The group charged with guiding Escambia County on the design and development of one of the largest public construction projects in the county’s history unveiled preliminary design concepts of Pensacola’s new $134 million facility that will house the county’s future jail.

The existing 1980s-era jail is severely overcrowded and in the wake of the 2014 explosion that destroyed the county’s central booking facility, the county is in urgent need for a new central jail complex.


A conceptual rendering of the new county jail in west Pensacola. (Escambia County/Special to The Pulse)

The plan is to begin construction of the new jail next year, but county officials say they are still taking in feedback and expertise from consultants and the community before settling on a final design.

On Wednesday, design consultants DLR Group presented renderings to county commissioners conceptualizing the jail facility off Pace Boulevard. The renderings depict the new 84,000 square foot jail, more parking, retail shops and new stormwater ponds


A conceptual rendering of the new county jail in west Pensacola. (Escambia County/Special to The Pulse)

As part of the agreement to replace the destroyed central booking facility, about $48 million has been allocated from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state to contribute towards demolition of the old facility and new construction.

The April 2014 explosion killed two people, injured more than 180 and destroyed the jail facility on Leonard Street, north of downtown. Earlier this year, a grand jury concluded there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges in the incident.

FEMA officials concluded last year that replacement of the jail was preferred over repair, which led to county officials pursuing sites where a new facility could be built. In November, the county voted to purchase a shopping center complex adjacent to the current jail for $4.5 million.


The Escambia County central booking facility was destroyed during a nautral gas explosion in 2014. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

The county plans to pay for the remainder of the more than $80 million cost of the jail with a mix of Local Option Sales Tax dollars and funds from the county’s general fund.

As officials move forward, the county is paying nearly half a million dollars per month to house inmates in out-of-county detention facilities. Estimates to house inmates in other counties through 2018 amount to nearly $12 million.

Next month, solicitations for the design-build contract of the new facility will be advertised with the selection of the architect and general contractor to follow. Construction is now expected to be complete sometime in 2019.


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