CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Commissioners gave unanimous approval June 4 to a contract agreement for the courts consolidation project at the county Justice Center, 14250 49th St. N., Clearwater.

The first amendment with Creative Contractor Inc. for design-build professional services will initiate the construction phase for a lump sum price of $55.2 million.

Commissioners approved the design phase of the contract on Nov. 28, 2017, which included 50% of the construction documents. Construction is slated to begin in January 2020 after design documents and permitting are complete. Work should be substantially complete by May 19, 2022.

The project, paid for by Penny for Pinellas, includes a new entry vestibule and new annex building, as well as renovations to the judicial center. Public restrooms will be added to the west end of the building as well as new stairs. The jury assembly room and clerk of the courts space are among the areas that will be renovated. The work also will include security upgrades.

The new 77,000 square foot annex will house unified family court and court administration. The expanded jury assembly area will provide 450 seats, an increase of 260. The clerk of the court’s service area is designed to provide better customer service and efficiencies.

Phase 1 (design) cost $3.46 million and phase 2 (construction) is budgeted at $55.2 million for a total of $58.68 million, which is $545,245 more than the proposed budget. Increased costs are due to technology needs, security and construction costs, said Real Estate Management Director Andrew Pupke. Value engineering saved $2.7 million without reducing the original scope, he said.

In other real estate matters, the commission said yes to a purchase and sale agreement with Ocean Terrace L.P. for property located at 13025 Starkey Road, Largo. The property is currently leased by the county and is a tax collector’s office.

The list price for the property was $3.997 million. The contract purchase price is $3.825 million. Renovation and capital improvement costs are estimated at $950,000 over a multi-year period, according to staff notes.

The county recently completed a short-term lease extension for an additional term of 18 months beginning May 1, for $38,481 a month or $461,772 a year. Contract approval allows staff to conduct due diligence toward purchasing the property.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.