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Pott. County in design stage for new administration building

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Rand Elliott Architects were inspired by the Pott. County Courthouse and Carnegie Library when designing the new county administration building, which is being planned for construction on the south of the current courthouse.
Rand Elliott Architects were inspired by the Pott. County Courthouse and Carnegie Library when designing the new county administration building, which is being planned for construction on the south of the current courthouse.
The Pottawatomie County Courthouse was built in the 1930s and the  dedication took place July 3-5, 1935, and included a parade.
The Pottawatomie County Courthouse was built in the 1930s and the  dedication took place July 3-5, 1935, and included a parade.

After five years of saving funds, Pottawatomie County Commissioners began the creation process for a new County Administration Building planned for construction next to the courthouse, which is being designed to embrace older architectural elements with modern styles.

According to District 2 Commissioner Randy Thomas, Rand Elliott Architects of Oklahoma City was the firm chosen to design the new administration building. 

Principles at Rand Elliott Architects Rand Elliott and Mike Mays are the artists who came up with the initial concept and layout of the building.

“We interviewed for the project and there were a number of other firms who also interviewed for it,” Elliott said. “Through deliberation and experience and that sort thing, we were chosen to do the project.”

Elliott said his firm was extremely interested in the project because it seemed fascinating, as Pottawatomie County seemed to be a good client and others involved in the project seemed to be easy to work with. 

“We really found that to be the case with Tommy Arnold and with Melissa Dennis. We like them very much,” Elliott said. “They had also chosen a contractor by the name of Lippert Brothers Construction that we’ve worked with before, so we felt all those ingredients made this a project we’d be interested in.” 

Elliott said he and Mays were inspired by the positioning and architecture of the Carnegie Library and the Pottawatomie County Courthouse when creating the design for the new building.

“We realized that the new building could help make this site symmetrical and so we chose to use the general form and the size of the Carnegie Library as our inspiration so that we positioned (the new building) to the south of the courthouse but in a position that makes it feel like it belongs,” Elloitt said. 

The architect said he and Mays felt it was quite important to take the positioning of the Carnegie Library and the Courthouse into account so they designed the new building to complement the symmetry of the Courthouse itself and to make the overall site symmetrical. 

In addition to the positioning, Elliott said he and Mays were inspired by the older architectural elements of the 1930s-built courthouse.

“Our goal is to be very respectful and sympathetic to the circumstances. It’s the same reason why the building is not an overtly modern building,” Elliott said. “It has modern features to it and obviously it was built in the 21st Century, but it's also a building that is sympathetic to the time when the courthouse was built in the 1930s.”

Elliott said the new building will be 20,000 square feet and will have art deco elements to it and he and Mays are designing to link the building to the courthouse without making it exactly the same.

“It will have the spirit of the 1930s with it. When you do historic preservation projects you never want to create what’s called fake history,” Elliott said. “When we’re finished, it will have a very nice sense of compatibility but you know there is a new part and an old part.”

According to Mays, some examples of this are the materials and methods he and Elliott chose for the administration building.

“The courthouse is made of limestone and limestone these days is hard to get and expensive,” Mays said. “So for the exterior of the building we have found a brick (or masonry) that matches the color of the limestone and we’re using king size brick. It’s a modern material that’s compatible in color, value and texture to the existing building.”

Mays said this design concept is also applied to the interior of the new building.

“The courthouse has Terrazzo floors. It’s a concrete matrix with marble chips and other things in it,” Mays said. “(The new building) will have Terrazzo floors but it’s epoxy and it may have some newer materials ground up in it.” 

The architect said these materials for the administration building allow elements of old and new to seep into each other. 

Mays said construction is planned to be on the south side of the courthouse on Broadway Street, where there is currently a parking lot.

The designer said there will be a courtyard and the possibility of a breezeway or some sort of pathway connecting the courthouse to the administration building. 

Several county departments will be housed in the new building and Mays said they include the County Clerk, County Assessor, the County Treasurer, security and public space on the first floor and the County Commissioners, IT staff, a conference and a Commissioners meeting room on the second floor. 

Elliott said another design element he and Mays came up with is a gallery on each floor that would provide seating and gathering space for people and be used to hang historical photographs, current photographs and artwork. 

“It would be basically the opportunity to have a changing gallery that would give energy to the building meaning that the whole building belongs to the community and that gallery would serve to provide a unique opportunity for people to come other than just to do business ,” Elliott said. 

In addition, Elliott said the designers have taken a special step forward and are using an aluminum louver on the west windows of the new building so the amount of direct sun coming in is reduced. 

“We still get the light but we have reduced the amount of direct sun which will make it less expensive to operate and a whole lot more comfortable,” Elliott said.

The architect said he and Mays have also designed the outside of the building to be used by the public for picnics and other outdoor activities.

“As a public space we hope that it’s used in a public way,” Elliott said. 

According to District 1 Commissioner Melissa Dennis, she and her fellow commissioners liked the initial design concept for the building. 

“I’m very excited. We’re busting at the seams at the Courthouse. We can put all (these departments) under one roof,” Dennis said. “It’ll make it easier to work together.” 

Dennis said the county has been saving funds for this project for about five years and they have a budget of $6 million, which will come from use tax money. 

According to contractor Tom Lippert, the projected start of construction is June of 2021, with the building being finished after 13 or 14 months. 

Lippert’s family business out of Oklahoma City is turning 100 this year and he said he’s looking forward to working on this project. 

“It’ll be interesting to work on the building and how it’s designed,” Lippert said. “I feel confident that Pott. County selected a great architect.” 

Elliott said he’s glad the commissioners admire the design he and Mays came up with. 

“I think that Mike and I felt like we accomplished an important goal which was to do a building that fits there, that meets their budget (and) is sympathetic to the history that’s going on,” Elliott said. 

Elliott, Mays and Dennis all said they understand the administration building will displace some parking. 

However, they will utilize existing parking in the back of the Courthouse and street parking.

“We’ve been talking with the commissioners on ways to make sure we can maximise the parking that they currently have,” Mays said. 

Overall, all involved with the project feel the parking situation is a non issue, Elliott said. 

Mays said the design is planned to be finalized by March or April of next year before it goes out to bid and construction begins. 

Check back for updates.