The Lancaster County commissioners heard Tuesday from the three architectural and engineering teams from which they will pick the designer of new correctional facility in Lancaster Township.
Representatives of Dewberry, STV Architects and TranSystems Corp. made presentations during the commissioners’ morning work session. Each allotted 15 minutes, they briskly outlined their qualifications, showing off previous projects and explaining their design philosophy.
County Commissioner Josh Parsons told Purchasing Director Linda Schreiner that all three applicants appeared to be “very well qualified.”
In all, four firms that responded to the county’s request for proposals by the April 12 deadline. The county’s evaluation committee conducted an initial review to reduce the number to three: an Easton firm, USA Architects, was the one that did not make the cut.
Dewberry, STV and TranSystems all boast extensive experience in corrections design inside and outside Pennsylvania. They touted their record of bringing in projects on time and on budget and embracing state-of-the-art trends such as trauma-informed design.
One of TranSystems’ projects is as local as can be: It is the successor of the firm that designed the County Prison’s 2006 expansion. At that time, it was known as L.R. Kimball; TranSystems acquired Kimball in 2021.
Dewberry, a Virginia-based firm, proposes partnering with Lancaster-based Greenfield Architects, a member of the High Cos. group. Greenfield’s Tom Marcinkokski, a senior project architect would be part of the core team and Greenfied’s Lancaster County office would serve as the local base for Dewberry staff.
Commissioner John Trescot, a retired engineer who supervised construction projects at a mining services company, asked roughly the same questions of each group: How soon can they establish a budget; how much would they say construction costs increased since 2018; do they have experience designing campuses that combine high-security facilities with lower-security “outside the wall” elements?
Here are summaries of the presentations:
Dewberry (Fairfax, VA)
Architect Jim Beight, who leads Dewberry’s justice practice, has four decades of experience. Dewberry has “a social justice mindset,” he said, and has a long and productive history of working with CGL, Lancaster County’s owner’s representative.
He touted the firm’s work on the 3,830-bed State Correctional Institution – Phoenix in Collegeville, Montgomery County, which opened in 2018, replacing SCI Graterford. Design and planning lead Brooke Martin said Dewberry designs “for healing and treatment,” prioritizing lighting, color and access to outdoor spaces. The team is familiar with designing facilities for specialty populations, including inmates with mental health issues or physical disabilities, she and Beight said: It also prides itself on a level of amenities for prison staff that contribute to job satisfaction and reduced turnover.
In response to Trescot’s questions, Beight said construction costs have roughly doubled since 2018, but he expects it to level off, saying, “If nothing else, it’s not sustainable.”
He said Dewberry could provide a solid budget estimate around the 5-month mark. Commissioner Ray D’Agostino asked if Dewberry had worked with Greenfield before: It has not, Beight said, but “They came up as the No. 1 firm to work with.”
STV (Douglassville, PA)
Like Beight, Frank Greene, leader of STV’s justice sector, has four decades of experience. The firm’s project team would include individuals with local roots, including Project Manager Brian Woodard, who was raised in Lancaster and has built his career in the region.
Land development would be done by First Capital Engineering of York, while security systems and electronics would be handled by Professional Systems Engineering of Landsdale. The team would include Erin Persky, an expert in trauma-informed design.
STV is “very in touch with leading-edge best practices,” Greene said, pledging to take the programming developed by the county and CGL “to the next level.” He cited the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women as exemplifying STV’s approach to creating “buildings that are “full of hope and healing” and noted STV’s extensive experience with secure psychiatric centers.
In response to Trescot’s questions, Greene promised a budget within eight weeks, calling it “absolutely essential.” Like Beight, he said project costs have roughly doubled since 2018, but are expected to moderate. There are many ways to reduce costs, he said, such as incorporating pre-fabricated elements that can be assembled quickly.
STV has expertise in melding high-security and low-security environments, he said, citing the in-progress Baltimore Therapeutic Treatment Center as a paradigmatic example. He said he has worked with CGL and that STV would be happy to take part in community meetings, adding that jails “can be good neighbors” and enhance adjacent property values.
TranSystems (Ebensburg, PA)
TranSystems’ justice practice is best characterized as a “Pennsylvania-based national firm,” lead architect and director of corrections Csaba Balazs said. The firm has built 27 correctional facilities in Pennsylvania and 26 more in 14 other states, including the Plaquemines Parish Correctional Center in Louisiana, which was built on stilts to guard against flooding from hurricanes.
TranSystems is innovative, Balazs said: It designed the Allegheny County Jail, featuring what was then the largest jail-based medical facility in the U.S.; and the first site designed to allow family visitation within housing units. It pioneered a “family-first contact visitation” design that allows inmates to interact with their children in a supervised living-room-like setting.
Its proposed team would include a number of other firms, Assistant Vice President Brian Endler said, including HDR (correctional healthcare), Professional Systems Engineering (security technology and electronics) Camacho (kitchen and laundry) and JEM Group, an independent cost estimator.
In response to Trescot’s questions, Balazs said construction costs are approaching $400 per square foot. TranSystems would provide its first solid budget estimate when it completes a floor plan, he said, would would update it “at every juncture.” Dave Redemske of HDR assured Trescot the team has the necessary experience with projects involving both high-security and low-security facilities.
The county’s evaluation committee plans to conduct reference checks with the firms’ clients and continue evaluating their qualifications, Schreiner said. The hope is to bring a recommendation to the commissioners for discussion and a vote in late June or early July, but the timeline is flexible and “We will not rush that process,” she said.
At Parsons’ and D’Agostino’s request, she agreed to provide not a single recommendation, but a ranking of the three.