The need for a new municipal courthouse may be the catalyst for a completely restructured city block, or at least that was the message city staff gave to Flagstaff City Council at the Jan. 22 meeting.
The construction of the new municipal courthouse at 101 W. Cherry Ave, and scheduled opening by spring of 2020, leaves the future of the current municipal court land at 15 N Beaver St., and perhaps the whole block, up for debate.
The city only owns about half of the block with the other half owned privately by a number of businesses including the owners of the Marriott Hotel, which use their section as a parking lot, the Rodeway Inn Downtown and the Ponderosa Pawn & Trading Company. But the privately owned property may not stop redevelopment of the whole block.
This is because the city has an agreement with the owners of the Marriott stating they will come to the table as a stakeholder when deciding what happens to the former municipal court land.
The city has not been in contact with the owners of the Rodeway Inn Downtown, but the Arizona Department of Transportation has told city staff the agency is planning to add lanes on Humphreys, which may require the demolition of those buildings, city planning director Dan Folke told city council.
If this occurs, it could open the possibility for a complete redevelopment of the downtown city block.
To do this, Folke said staff are looking at a more community oriented way of planning for the future of the area.
“This is an opportunity for the community to come together and really envision the long-term vision for the entire block,” Folke said.
Normally, the city would solicit companies for proposals on uses for the land and then go to the public for comment only after choosing one of those proposals, but this time, they are looking at going the other way around: first holding a community forum, possibly in May, and allowing citizens to voice their opinions.
“We could look at the intensity of the project, so height issues, density, intensity, what types of uses do we think are appropriate, are there design elements we need to be aware of. It’s obviously on Historic Route 66,” Folke said.
In this way, the public comments can then influence the kind of proposals they ask for.
Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transit Authority is also looking at the site as the potential new home of their downtown transit hub after the organization received a grant to replace their current hub on Phoenix Avenue.
Until it is redeveloped, and after the construction of the new municipal courthouse, the site will be home to a surface parking lot to provide spaces required by city code. Because of this, whatever happens to the block, there will need to be parking for the new municipal courthouse and for the Marriott Hotel.
Whether this required parking is within the block could depend on if alternative locations for parking are proposed.
Progress on the new municipal courthouse is also well underway, according to James Duval, the city’s Senior Project Manager.
The new three-story, 40,000-square foot building will contain three jury capable courtrooms, one non-jury capable courtroom, a jury assembly room, a hearing room and two jury deliberation rooms.
“By contrast the existing municipal court building has just two jury capable courtrooms and one non-jury capable courtroom,” Duval said.
The courthouse will also face the intersection of Cherry Avenue and North Beaver Street so people driving down Beaver, which is one way, will be approaching the building from the front.
This means the building will then be facing into what is considered a civic plaza with the Theatrikos Playhouse and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary across the street.
The infrastructure they chose is also meant to mirror and pay respect to the Coconino County Superior Courthouse, Duval said.
The court's clock tower is planned to be 72 feet tall, about 10 feet shorter than the steeple of the Nativity as to not overpower the historic building.
Councilmember Charlie Odegaard said when he saw the rendition of the building, he was impressed at its architectural beauty.
“I said wow, that’s beautiful. I think it will be a really proud structure for the community, for the downtown,” Odegaard said. “I think it will really enhance the downtown area.”
Updated at 11:18 a.m. on January 28.