Courthouse Construction, Downtown Disruption Begin in January

In just a couple of months, Leesburg can expect to see construction equipment coming in and old houses coming down as work begins on the new Loudoun County District Court building.

According to county Construction Manager Nick Brown, work on the project is scheduled to begin Jan. 6 with construction equipment and trailers moving to what will be their home at the Semones parking lot for more than two years. Although the parking lot will get a renovation at the end of the project, it will be the staging area for construction work and remain closed for the length of the project, currently scheduled to last 30 months.

After an estimated two weeks to get equipment

in place and do preparatory work such as containing erosion, the project will begin in earnest in mid-January with demolition and excavation. That work is expected to last three months.

“This is when we’re going to demolish the existing houses on Edwards Ferry Road,” Brown said at a public meeting Nov. 14. “That’s when we’re going to dig a pretty big hole to put the courthouse in.”

From late winter through fall 2020, Church Street will also be closed while crews dig it up to install an underground tunnel between the current courthouse and the new building. The sidewalk will remain open, possibly with a pedestrian bridge over the construction work.

There will also be a new, temporary vehicle entrance to the Pennington Garage directly onto North Street, where today there is a walkway to the garage from the sidewalk. There will be a handicap-accessible shuttle circulating every 10 minutes between the Pennington Garage and the courthouse.

Sidewalks on Edwards Ferry Road will be closed in 2020 for construction of stormwater management.

Work throughout the project is scheduled to be between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends, although county officials warned that sometimes construction work may range outside those hours.

There is no blasting expected, but the construction contractor, McDonough Bolyard Peck Inc., will survey properties within 450 feet of the project—generally properties within North Street, King Street, Loudoun Street, and the far side of Harrison Street—before construction begins by request. This, officials said, is to establish a comparison if property owners feel the construction activity has damaged their property and wish to complain.

“At the conclusion of the project, if by chance we damaged anything on your property, any lawns got damaged or anything like that, we will come through and repair all of that,” Brown said.

The project is scheduled to wrap up in summer 2022.

Attendees asked the county staff members and contractors to be diligent about communicating with people living nearby, and about cleaning up litter.

“I know this is going to be terrible for the next couple of years. It just is, and there’s not much we can do about it,” said one. “But you’re asking us to be good neighbors, you’re asking us to put up with it, and I’m asking you to be good neighbors.”

“It is going to be noisy, it is going to be disruptive, there’s no way around it,” said Leesburg Director of Capital Projects Renee LaFollette. “It is a construction zone in the middle of the town, and there’s going to be a lot of construction in the middle of town for the next three or four years. I know nobody wants to hear that, but unfortunately that’s the cost of development, and that’s the cost of building a town.”

Some residents were also worried about how much light the courthouse will shine into their homes once complete.

And while the meeting Thursday was about the courthouse project, many said they are still have trouble with light from the recently-completed Pennington Garage, a previous part of the courthouse project. County Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Deputy Director Bruce Johnston said the county is looking at ways to screen some of that light, but is limited because of the garage’s open-air design.

“There is no fire protection inside the garage, there is no mechanical ventilation inside the garage, and if we put too much screening in, that not only blocks the light but also blocks airflow,” Johnston said. “Then the requirement would be that we would have to add that mechanical ventilation and fire protection in there. That we want to avoid, because that would be very, very costly.”

However, he said, the garage already meets the requirements of town code and the county’s agreement with the town. And he warned it could get yet worse when the county opens the top level of the garage and motion-activated lights there are regularly switched on.

“There’s nothing we’ll be able to do to screen those lights without building walls all around there,” Johnston said.

“I suspect that, in defense of the town, I don’t think anybody would have anticipate the level of the lights that you’re facing, and the folks up on Ariel [Drive] are facing,” said county Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). “I don’t even know if the county was fully aware of the impact, so I don’t think the town really had a grasp of what the final appearance would be.”

More information about the courthouse project, including a copy of the presentation from a Nov. 14, is online at loudoun.gov/courts-expansion.

This article was updated Nov 19 at 12:30 p.m. to correct an error about the projection’s expected completion date.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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