Forsyth County commissioners on Thursday night voted 5-0 to approve what officials have deemed the “town green” design for two government facilities in downtown Cumming.
The concept, which carried the recommendation of the team charged with shepherding the projects, features an open green space in front of a new county courthouse and near an expanded detention center.
The projects were approved by voters in November as part of an extension of the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII, which includes about $100 million for the facilities.
The “town green” design, which was developed by the architectural firm HOK, would place the new courthouse across from the existing one, but set back off Veterans Memorial Boulevard to open up an area in the front.
Compared to two other conceptual designs HOK presented to the project team, the layout allows more room to separate the tall government buildings on the square, making city hall and the county administration building appear more prominent in relation to the new courthouse.
“We pulled [the new courthouse] back to some extent in order to give some breathing room to these buildings here to be a good neighbor, and the other feature you see right away is a large green space in front of the proposed courthouse,” said Doug Shaw, an architect with Wakefield Beasley & Associates and one of the presenters Thursday night.
That space was the primary reason commissions chose the design, said Todd Levent, who made the motion.
“[Town green] really was the best option because with those very tall buildings so close to each other, downtown would have had kind of a cavern effect,” Levent said.
“I think this plan will really make downtown look great.”
Proposed at five stories, the new courthouse would be the tallest building in downtown. It would be across East Maple Street from the expanded jail.
“This new facility here … is five stories tall, so the height of this building is roughly 80, 90, maybe even 100 feet, as compared to a two-story [old] courthouse, a three-story city hall and a two-story administration building,” Shaw said.
“So this is a huge building in context of the surrounding buildings.”
In the motion to approve the design it was stipulated that HOK representatives would also begin a feasibility study to find the best area for a parking deck that’s also part of the project.
The green space will push the proposed parking deck out of the slated location behind the new courthouse.
“When you put this green space in front, the parking facilities are displaced,” Shaw said.
HOK representatives will also work with Cumming officials to find the best parking solution, as the deck could require closing parts of some nearby roads.
Commissioners plan to revisit the situation later.