With onlookers watching, a large excavator began tearing into the city office building at 101 W. Cherry Ave. on Tuesday. As bricks crumbled and the arm of the machine pulled down one of the building’s stairways, even construction workers held up phones to take photos and videos.
The demolition, scheduled over the next two days, is to make room for construction of the new three-story, $19.5 million municipal courthouse on the site. The former courthouse has been inadequate for some time due to safety and flooding issues.
After Flagstaff City Council approved the demolition earlier this year, staff with the facilities section went through the building to strip it of anything still valuable, such as any recently installed fixtures like doorknobs, locks or lights.
The rubble will also be sorted through, with much of the metal being recycled and brick and concrete chucks being put to use as the daily cover at the Cinder Lakes landfill.
The building previously housed the offices for Arizona Public Service and then the city’s environmental management and sustainability sections.
This month, the city council is expected to pass the final approval for construction of the new courthouse, as well as make a decision regarding the placement of a few parking spots in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act to service the building.
It had originally been planned that the ADA parking spots for those going to the courthouse would be located in the same area as the standard parking spots on the location of the current municipal courthouse, over two blocks from the new courthouse site.
That is within the distance required by city code, but at a council meeting earlier this year, Councilmember Jim McCarthy suggested the distance might make getting to the courthouse difficult for someone using a wheelchair or crutches or someone who has trouble walking.
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There are 19 parking spots on the courthouse site, but these are dedicated to court staff and judges and are protected behind a wall and gate. Such measures are suggested by the Arizona Supreme Court for the safety of staff and judges.
Vice-Mayor Adam Shimoni wondered why they could not have made the first floor of the court building parking.
Christine Cameron, the project manager for the city, said staff considered ways of getting more parking spaces on the site, but the cost and size of the parcel was restrictive and their top priority was to fulfill the needs of the court.
“We were really constrained with the size of the site and with the budget,” Cameron said.
Councilmember Jamie Whelan brought up the possibility that the city could use some of the parking spaces in the Theatrikos Theatre Company’s parking lot across the street. The Doris Harper-White Community Playhouse, which houses Theatrikos, is owned by the city.
According to a report sent to the council earlier this month, the city could convert two of the playhouse's parking spots into one ADA compliant spot not only to serve the courthouse but also the theater and the nativity across Cherry Avenue.
Mayor Coral Evans suggested the city could also change the current plans slightly to add a streetside ADA compliant parking space. This has been done in the Southside to increase the number of ADA compliant parking spots in the downtown area.