Wednesday, July 6, 2022

James City County Examining The Need For Additional Office Space

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JAMES CITY – Scott Stevens has been with James City County for nearly four years, and for almost all that time, the locality has been studying its space needs.

“The end result was that we need more space, more square footage, because we’re a growing community and our building space hadn’t kept up with what we’re trying to serve in terms of number of employees, and residents that come to our offices,” said Stevens, the county administrator.

The latest U.S. Census data puts James City’s population in 2022 at 77,993, which is a 3.6 percent increase from 2017, and a 15.3 percent increase from 2010. According to Stevens, the county’s population is expected to keep growing.

The county currently has about 400,000 square feet of office space. One study commissioned by the county said its current space need is for 550,000 square feet. By 2040, that need will be more than 600,000 square feet.

“So, we’re already significantly behind what we need today,” Stevens said, noting the county will need 50 percent more space in just 18 years. “I think the need is real. Our population is projected to continue to grow, which will mean our staff to support that population ought to continue to grow.”

Those studies, not surprisingly, led to other questions: Does the county add on to its current location on Mounts Bay Road near Kingsmill? Does it build an entirely new complex, and if so, where?

County officials have had discussions on the matter during public meetings and at their annual retreat the past two years. Stevens said to stay in the existing facilities, assuming a lifespan of 30 years for the buildings, studies have estimated the costs at about $91 million to expand on an as-needed basis. To build a new complex fitting the county’s expected future space needs, the cost is closer to $99 million. However, $11 million of that is for a parking deck. If surface parking is done instead, the two estimates are about even.

“Whichever way you go, and it’s a significant cost,” Stevens said.

If the decision is made to go with a new facility, the Board of Supervisors will have to decide where the best place is for it. When the current location was selected about 50 years ago, Stevens noted a substantial portion of the county’s population was in that area. As the population has grown, the center of the county has shifted more toward the Longhill Road/Route 199/Warhill Sports Complex area.

“But today, it’s really not very centered to the county in terms of our population,” Stevens said of the current office complex. “Growth is projected to continue throughout the county, but more located in the northern part of our county. So, as we go forward in time, the government complex gets further and further away from our centralized population.”

The only site that has been mentioned specifically is near Warhill High School, next to the law enforcement center. Stevens said there are plans to build a fire station there so a government complex would be a good fit.

At the board’s meeting in May, some of this information was presented to the public. There has been little reaction, but that could soon change. Stevens is hoping to have more public meetings in late July or early August to engage residents and answer their questions and concerns. After all, it is their money that will be spent.

“It’s a big expenditure,” he said. “So, I want to make sure the community is aware of it.”

He also wants the community to know there already has been a lot of thought put into this.

“It’s not something the board just decided in the last six months,” he said about the need for a new building. “It’s been one of those things that’s been talked about for years.”

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