Moving in Laurens
Voters, Veterans - in “Winn-Dixie”.
Work will move forward with the Aug. 24 approval of Laurens County Council for re-habbing of “the old Winn Dixie” in Laurens, including asbestos removal.
Veterans’ Affairs and Voter Registration will move there, with the bulk of the building to be unused at this time. These office move from the first floor of the Historic Courthouse, also set for renovation.
Laurens County Council minutes indicate the county bought the building June 8. The action came following an executive session to discuss a contractual matter - buildings and grounds. The discussion took 20 minutes.
In open session councilman Luke Rankin moved with councilman David Tribble seconding to have the county attorney move forward with negotiations to buy “the old Winn Dixie” for $760,000. The vote was unanimous.
The building is on Hillcrest Drive in Laurens, behind Bojangles and AutoZone, near the bank that was converted to School District 55 offices and the former shopping center that was converted to the Hillcrest Square Judicial-Services-Administration Center.
Thomas & Hutton representatives presented a preliminary re-hab plan for the building’s front at the Aug. 24 meeting. Council Chairman Brown Patterson said, in this preliminary plan, there is “nowhere near enough room” for Veterans’ Affairs.
The County needs to get the VA and Elections out of the Historic Courthouse first floor because Phase 2 of renovations there call for an exhibition hall to dominate that space. Architectural plans call for a hall which will allow visitors to see the building’s original architecture.
Phase 2 re-hab is funded by the Capital Projects Sales Tax, which passed voters’ approval Nov. 3, 2020.
The old Winn Dixie was bought with money from county reserves. A funding source for the re-hab money was not mentioned at a 4-hour Aug. 24 meeting (two hours was for three items in closed session).
This building is 53,000 sq ft. After re-fitting, it will have 41,000 sq ft of future space for up-fitting.
The building will get a full roof replacement. Fire-suppression sprinklers will be installed
Veterans’ Affairs and Voter Registration will share a common lobby. There will be an area for absentee voting, a classroom, and offices. Initial work will include demolition, asbestos abatement, and HVAC installation. The county council saw a preliminary floor plan.
Construction cost is estimated at $4.5 million, projected for 8 months. Stablizing the entire building, with the unused-for-now space, is expected to cost $5.7 million.
A gated, employees’ parking lot will be in the building’s rear. The building has a very large front parking area. Planners said they had “to guess” at the amount of space for Veterans’ Affairs, but added that the common lobby space is flexible.
This was a report, requiring no council action.
But two Capital Project Sales Tax projects were up for council go-ahead. A $255,013 design and planning phase contract was authorized for a new terminal building at the Laurens County Airport, on Torrington Road between Clinton and Laurens.
Also, council authorized advertising for RFPs for Phase 2 of the Historic Courthouse renovation. County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks suggested listing the primary funding amount from the Capital Projects Sales Tax, but Council Chairman Brown Patterson said that wasn’t necessary.
At buildout, with all options approved, this could be a $7.2 Million project.
“It has been an honor to serve on this committee and see this project come to life,” council member Luke Rankin said.
“It is full of quality,” council member Dianne Anderson said.
In addition to $3.55 Million from the Capital Projects Sales Tax, this restoration has received a $500,000 historical grant from the State of South Carolina. Together, that should fulfill Phase 2.
Phase 3 is inside restoration of the 1838 courthouse.
There are no historical pictures of the inside of this original courthouse. Restoration experts are going to have to go on images from courthouses of this time period. Significant work will be replacing mechanicals, changing the shape of the second-floor courtroom, and development of the first-floor exhibition space.
If it builds out as architects propose, Laurens County could present small plays and chamber orchestra concerts in the second-floor space, where the county council meets.
One alternate for the second floor interior is a skylight.
The copper dome atop this building already has been restored.
Phase 2, exterior, will cost $3.8 Million, with recommended alternates - a $2.5 Million base bid.
In what is now the Veterans’ Affairs Office, an indoor elevator is proposed to be located - the elevator is specified in the Capital Sales Tax referendum-approved money for this project.
Phase 2 would remove 1972 additions, and to restore the windows and doors. Planners are recommending a copper roof. The County could save $800,000 if Phases 2 and 3 are done at the same time. Historical renovations will be done to comply with guidelines of the National Register of Historic Places.