DLR Group is currently at work repurposing an existing 1980s-era county jail in Phoenix, Arizona, as a new, state-of-the-art office space owned by Maricopa County. The now-decommissioned jail was originally designed to hold 700 inmates, but its population eventually swelled, incarcerating between 1,200 and 1,500 individuals at a time over the last decade of its life. The jail was decommissioned in the early 2000s and has sat vacant for a decade. After DLR Group’s planned renovations, however, the complex will have new life, and will house six levels of daylit office space and ground-floor community areas.

“The basic approach was to remove everything back to the superstructure and start over,” Larry Smith, principal in charge of DLR Group’s southwest division, said. Smith explained that the 350,000-square-foot structure will be surgically altered in order to absorb the new office functions.

Planned changes include completely removing the structure’s four mezzanine levels and replacing its exit stairs. The existing stairs are located awkwardly within each of the four square-shaped lobes of the complex, impeding open floor plan configurations. They will be demolished and their footprints filled, with new exit stairs to be located at each corner, beyond the existing building envelope, instead. These new glass-clad circulation cores will complement a new communicating stair at the center of the complex that will be topped by a solar light monitor designed to bring light into the building’s center.

The removal of the mezzanines will lower the overall size of the project to 270,000 square feet and raise floor-to-floor heights to roughly 16 feet. The arrangement allows designers to add a raised floor plenum housing ducts, telecommunications, and electrical and plumbing infrastructure to each level. Also as a result, the old cell windows—a thin, horizontal band of glass set in from the exterior facade—now act as ribbon windows that will wash interior surfaces with reflected sunlight. Closer to the floor, a second continuous band of windows measuring 32 inches tall will wrap the perimeter of every level. Along the southern facade, this ribbon window is wrapped by a louver assembly made from aluminum plates. New planted terraces will rise through the structure’s perimeter.

Along the ground floor, new entry lobbies will embrace surrounding street life and create a “changing entry procession from the new entry on the street to the lobby and then security zone” for new users, Megan Duffy, senior interior designer at DLR Group, said. The complex will feature community rooms on these levels as well as a large planted plaza along the street.

Demolition phase for the project starts this fall; DLR Group expects to finish construction at the end of 2019.

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