HARRISONBURG — Harrisonburg and Rockingham County representatives are in discussions to buy the Denton building on Court Square for increased court space, said Stephen King, Rockingham County administrator.
The Denton building is not the only property the city and county are looking at purchasing for court space, King said, though he declined to give more information.
“We’re looking at all options,” he said, adding that leasing space is also an option.
More offices are needed for court services, said Marsha Garst, the commonwealth’s attorney.
Garst said local judicial services is facing an increase in overall duties, which include criminal and civil cases, expungements, concealed weapon permit review, among others.
The lack of space “makes it difficult to meet privately with victims and witnesses,” Garst said.
King said he could not remember exactly how long the discussions have been underway, but did refer to it as an “extended period of time.”
The Denton building lies on two parcels in the city of Harrisonburg with three addresses — 50 S. Liberty St., 58 S. Liberty St. and 61 Court Square — with a combined assessed value of nearly $3.9 million, according to 2019 data from the Harrisonburg City Real Estate Information System.
The properties are owned by the descendants of Jefferson Simon Denton, who first started a furniture business in 1878 and moved the operation to the building on Court Square in 1921, where it would operate until closing in 1992, according to the Denton Downtown Properties website.
After a renovation in 1996, the space houses Larkin Arts, a combined art store, gallery space and studios, as well as 44 apartments, according to the Denton website.
The building also houses Dover Harper Bail Bonds at 50 S. Liberty St.
The Daily News-Record contacted the Denton family but received no response.
The expansion of offices is for future planning beyond the city and county’s current five-year plan, King said.
“We just don’t want to be in the same situation where we’re scrambling for space in the future,” King said.
King also declined to comment on price, how the purchase could affect the Denton building’s tenants or just how much property could be included in the deal.
“It’s very early in these discussions,” King said.
Andrea Dono, the executive director of the nonprofit revitalization group Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, said she has asked for more details about the project.
“I think we just need to know more about the specific needs and what is needed right now and what is needed in the future,” Dono said.
Dono credited walkable businesses and attractions to the success of downtown in recent years.
“This is such a large and potentially impactful project that this a great opportunity for us to have community dialogue for us to shape the community together,” Dono said.
In January, the city and county bought the parking lot and two-story building to the south of the Denton building for $425,000 from CFSMCS LLC, according to Rockingham County real estate transfer records.