The future Lower Bucks County Government Services Center will feature flourishes of steel, an ode to the area’s steel-producing past.
David McHenry, a principal at Erdy McHenry Architecture and local resident, said the new facility won’t just be designed to be accessible and spacious, but his team wanted the facility to match Bucks County.
“These civic buildings represent who we are and what we believe,” he said.
On Thursday, the Bucks County Commissioners broke ground at the site along New Falls Road in Bristol Township’s Levittown section.
The ground breaking came just days after Bristol Township Council approved the project.
Presently, the site houses an annex for county government, the homeless shelter, the district attorney’s warehouse, the Levittown Branch of the Bucks County Free Library, and District Judge Terry Hughes’ court.
Construction is set to start in early 2024, with completion anticipated in 2026.
The project, with an estimated cost of $25 million, will be paid for with county funds.
County officials said the facility will “greatly improve public access to county government.”
Once done, the 39,000-square-foot, two-story building will host offices for 13 county departments.
County COO Margie McKevitt said it’s the county’s duty to make its offices accessible to all Bucks Countians.
“For far too long, essential government offices and services have been difficult, if not impossible to access for too many residents of Bucks County,” said McKevitt. “This administration considers it our obligation to ensure county government serves everyone who lives and works here, and we’re proud to be taking this tremendous step today toward meeting that goal.”
Bristol Township Council President Craig Bowen said the lower end of the county has always felt left out of county government, but that has changed over the past decade.
“What’s amazing is they’re doing this without raising taxes. That just proves it’s good management and good business sense,” he said.
Bowen also told the crowd of dignitaries the new center will hearken in a new era for the area.
“It’s always been known as Lower Bucks, but let’s call it Greater Bucks,” he said.
Bucks County Commissioners Bob Harvie, Diane Ellis-Marseglia, and Gene DiGirolamo – two Democrats and a Republican – all celebrated the groundbreaking.
DiGirolamo said he often has to tell people they need to travel up to Doylestown Borough for county services, but the new center will allow for expanded county services in the county’s most populated area.
“It’s so important to have this sort of a building so close to us,” said Ellis-Marseglia, a Levittown resident.
Harvie, who is from Bristol Borough and lives in Falls Township, said the site is special for him because he worked at the neighboring Bucks County Technical High School and his father served as a U.S. Army police officer at the location when the site was used to make weapons for the military.
The center will replace the current 8,600-square-foot annex, which has served for 30 years but is now inadequate.
The existing annex will be demolished, but other buildings on the property will remain untouched.
Departments with permanent offices in the new building will include: Adult Probation and Parole, Board of Elections, Children and Youth Social Services, Agency, Consumer Protection/Weights & Measures, District Attorney’s Office, Domestic Relations, Health Department, Juvenile Probation, Prothonotary, Register of Wills, Sheriff’s Office, Veterans’ Affairs, and Workforce and Economic Development.
Bucks County will sell a former bank building that currently houses the Bucks County Adult Probation and Parole Department’s field office.
The building’s design is by Erdy McHenry Architecture, with Carroll Engineering providing land development engineering and TN Ward Company overseeing construction management.
The county acquired the 135-acre site decades ago. It was previously used for ammunition and rocket engine production by Morton Thiokol.
Despite a purchase price of $1, the county had to fund remediation of site contamination.
McKevitt said recent testing showed there were no environmental problems at the site.
The property’s history includes a large 1962 explosion at Morton Thiokol that killed one and injured five.
Over the last 15 years, the county has undertaken several construction ventures, consolidating offices and selling unused properties.