MORRISTOWN, NJ (Morris County) – The Morris County Board of County Commissioners Wednesday night reviewed and decided to move forward with an updated exterior design proposal for a new courthouse slated for a county-owned parcel on Schuyler Place in Morristown.
The design was presented by AECOM, the architects contracted for the project, following a June 14, 2023 Commissioner work session meeting at which some Commissioners suggested changes to the existing design. Roger Lichtman, Lisa Tsang and Francis Cooke of the Clifton-based AECOM presented the updated design proposal tonight after it was reviewed and cleared by a three-member Courthouse Committee of the Board of Commissioners.
“This final design is the result collaboration and input from all the stakeholders on this project. We value AECOM’s approach in working with the county to ensure we landed on an exterior design that is timeless in terms of function and aesthetics,” said Commissioner Stephen Shaw, Chairman of the Courthouse Committee.
Commissioners Deborah Smith and Douglas Cabana also serve on the Committee.
Among those who attended the meeting were Sheriff James Gannon, Prosecutor Robert Carroll, Superior Court Assignment Judge Stuart Minkowitz of the Morris/Sussex Court Vicinage, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and Morristown Business Administrator Jillian Barrick.
The design involves an approximately 119,000-square-foot project offering eight new courtrooms, a jury assembly room, meeting rooms, security areas and a secured, three-story glass entrance foyer.
The overall project, pared down from one originally presented prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, will meet the modern safety, security and space needs required to properly support the county’s criminal Superior Court operations. The new building will include eight floors constructed on a county parking lot next to the existing Morris County Administration & Records Building.
Providing adequate court facilities and securing those facilities are the sole responsibility of each respective county in New Jersey. To assess those needs, the county commissioned a Space Needs and Facilities Assessment in 2017.
That assessment, completed in 2018, identified a significant shortfall in criminal, family and civil court facilities, and detailed the outdated conditions in the existing courthouse complex, which includes the historic courthouse along Washington Street that was originally constructed in 1827.
That building was augmented three times before 1900, according to Judge Minkowitz, noting other portions were added in the 1950s and 1970s. The complex, situated along Washington Street between Court Street and Western Avenue, will be preserved, but is not suitable to continue most court operations.
The County Commissioners, then known as Freeholders, held public hearings prior to their unanimous vote to adopt two capital ordinances in late 2018 to fund the design phases of a new courthouse along Schuyler Place. Balancing the needs of the court system with the financial concerns of county taxpayers has continued throughout the process and involved the county government administration, Commissions, members of the judiciary, and the Sheriff’s Office.