Everett building owners told to clear out for new courthouse

EVERETT — A half-dozen downtown building owners received notices last week to vacate their property by mid-November to make way for Snohomish County’s future courthouse.

The county intends to break ground on the nine-story justice building early next year.

“We’re in the process now of finding a place to relocate and all of the tasks that accompany that,” said Janean Jolly, who co-owns one of the buildings with her husband, attorney David Jolly.

The Jollys are worried about the expense of the move, not only for themselves, but for their five tenants, she said.

Only one of the affected landowners put up a legal fight against the county’s use of eminent domain. Attorney Royce Ferguson, whose legal practice is next door to the Jollys’ building, lost that battle in Skagit County Superior Court earlier this month.

That leaves the property owners to negotiate with the county over the fair market value of their buildings. Ferguson said the county had declined to pay any of his relocation expenses, but did extend an offer to him last week.

The new $162 million courthouse is intended to replace a 1960s-era building riddled with health and safety risks, including asbestos, poor earthquake readiness and a layout that officials say makes it hard to keep people safe.

The project has been controversial because it started out as a remodel of the old building, originally pegged at $75 million. It more than doubled in price as it evolved into a new construction project.

The County Council originally considered a building site on the plaza next to the existing courthouse.

A majority of the council instead voted last year to build on a more expensive location on the other side of the street, about a block east. Better public access, safety and aesthetics were among the reasons given for the choice.

Much of the site is a county-owned parking lot on the north side of Wall Street, between Oakes and Rockefeller avenues. To make room for the construction project, county officials said they also need to condemn three law offices, a legal messenger service, a bail bonds business and a small private lot.

The county last month switched architects for the project, largely because of worries about keeping within budget.

The architects are scheduled to update the County Council later this month on changes to the project, Deputy County Executive Mark Ericks said. Recent design changes were made to keep the price down.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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