Pittsboro, N.C. — The first of two major construction projects designed to both improve and honor the justice system in Chatham County will officially open Friday at a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony in Pittsboro.
The $21.1 million Justice Center, a building that was in the planning stages when fire ruined the county's historic courthouse in March 2010, will now be the central hub of nearly all court proceedings in Chatham County.
Court offices began moving into the new building, at 40 E. Chatham St., in December 2012, and court sessions began at the 90,000-square foot center Wednesday.
Work continues nearby on the county's historic courthouse, with crews slated to complete construction in March.
Located inside the traffic circle at the intersection of U.S. Highways 64 and 15/501, the iconic landmark has been under repair for more than a year.
An investigation of the March 25, 2010, fire determined that contractors involved in renovations of the courthouse had accidentally caused the fire while using welding equipment near the roof.
County officials quickly chose to rebuild the courthouse, which had originally opened in 1881.
"When we cleared out the debris, it took us two or three days, we were shocked to see how much was left," Chatham County Public Works Director David Hughes said.
Once rebuilt, the courthouse will include a Superior Courtroom, the Chatham Historical Association, a visitors' center, meeting space and art displays. It will also be used for Chatham County Commissioner meeting, officials said.
"Our hope is that the fire of 2010 will be part of the history of the courthouse and not the end of it," said George Lucier, a former member of the county Board of Commissioners.