictions, such as a self-help center; appropriately sized public lobby and service counters; a properly sized and equipped jury assembly room and jury deliberation rooms, and rooms for family court mediation and attorney/client interviews, as well as a children's waiting room.
On May 9, 2013, a preferred site was selected for the New Stanislaus Courthouse. The site totals approximately 3.5 acres and includes the city block bounded by G and H Streets and 9th and 10th Streets in downtown Modesto. The site also includes a portion of the block bounded by H and I Streets and 9th and 10th Streets for parking.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP
Construction Manager at Risk
To be selected, schedule TBD
What is the courthouse project's current status?
The courthouse project is currently in site acquisition. The AOC is negotiating acquisition terms with the City of Modesto for the preferred site. Here is a timeline of progress to date:
Why do we need a new courthouse?
The Superior Court of Stanislaus County serves residents through seven separate facilities located throughout downtown Modesto and in the nearby cities of Ceres and Turlock. Built in 1960, the Modesto courthouse and the adjacent Hall of Records (circa 1938) have significant security issues as well as numerous deficiencies under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Three leased facilities, located in two privately-owned buildings and one county-owned building, were not designed for court use and experience security problems typical of multi-tenant facilities. The branch courthouses in Ceres and Turlock require county residents to leave Modesto and travel up to 14 miles to obtain these court services. Altogether, the seven separate facilities are significantly overcrowded and have numerous physical, functional, and efficiency problems as well as safety and security issues, hindering the court’s ability to adequately deliver court services to county residents.
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
Located in downtown Modesto, the new courthouse will house 26 courtrooms in 301,464 square feet of space, consolidating court operations from seven existing facilities into one courthouse by replacing current court facilities located in Modesto, Ceres, and Turlock. The new, modern courthouse will eliminate severe overcrowding and provide adequate space for court services, administration, security operations, and a holding area with a secure sallyport for the transportation of in-custody detainees. With all court services under one roof, the new, modern courthouse will become a one-stop location for county residents.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
Current court operations are spread between seven separate facilities, making access to court services unwieldy and inefficient. Both the Modesto Courthouse and the Hall of Records have severe fire and life safety deficiencies and no room for expansion, so renovation is not an option. The main courthouse and ancillary facilities have many functional, efficiency, and security challenges which include:
Who is the AOC, and why are they managing this project? What is the Judicial Council?
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is the staff arm of the Judicial Council of California. The Judicial Council is the policymaking body for the California court system, including the trial courts, known as “Superior Courts,” based in each county. Among other responsibilities, the AOC is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.
How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?
The Project Advisory Group is the main source of ongoing community input to the project. This broad-based group includes members of the business community, the City and County, justice partners including the District Attorney’s office and the Public Defender’s office, and the Superior Court. Members include:
What will happen to the current courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?
Leases will be terminated for the three facilities in downtown Modesto. It has yet to be determined what will happen to the state-owned facilities.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
Two potential sites are under consideration for the new Modesto courthouse. The preferred site includes the city block bounded by G and H Streets and 9th and 10th Streets in downtown Modesto. Portions of the 13-parcel site are owned by the City of Modesto; other parcels are privately owned. The site was chosen for its close proximity to freeway access, the transit center, public parking, and the downtown core. The zoning height limits allow for a multi-floor structure, providing more options for court operations functionality. The alternate site is at H and I Streets and 13th and 14th Streets.
What was the process used to select the site?
The AOC worked closely with the Superior Court and with the Project Advisory Group, which includes judges, court staff, representatives from city and county government, justice partners, and the business community, to determine the preferred and alternate sites. The AOC followed a standard site selection policy and process. The process involved objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting at least two sites that met agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for Stanislaus County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule. A cost reduction subcommittee of the Court Facilities Advisory Committee, which oversees the court construction program statewide, directed the project team to pursue the city block bounded by G and H Streets and 9th and 10th Streets in downtown Modesto as the preferred site. The presiding judge signed off on the preferred and alternate site, and the site selection was approved by the Administrative Director of the Courts (who heads the AOC) and the State Public Works Board.
Why does the AOC decide where the new court is built? Why isn't this a county decision?
Historically, trial courts functioned largely as county departments, but that changed in 2002, with passage of the Trial Court Facilities Act. This law made the State of California responsible for court facilities statewide, rather than the counties. The law gave the Judicial Council responsibility for facilities owned or occupied by the courts and made the AOC responsible for operations, maintenance, and repairs, as well as site acquisition, planning, design, and construction of capital projects that replace or renovate courthouses. The AOC works closely with each affected Superior Court and justice agency stakeholders throughout the process of replacing or renovating courthouses. By Rules of Court, the AOC involves the public primarily through the Project Advisory Group, although depending on the needs of the project, the AOC also seeks direct public input at various stages.
Was an environmental review completed for the project? Who is the lead agency?
The AOC is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In August 2013, the AOC completed the environmental review process for the preferred site on 10th Street by filing a Notice of Exemption under CEQA's categorical exemption for an in-fill development project.
Will the new building be energy efficient?Yes. The building will be designed with attention to sustainability. Energy-efficiency features include advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling, artificial lighting, and plumbing. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it to receive a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse was ranked as an “Immediate Need” in the judicial branch’s capital-outlay plan, making it among the branch’s highest-priority infrastructure projects. It is funded by Senate Bill 1407, enacted in 2008 to provide up to $5 billion in funding for new and renovated courthouses using court fees, penalties, and assessments rather than taxpayer revenues from the state’s General Fund.
How did the state arrive at its initial budget for the project?The AOC develops each project budget by first determining the building size, site size, and number of parking spaces. Then it provides this information to a professional cost estimating firm that creates a hard construction cost for the building and site work. To this, the AOC adds all project soft costs, which includes all costs associated with evaluating, selecting, and acquiring a site, analysis required to comply with CEQA, the fee for the architecture and engineering team, geotechnical testing, project management and construction management fees, commissioning fees, and the cost of furniture, fixtures, and equipment.
How can the state afford a new courthouse at all, given current state finances?
To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, penalty assessments and parking offense penalties were increased, and civil filing fee surcharges were created. This ensured a revenue stream to finance courthouse construction and renovations, promising these projects would be paid for from within the court system rather than drawing on the state's General Fund or local taxes. Before construction begins, the state will sell lease revenue bonds to finance construction, and once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 35 years. This means that funds from other court jurisdictions will support Stanislaus’ critical needs in years to come.
What is the impact of the state’s current budget crisis on this project?
Since 2009, $1.7 billion in court construction funds have been borrowed, swept to the General Fund, or redirected to court operations As a result, this project, as with other courthouse projects statewide, has been subjected to several delays, and has been required by the Judicial Council to undergo reductions to its construction budget, overseen by a statewide oversight committee of justices, judges, and public building experts. Funding of future phases of this project depends in part on what happens to court construction funds in future fiscal years.
Who is the architect on the project?
The San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP is the architect selected to design the new Modesto Courthouse. Established in 1936, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP provides architecture and sustainable design services, as well as building services, engineering, and urban design and planning. The company has won numerous awards from the American Institute of Architecture as well as the American Architect Award from Chicago Athenaeum. Its projects have included the new courthouse for the Superior Court of San Bernardino County and the new federal courthouse in Los Angeles, both currently under construction. However, architectural design for this project has been delayed until Fiscal Year 2014-2015 because of the state’s funding crisis.
How were the architects selected?
The AOC uses a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee. The architectural company is retained early in the project to begin preliminary drawings.
What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see renderings of the new courthouse?
Once the project moves into architectural design, renderings will be posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab.
Will the new courthouse be energy efficient and sustainably designed?
This project will be designed to qualify for a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. This is the national standard for sustainable design. Numerous energy-saving features will make the courthouse more economical to operate over time.
What is the construction delivery method, and who will build the project?
Typical of most courthouses in the AOC capital program, this project will be constructed by a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) who provides a guaranteed maximum price. This construction delivery method, approved by the Judicial Council, includes the CMAR during the design process to provide scheduling, cost and constructability input, and during the construction phase to act as the general contractor on project. Because the project is still in site selection, a CMAR has not yet been selected.
How will the contractor be selected?The competitive selection process factors in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. The CMAR is retained early in the project for preconstruction services. Following a competitive bid for all subcontracts and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor for the project.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When will the courthouse be completed and operational?Construction is currently scheduled to begin in January 2017; the courthouse is scheduled for completion in May 2019. This schedule is subject to change.
What are the AOC's policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How will members of the public find out about these opportunities?Once bonds are sold for this project and it is ready to be put out to bid, the construction manager at risk will become the general contractor on the project. Prior to the project going into construction, the contractor will conduct an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers will be considered.
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