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Town green see what downtown Cumming will look like
Still unclear where all the cars will park

by Aldo Nahed

October 24, 2012

Forsyth County Fire Chief Danny Bowman looks over the plans for a new courthouse being constructed in Cumming.Aldo Nahed.
CUMMING, Ga. Downtown Cumming's future will have a focal point.

A new courthouse concept will include green space, but when it comes to parking — well, that's a muddy topic.

Forsyth County Commissioners unanimously accepted their committee's recommendation to go with the "town green" concept.

"We are trying to open up a more inviting town square, which we think will invite more development downtown," said Program Manager Joe Lee, of Carter Goble Lee at the Oct. 18 regular meeting.

The three projects presented met the construction schedules and $100 million budget, Lee said.

In the approved concept, the courthouse will be pulled back as to not overpower the surrounding buildings with its height.

The new courthouse facility is five stories tall. As compared to a two-story existing courthouse, a three-story city hall and a two-story administration building.

The jail expansion will be in its current location, taking over the existing detention center parking lot.

The town green look for the courthouse creates a large landscaped green space in the middle of the city, said Doug Shaw, director of Municipal Studio at Wakefield Beasley and Associates.

The jail and courthouse would be pulled back so it opens up the city hall and county administration buildings and creates a public space.

On the downside, the project team representatives said at the meeting, the parking deck is lost.

"When you put the green space into the scheme, the parking facilities are displaced," Shaw said.

Now, the challenge is to locate a four-story parking garage, which according to city ordinance needs to be 400 feet from the courthouse structure. Some floated ideas for the location of the parking deck include a city-owned 2-acre lot near Tyson Foods off Castleberry Road or behind the county's administration building, 110 East Main Street.

"The parking location facility can be decided at a later point," Shaw said.

The estimated time to build a parking deck is between four and five months. The jail expansion and courthouse could take 18 months to complete.

The location accepted by the board will have expansion capabilities and secure parking for judges.

The concept also eliminates the possibility of inmates and the public mixing together because jail inmates would walk to the courthouse from the jail either through a tunnel or a bridge. That has yet to be determined.

"Getting started on the design of the courthouse and jail is on a critical path," Lee said.