Dignitaries from all over southern Arizona were on hand Tuesday for the dedication of the newly restored Douglas Government Center/Cochise County Regional Service Center.
The three-story remodeled building, located on G Ave., used to be the old Phelps Dodge building. It is now home to Cochise County Board of Supervisors, the Cochise County Health Dept., The Douglas office for the Cochise County Sheriffs Dept., the Cochise County Assessor’s Office as well as the Planning and Zoning Dept. It’s also home to the Douglas Justice and Juvenile Court and adult probation.
City of Douglas Construction Manager Armando Maza was involved with the project from the very start to its completion.
“The structure was evaluated by engineers and they said it is a very good sound building which can be used for another 100 years,” he said. “The building is 100 percent safe, it’s
up to date. It has a brand new roof on it, brand new air conditioner boilers; everything is 100 percent functional.”
The project was first introduced and initiated by former Mayor Ray Borane and his then council; they approved the purchase of the building and put the project in motion in 2007.
“I think anyone who had anything to do with it should be congratulated I think it’s an uplift for the downtown area and hopefully it will have some ramifications as a very positive thing for all of the merchants’ in the area,” Borane said.
Ann English of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors said she is so excited the people of Cochise County will have a first class facility.
“It’s comfortable, it’s beautiful and it’s functional,” she said. “Anytime we provide better services whether it be Bowie or Douglas it helps the county. … It’s a team effort to get all of our citizens in Cochise County the best service that we can.”
English admitted it was important to be able to renovate the building while at the same time preserve its dignity.
“That was our goal from the first,” she said. “We wanted to help downtown Douglas to revitalize. We didn’t want to put a modern structure here. We didn’t want to build on an empty parking lot. What we wanted to do was take part of history and enhance it.”
Cochise County Administrator Mike Ortega said this building is a testament as to how partnerships as a whole are the key to their success.
“Together, thanks to many different partnerships, we were able to put together not only a beautiful structure but one that is also very functional,” he said. “When you walk in here you get that historic flavor … it gives you that sense of nostalgia, that sense of history and culture but yet when you look around you realize its state of the art.”
Ortega added there is still some unassigned space that they will be looking for partners to help out with in the future.
“Wow, this is a home run,” Douglas’ outgoing City Manager Curtis Shook said.
The old Phelps Dodge building first opened as the PD Mercantile in November 1903. The building was originally 100 x 125 feet and consisted of three stories and a full basement. An addition was built in 1914. The Mercantile remained opened until June 10, 1988. In November 1994 the building was vacated when the Two Flags Mall opened which featured 28 small businesses. That lasted for just a few years and then building was open for special occasions and current renovations.
Cochise County Superior Court Wallace R. Hoggatt shared memories he had of the building when it was Phelps Dodge Mercantile.
“It’s good to see this building brought back to life; in it’s planning stages and to the reality of this building as we see it,” he said.
Hoggatt had a word about the people who work in buildings like this; people who have moved in or yet to move in this building.
“As much as I like new buildings and better faculties and I do, I really like this building,” he said. “I’d like to say something in support of the people who work in our buildings this one and others like this throughout the county. … Perhaps it takes occasions like this to thank all those who are in public service who are in government service who work for the justice system who work for the sheriff, health department, planning and zoning and all the other agencies, the we rely on. It’s good to take the opportunity to thank them for their work and for their good efforts in the public interest.”
In her dedication speech Chief Justice Berch said it is a pleasure to come to the communities of Arizona such as Douglas for special occasion like this one.
“This building works and there will be lots of good work in all kinds of dimensions that go on here not just the health department or planning and zoning but the board of supervisors meets here and also the court which is near and dear to my heart,” she said.
Berch added recent statewide population figures estimated there are 6.5 million people in Arizona and the court systems around the state handle an estimated three million cases per year.
“Our justice courts really are the face of the justice system to the public,” she said. “This is where most people will have their cases heard. … It’s a lovely facility that you can be very proud of and it will stand the test of time and when people come to the judge’s court room they will see that it is a dignified court room.
An estimated 2,000 people are expected to visit the Cochise County Regional Service Center on a daily basis.