320-Bed Charlotte Jail Annex Defuses Overcrowding

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With a newly completed $17 million jail annex alleviating short-term overcrowding issues, Mecklenburg County officials postponed a planned 1,700-bed jail expansion until 2010.

The Mecklenburg County Jail expansion is one of approximately 75 planned construction projects throughout the county put on hold as officials re-assess the county’s building needs, fiscal health and debt burden during the recession.

The expansion project, intended to reduce facility overcrowding at the jail complex in downtown Charlotte and meet projected inmate population increases, was scheduled to begin this summer. Work on the Mecklenburg County Jail North expansion will not proceed until mid-2010 at the earliest, officials say.

In March, the county awarded the contract for pre-construction and construction management services to the joint-venture team of Dallas-based Balfour Beatty Construction and Rodgers Builders Inc., of Charlotte.

Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, of Charlotte, and Washington-based design firm HOK were hired to provide master planning and architectural and engineering services in 2008, with Carter Goble Lee, of Columbia, S.C., selected to develop an architectural program and provide design review services.

Located adjacent to the existing 614-bed north facility, the expansion will deliver 1,300 to 1,700 beds in a podular design for direct supervision inmate management.

The project, which has a construction budget of $293 million, also includes construction of a new utility plant, infrastructure improvements and expansion or renovation of existing support areas, including inmate intake/processing, laundry, workshop and storage spaces.

The county’s Jail Central has a total capacity of more than 1,900 inmates.

Officials recently opened the $17 million Jail-North Annex, which created 320 new beds to alleviate immediate overcrowding problems.

The 81,000-square-foot annex was designed by local architects Ware Bonsall and incorporates three semi-permanent structures manufactured by Utah-based Sprung Instant Structures.

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The Sprung buildings, which use a non-corroding aluminum substructure and high-tensioned architectural membrane panels that deliver a rigid building envelope, yielded a short-timeline, low-cost solution.

A 36,000-square-foot structure features eight housing pods that can accommodate up to 320 inmates in a dormitory setting. The annex also includes 10,000 square feet of administrative and operational space, including inmate intake/processing. A third structure encompassing 35,000 square feet of shelled space will be up-fitted in the future.

“This was a challenging project that we were able to build in a relatively short amount of time due to its innovative design,” says Roger Hendrick, president of Charlotte-based general contractor Hendrick Construction.