580 West Texas Street, Fairfield, CA
Funded by Senate Bill 1407
Initial Funding Year: FY 2009-2010
For this reason, the Judicial Council directed renovation of the historic Old Solano Courthouse in Fairfield. The courthouse, designed by E.C. Hemmings, is an outstanding example of Beaux Arts architecture expressed in a civic building. The 1911 building served as a functioning courthouse until the 1970s. It became vacant in 2005, when the County moved to its new government center.
Renovation restored this beautiful, historic building to use as a fully functioning courthouse, providing three courtrooms under new judgeships for civil cases. The project includes:
The County donated the Old Solano Courthouse property to the state at no cost. The building does not have landmark status; however, the state, county, and court team have approached the project with sensitivity to a thoughtful restoration to modern use while preserving the building's classic features. Construction work on the renovation commenced in spring 2013 and was completed in fall 2014. The courthouse opened for business September 22, 2014.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
The AOC complied with CEQA by filing a categorical exemption for this project on October 8, 2009.
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When was the renovation done?
The project was authorized in fiscal year 2009–2010 and completed in 2014. The renovated courthouse opened for business September 22, 2014.
Why were renovations to the Old Solano Courthouse needed?
The Superior Court of Solano County operates out of three facilities, two in downtown Fairfield. These facilities lack adequate space to serve a growing population. A recent renovation of the Fairfield Law and Justice Center only partially addressed the court’s space needs. For this reason, the Judicial Council directed its staff to renovate the previously vacant historic Old Solano Courthouse, located at 580 Texas Street in Fairfield’s downtown government center. A stunning example of Beaux Arts architecture, designed by architect E.C. Hemming and built in 1911, the building had been vacant since 2005, when the County—which once shared the building with the court—moved to its new home in the government center.
What did the renovation include?
The renovation restored the approximately 30,000-square-foot historic building to a fully functioning civil courthouse. The project included three civil courtrooms, a civil clerk’s office, jury assembly room, an alternative dispute resolution/mediation center, and staff office space. It upgraded the historic building’s systems, including complete mechanical, electrical, life safety, plumbing, telecommunications, and accessibility improvements. Particular attention was paid to seismic safety: the building’s unreinforced masonry was retrofitted with reinforced concrete walls.
The newly renovated courthouse is designed to be energy-efficient and is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Throughout the process, great care was taken to restore the court’s historic elements, such as the marble flooring and staircase, original light fixtures, and decorative elements, including the original clock in the main entry.
Who is the Judicial Council, and why did they manage this project?
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 council—through its Capital Program office—is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The renovated courthouse is owned by the judicial branch.
For more information about the Judicial Council and its staff, refer to:
How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?
Local members of the Project Advisory Group (including members of the Solano Superior Court, local government representatives and other justice partners) worked with Solano County, accepting their gift of the historic Old Solano Courthouse and site for the project. Members of the PAG were also available to the community to answer questions about the renovation process.
Who was the construction manager at risk on the project?
Plant Construction Company managed the construction phase. In business since 1947, the firm has completed numerous public and private projects throughout the state. The company has an expertise in the restoration of important historical structures, as well as seismic bracing of old buildings and sustainability. Plant Construction has won numerous awards, including the Merit Award, International Interior Design Association, Northern California Chapter; the Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture, American Institute of Architects, San Francisco Chapter; and the California Preservation Foundation Annual Design Awards, Rehabilitation of Large Projects.
How was the contractor selected?
Judicial Council staff use a construction manager at risk (CMAR) for delivery of projects such as the Old Solano Courthouse renovation. The CMAR method entails a commitment to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price. 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 subcontractors and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor for the project. Selection criteria for the project CMAR includes an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. For this competitive selection, council staff conducted interviews with several qualified firms, from which Plant Construction Company was selected.
What were the Judicial Council's policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How did members of the public find out about these opportunities?
Once bonds were sold for this project and it was put out to bid, the construction manager at risk became the general contractor on the project. Prior to the project going into construction, the contractor conducted an outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms were fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers were considered.
Who owns the existing courthouse?
Prior to the renovation, Solano County owned the vacant building. The County donated the historical courthouse and property to the State for one dollar.
What environmental review was conducted on the site before the renovation?
Through it staff, the Judicial Council is the lead agency for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In October 2009, Judicial Council staff filed a Notice of Exemption with the state, completing the CEQA process.
Is the renovated building energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
Yes. The building was renovated with great attention to sustainability. Energy-efficiency features include advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling and state-of-the-art artificial lighting and plumbing, as well as ample use of natural light throughout the building and specially treated window glass to mitigate heat gain. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it to receive a LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
How was the renovation funded?
The project was funded without impact to the state’s General Fund. The funds come from statewide increases in court user fees, authorized by Senate Bill 1407, which passed in 2008. This bill approved the issuance of up to $5 billion in lease revenue bonds to fund this project and 40 others throughout the state, to be repaid by court fees, penalties, and assessments.
This was the first project authorized under SB 1407 to reach completion. Bonds were sold for this project in fall 2012, and construction began in spring 2013. The same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 35 years. This means that funds from other court jurisdictions will support Solano’s critical needs for years to come.
How did the state arrive at its budget for the project?
Judicial Council staff developed the renovation project budget, taking into account the extent of work needed to upgrade and restore the building and grounds for court use. The information was then provided to a professional cost estimating firm that created a hard construction cost for the work. To this, council staff added all project soft costs, including analysis required to comply with CEQA; fees for architecture and engineering, geotechnical testing, project management, construction management, and commissioning; and the cost of furniture, fixtures, and equipment.
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, was 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.
Who was the architect on the project?
The San Francisco-based architecture firm of Hornberger + Worstell designed the historic renovation. The 25-year-old firm has broad experience, but is known for its expertise in historic restoration and adaptive reuse, including such projects as the world-famous Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite, San Francisco's Olympic Club, Ghirardelli Square, and San Diego's Hotel Del Coronado.
How was the architect selected?
Judicial Council staff use 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.
Where can I see photographs of the renovation?
Photographs will posted on the project web page under the GALLERY tab after the dedication.
Hornberger + Worstell
Construction Manager at Risk
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