Social Services, Health next to move to West End Plaza?

Published 12:04 am Monday, January 11, 2016

After more than two years and, at times, significant community opposition, construction on West End Plaza will begin this year.

In late 2013, Rowan County commissioners purchased the former Salisbury Mall, renaming it West End Plaza, in order to provide office space for growing county departments. Veterans Services and the Board of Elections have always been at the top of the list for relocation. Social Services and Health could be next, said county commissioners during a planning retreat last week. The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and state probations officers could then move to the Social Services and Health buildings on East Innes Street.

Rowan County commissioners and senior county staff won’t definitively know who’s next until ADW Architects, under contract to oversee West End Plaza construction, wraps up its planning work for phase two. Commissioners gave ADW Architects authority to start planning work in January.

“DSS and Health would be next in my eyes,” said Commissioner Craig Pierce during last week’s planning retreat.

Commissioners didn’t offer follow-up comments to Pierce’s assessment. Later in the meeting, however, Commissioners Judy Klusman said moving Social Services and Health was a good idea.

Rowan County’s master plan, presented in early 2015, places Social Services and Health in West End Plaza in two different configurations. Other potential departments to be placed in West End Plaza include the library’s local history and genealogy division, the Planning Department, Building Inspections and Environmental Health. Commissioners don’t yet have a document from ADW Architects that prioritizes which departments should move first.

Last week’s planning retreat included the first discussion about what comes after construction wraps up on phase 1, estimated to cost $1.79 million. Most of the cost — $1.32 million — would be paid to Kernersville-based AAR Corporation to repair large sections of West End Plaza’s roof.  Salisbury-based KMD Construction will receive $468,000 to renovate space in West End Plaza for Veterans Services and the Board of Elections.

A concrete cost doesn’t exist for the second phase of construction, which could include Social Services and the Health Department. Much of the cost will depend on planning work conducted by ADW Architects, which will be paid at least $47,000 for its work to prepare for the second phase of construction. The total projected cost of construction at West End Plaza is $27.58 million, according to Rowan County’s master plan.

When commissioners discussed moving Social Services and the Health Department to West End Plaza during last week’s retreat, County Manager Aaron Church said it would be prudent to also consider consolidating probations officers into one building. Moving probations into the Social Services and Health Department building would save about $100,000 Rowan currently pays to lease space. The county’s master plan also only shows the Sheriff’s Office in the East Innes Building once county officials find space for all county departments.

“If (probations) would accept more parking and were willing to expand the radius of where their actual office is, that gives us more options,” said commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene.

With tenants of West End Plaza slowly being decided, one remaining question is when, or if, commissioners will place a conference center in the building. The master plan for West End Plaza shows a conference space, but commissioners haven’t decided when and where it might go. Currently, Rowan County rents out the former J.C. Penney Building for events.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.