Local News

Wake County breaks ground on new justice center

Posted May 10, 2010 1:16 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2010 6:33 p.m. EDT

— Wake County leaders broke ground Monday afternoon on a justice center designed to be newer, bigger and safer – to replace the existing courthouse built in 1969.

Every day, approximately 5,000 people move among the 22 courtrooms of the Wake County Courthouse at Salisbury and Fayetteville streets in downtown Raleigh. More than 200,000 cases are filed there every year.

“With the volume of people coming in and the number of cases we have in Wake County, we literally are running out of room in our current space,” Clerk of Courts Lorrin Freeman said.

To meet the needs of a growing population and advances in security technology, county leaders allotted about $214 million for the 11-story, 577,000-square-foot Wake County Justice Center to be built at the intersections of Martin, McDowell and Salisbury streets.

The new facility would offer almost double the space – 22 more criminal courtrooms, 17 elevators and an escalator. It is expected to meet the county’s needs for the next 30 to 50 years.

The plan also involves improving security by keeping inmates separate from the public , which is something that doesn't happen now.

"It is not uncommon for jurors to get on an elevator with inmates, which is obviously a bit uncomfortable to some citizens," Chief District Judge Robert Rader said.

Some county commissioners were concerned about spending the money on construction in the midst of a recession, but they were convinced by the low interest rate they were able to get on the bonds for the project.

So far, the project is $26 million under the original estimate. It is expected to be complete as soon as 2013.

The current courthouse will continue to house civil court and family court.

Local leaders say the proximity of the two courthouses will maximize efficiency for court staff, attorney and law enforcement and also provide victims, families and citizens the access to the court-related services they require.