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Unexpected additions increase cost of Grosse Pointe City’s municipal court project

Project still remains on budget despite changes

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 7, 2020

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Some changes in the planned renovations to Grosse Pointe City’s historical Public Safety Department building to convert it into a municipal court and court offices have increased the project’s price tag.

The court project — one of three facilities projects being paid for through a voter-approved bond — is now expected to cost $707,200, up from an October 2018 projected cost of $598,038. But Lauren Lee, a project manager with Partners in Architecture, reassured officials during a Dec. 16 City Council meeting that this increase is still within the amount budgeted for the court.

“We’re still significantly under what the bond amount was, even with the (more than) $100,000 (added),” City Manager Pete Dame said.

Many of the changes, including a separate restroom for the municipal court judge and court staff, came at the recommendation of state court officials, Lee said.

Additions include a vestibule, double doors in the lobby to improve traffic flow and prevent congestion, and a dumbwaiter to carry heavy boxes of documents to the building’s second floor. The second floor isn’t undergoing renovations as part of this project, but it is slated to be used for storage.

Dame said only the dumbwaiter wasn’t one of the state recommendations. The 1928 building doesn’t have an elevator, nor is one planned as part of this project.

“It’s not going to look drastically different (from earlier plans), but there were some key elements (that changed) to make it a more functional facility,” Lee said.

The courtroom/council chambers will be located in what is now the apparatus bay, Lee said.

“We’re turning that into something pretty spectacular,” she said, noting that it will feature a nod to its original use for firetrucks and other public safety equipment.

Also increasing the cost was the condition of some bricks on the north wall, and the desire to add windows on the north side. Lee said that after tearing down an addition on the back of the public safety building that had been constructed in the mid-1990s for the old municipal courtroom/council meeting chambers, the construction crew uncovered the original north wall of the building, which showed evidence of five windows on the first floor and seven on the second floor.

To bring back the building’s historical character, Lee said, they plan to restore the windows — with the exception of one adjacent to the judge’s chambers, where they’ll be installing a faux window with shutters for security purposes.

“We are going to be returning this (building) to its original (state)” on the exterior, Lee said.

When completed, the courtroom will also double as the City Council chambers. Lee said the room will be “roughly the same size” as the former council chambers. The furniture will be flexible so that it can be configured for both purposes, but at press time, it wasn’t known if the City would be purchasing all new furnishings for the courtroom/council chambers or using the old furnishings.

Dame said furniture isn’t part of the guaranteed maximum costs presented to the City as part of the design-build contract; he said they had been considering reusing the old mobile tables and court dais. However, some City leaders felt they might need to invest in new furniture.

“I have to believe the old (dais) is going to look pretty tired in this space,” Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said.

During an August primary election in 2017, voters narrowly approved a 23-year bond proposal not to exceed $12.96 million for new public safety and public works facilities, as well as improved municipal court safety.