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HSF Supporting Rehabilitation Solutions

Historic Staunton Foundation (HSF) is committed to finding solutions that lead to the continued operation of Augusta County’s courts in downtown Staunton. We support the overall goals of improving court functions while fostering regional pride in our shared civic architecture.

Over the past three years HSF has engaged with members of both Staunton City Council, and the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, as well as other civic organizations about how to go forward with meeting the County’s need for updated court facilities while preserving the Augusta County Courthouse for its intended use.

We have compiled data on available adjacent space, cost of reuse of adjacent properties, downtown parking, and the experiences of other Virginia cities and counties that have gone through this process. We continue to work with interested parties to support the best outcome in accordance with HSF’s mission and goals.

Applying a Rehabilitation Strategy

HSF identified over 72,000 square feet of available space utilizing adjacent buildings for adaptive reuse. This additional space does not include the current court buildings. The 1901 Circuit Courthouse and 1950’s Administration building total about 27,400 square feet. Combined, the gross available square footage is nearly 100,000 square feet. (99,400). Utilizing architectural planning services, professional project management, and available tax credits, additional space can be rehabbed for court needs for significantly less cost than the same new building space proposed in Verona.
Proposed Verona complex – new construction gross figures:
118,000 square feet @ $45,000,000 = $381per square foot

  • Comparing the cost of additional square footage
    • Estimated cost for 72,000 square feet of using $381 per square foot= $27,432,000
  • HSF estimated cost for 72,000 square feet of adaptive reuse construction downtown= $18,102,700 (utilizing p.s.f. cost estimates from the County’s 2012 Feasibility Study)

2012 Circuit Courthouse study estimates and other comparative studies indicate that rehabilitation including the adjacent 72,000 square feet could cost $4 million less than new construction.
Costs could be additionally discounted by as much as $5 million with the use of historic tax credits. Tax credits are available in Staunton because the City has planned for revitalization, establishing historic districts and enabling use of financial incentives.

More Local Jobs – Better Local Investment – Environmentally Sustainable

Peer reviewed studies conducted by Preservation Virginia and the VCU Center for Urban and Regional Development and Rutgers University clearly indicate that historic rehabilitation provides more local skilled jobs and regional reinvestment than new construction. The Greenest Building Study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation clearly demonstrates beyond doubt that reuse of existing buildings is by far better for the environment and provides sustainable and maintainable buildings for the future.

Consolidation of the Courts

HSF also supports consolidation of courts as illustrated through the 2015 feasibility study. It will address many issues by allowing joint use of the up-to-date, well-maintained, secure court facilities in Staunton’s Cochran Judicial Center.

HSF understands that it is Judge Ludwig’s preference to combine rehabilitation of the 1901 Courthouse with new construction. As the New Street parking garage has demonstrated, well thought-out new construction can restore the architectural rhythm providing renewed vitality to the streetscape.

HSF sees new construction of a courts building to augment the existing courts as an opportunity to restore this architectural rhythm and scale in the block of South Augusta Street between Johnson and Beverley Streets.


Staunton’s downtown has excellent and plentiful parking facilities and applauds the City’s offer for free use to the County.

Readily Available Parking:

  • Convenient Wharf parking lots adjacent to the Circuit Courthouse facilities.
  • Two covered parking garages is available within one block of all downtown court facilities.
  • More parking close to the Cochran Judicial Center

HSF encourages improvement to parking signage and possible opportunities for added parking if usage increases.

November 8, 2016 –  Referendum to Move County Seat and Courts to Verona

HSF is actively participating in the public discussion and working with citizen volunteers. We are providing accurate facts, statistics, documentation, and advocating for the best preservation and urban planning solutions.

Should the referendum pass:

  • The County Seat will move to Verona.
  • The current joint use of Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts will be split.
  • The City will need to find space for its own Juvenile Courts.

What Happens to the 1901 Courthouse?

Augusta County will continue to own the 1901 Courthouse and 1950’s office building after the referendum. Like all property owners, Augusta County will be responsible for timely and appropriate maintenance of its property located in Staunton in accordance with the Virginia Building Code and the local zoning ordinances.

HSF will support the continued use of the Augusta County Courthouse as a courthouse. HSF will advocate that the City try to acquire the historic courthouse and make necessary immediate repairs to use the building as the City’s new Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. HSF will encourage the City to consider the rehabilitation and reuse of the 1950s Augusta County office building

What if County Voters Reject the Referendum?

  • Augusta County Courts Remain in Downtown/ No New Referendum Allowed for 10 Years
  • The county will be responsible for all costs of rehabilitation and/or new construction to meet their current needs.

HSF will encourage the City and County to work towards a long-term consolidated solution that will keep the courts downtown for the next 50 -100 years.  This can provide a safe and secure environment for court and law enforcement staff and general public while maintaining the historic character of downtown Staunton.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

A report from Rutgers confirms earlier findings that historic rehabilitation work not only creates more higher-paying jobs than new construction, but more jobs overall. Of the 1.8 million jobs created by federal historic tax credit investments over the life of the program, 58,000 alone were generated in 2008. Previous research conducted by Rypkema had found similar impacts at the state level, citing the labor-intensive process of historic rehab in which between 60 and 70 percent of the total costs go toward labor—skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, painters, and other tradespeople.

The report also shows that historic rehabilitation outperforms many other traditional stimulus investments. For instance, $1 million invested in historic rehabilitation has a greater economic impact in terms of jobs, income, and federal, state, and local taxes generated than a similar investment in highway construction, machinery manufacturing, agriculture, and telecommunication. The report further states that three-quarters of the economic impacts of historic rehabilitation stays in the same local communities and states where the projects are located. This relatively high retention rate reflects the fact that labor and materials are obtained locally.

NTHP: The Environmental Value of Building Reuse

  • Reuse Matters. Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction. The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20-30 years to compensate for the initial carbon impacts from construction.
  • Scale Matters. Collectively, building reuse and retrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts. Retrofitting, rather than demolishing and replacing, just 1% of the city of Portland’s office buildings and single family homes over the next ten years would help to meet 15% of their county’s total CO2 reduction targets over the next decade.
  • Design Matters. The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials. Renovation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse.
  • The Bottom Line. Reusing existing buildings is good for the economy, the community and the environment. At a time when our country’s foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, communities would be wise to reinvest in their existing building stock. Historic rehabilitation has a thirty-two year track record of creating 2 million jobs and generating $90 billion in private investment. Studies show residential rehabilitation creates 50% more jobs than new construction.

Preservation Virginia:  Economic Impact of Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Programs in Virginia

Case Studies Supporting Rehabilitation:

Smart growth, economical operations, energy efficiency, and convenience are sustainable benefits attained through rehabilitation of historic civic buildings. Below are case study excerpts and links that encourage rehabilitation and continued use of the Augusta County court facilities in Staunton.

Smart Growth Practices. Public buildings should set the standard in a community. Public buildings with civic stature, quality materials, and prominent settings project a sense of the importance of public institutions. For centuries, public buildings in Virginia such as city halls, courthouses, post offices, and public schools were always the community’s most beautiful and notable buildings. Since the 1950s, however, public buildings often have been relegated to little more than utilitarian boxes.  We sometimes have designed schools and libraries that resemble correctional facilities. We have built fire stations and post offices that look like warehouses, and we have moved many of our public buildings from downtown to new locations on the strip outside of town. People appreciate public buildings that express dignity and permanence and that harmonize with their surroundings. There are a number of instances in the Valley where communities have demanded higher quality in the design of new public buildings and resisted efforts to move civic institutions to out-of-the-way locations.

Better-Models-for-Development (pg. 97)

Success in Texas!

Benefits of Restoring Historic Courthouses.  In addition to saving important historic landmarks, there are many benefits that follow the restoration of a historic courthouse through the Texas Historical Commission’s award-winning Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. Restored historic courthouses have proven to be an economic booster for the Texas and local county economies. The counties with restored historic courthouses also see an impact in the form of increased safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, tourism, and more.

Benefits of Restoring Historic Courthouses

Cost effective use of tax dollars in Wisconsin.

Good Stewardship Is Cost Effective. Good stewardship and continual care of municipal structures is economically wise for many reasons, one of which is that rehabilitation and preservation avoids the huge capital costs of infrastructure replacement.  Current studies demonstrate that rehabilitation of older and historic structures is the most cost effective use of tax dollars. While buildings may need to undergo a major renovation every few decades, and operating systems may need to be replaced and upgraded from time to time, the preservation of a solid structural framework in an old building accounts for 15–30% of the value of the total cost of a building.  Therefore, the cost to rehabilitate is generally only 70–85% of the value of a building, thereby assuring that renovation will always be a competitive option.”

Preserving Wisconsin’s Civic Legacy, A Guide to Rehabilitating and Reusing Local Government Properties (pg. 3)

One of the largest Historic Preservation organizations in the U.S. is the United States General Services Administration (GSA).  The GSA has developed some of the best guidance and case studies for the reuse of historic public buildings. Their publication Sustainability Matters provides many lesson such as space needs, security and energy usage that may be learned and adapted for our local needs.

Operating Costs.  Recent analysis conducted by PBS’ Cultural, Environmental and Accessibility programs indicates that cleaning, maintenance, and utility costs at GSA-controlled historic buildings have been consistently lower than comparable operating costs for non-historic GSA buildings. Post-World War II buildings tend to consume more energy due to higher glazing-tosurface ratios and thinner exterior wall construction. Contemporary interior finishes using man-made materials are more likely to require frequent renewal or replacement in contrast to generously dimensioned natural finish materials such as stone and wood, designed to last indefinitely with routine maintenance. Minimally engineered modern building envelopes are also more prone to detailing failures remedied only by major capital investment after 20-30 years of service life. On the other hand, many of GSA’s pre-World War II traditional stone buildings remain architecturally sound after minimal exterior investment over a 60­ 70 year period.

Held in Public Trust: Public Buildings Service (PBS) Strategy for Using Historic Buildings (pg. 15)

Extending the Legacy.   In 2009, GSA released new illustrated guidelines documenting successful approaches for integrating secu­rity processing functions into historic building lobbies. Lobby Security in Historic Buildings features model solutions for historic lobbies of different sizes and configurations. Designed to complete GSA’s general Lobby Security Design Guide, the historic lobby design guide provides images and narrative guidance for layout, equipment placement, and detailing to minimize the architectural impact of security processing activities on historic entry spaces and materials.

Extending the Legacy ( pg. 114)