Brunswick County flirting with expansive government complex redesign

LS3P’s renderings of the Brunswick County government complex master plan include a central pathway of green space and a reconfiguration of the 137-acre site’s layout. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Brunswick County)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY –– The 137-acre headquarters for Brunswick County — a rural outpost off Old Ocean Highway home base for services ranging from law and order to public health — could soon be overhauled in a multi-year plan to redesign the central government complex. 

Last December the county authorized a quarter-million-dollar retainer for the architectural firm LS3P, setting the designers forth to study the existing site in Bolivia and create new ideas. 

A five-year master plan that expresses the future-looking vision — replacing multiple administrative buildings and cultivating a “campus feel” that includes abundant corridors of open green space — is on the board of commissioners’ Aug. 16 agenda. 

County staff, months ago, informed the design team of the four county buildings in the most dire condition — health, social services, emergency services, and central services. The final master plan provides a timeline for demolishing buildings in critical condition and recreating their replacements. 

Designers envision a large walkway of green space, reminiscent of a university quad, jetting through the center of the complex, uniting the different zones of the site. A revamped commissioners chambers would peer out toward a pavilion from within the administrative building.

The first phase identified in the master plan includes the demolition of the existing health building and social services building. Then would come construction of a building to host both wings of the county’s health apparatus, positioned at the base of the proposed green walkway. Phase one, which also includes some road and parking improvements, is projected to cost $49 million. 

Phase two will consist of a new building for the planning department and other offices, to be built facing the new health building. 

The master plan to be presented to the board of commissioners Aug. 16 shows a hearty path of open space cutting through the center of the complex, with new buildings for central services and public health flanking the bottom edge. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Brunswick County)

Both new structures will mark the entrance into the complex by way of a linear open space path that will be built as part of phase two. The existing building used by the planning department will be demolished, and the administrative building, home to the commissioners chambers, will get an upgrade. This phase has an estimated cost of $26.2 million.

Phase three involves reworking the entrance to the site off Old Ocean Highway, and various landscaping and signing improvements. The estimated cost is $1.6 million. 

Phase X, with a construction timeline independent of the other phases, has an estimated price tag of $25.5 million. This subsection of the master plan calls for a new emergency services building to be built on vacant land; the existing emergency services space would then be rebuilt and used by the board of elections. 

Some buildings in the government complex — like the courthouse, law enforcement center and public assembly building — were not included in LS3P’s scope of study and are left untouched by the five-year plan. 

An “optional/future” phase, however, at an estimated $36.4 million, includes such improvements as a prisoner transition space “to accommodate discharged prisoners” in the law enforcement center, and renovations to at least six buildings. 

There’s also a slide in the master plan presentation called “maintenance improvements” with an estimated cost of $37.3 million. The estimated costs of all phases total approximately $176 million. 

Separately, a two-phase $11 million expansion and renovation of the courthouse is currently underway with completion slated for the end of the year.  

LS3P was chosen after a request for qualifications process; the firm’s designs in New Hanover County include the Wilmington Convention Center, and more recent government contracts, like the New Hanover County government center redevelopment and Project Grace. The firm is also involved with the mission of New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Novant Health to build a new hospital in Scotts Hill. 

The agenda item related to this wide-scale redesign only concerns the presentation and reception of the “final complex site and buildings master plan,” to be shared with the board by Charles Boney of LS3P Monday.  

“Due to the growth in services needed for a fast growing county, lack of additional office space, and the age and associated increasing maintenance of the existing buildings, the county decided to hire an architectural firm to study the complex and produce a site and buildings master plan,” according to the agenda. 

A spokesperson for Brunswick County said Monday’s presentation will be an information session, and further action is not immediately expected. Talks on the nine-figure project costs may be held in future board meetings or budget discussions. 

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