The federal footprint at Mint and West Trade streets is about to become a size triple E.
This week, the federal government formally announced the arrival of more than $156 million to repair and significantly expand Charlotte’s century-old federal courthouse.
The Observer first wrote about the money in January. Now, the General Services Administration has released more details on what those millions will buy, including a massive 10-story annex south of the existing building.
The Charles R. Jonas Building project uptown was ranked as the third highest priority under an unexpected $1 billion courthouse appropriation in the federal budget. More than half the money will go to expansions or replacements in the Southeast, including Nashville, Greenville, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.
Charlotte’s share will cover eight years of construction that could begin as soon as February 2018. In 2004, the project received an extra $8.5 million for architectural and planning work that has been sitting around until now.
The centerpiece of the work is a 198,000 square-foot tower between the courthouse and BB&T Stadium. It will include courtrooms and chambers to hold 15 judges, including one from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Presiding U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney said Friday that construction will take two to three years. When the annex is finished, all the current courthouse offices and personnel will exodus the Jonas Building and temporarily move in.
That will kick off a massive renovation of the old courthouse, which will be updated and reconfigured. The campus will also be redesigned to make it more inviting to the public without sacrificing security.
Whitney says the construction money, which has been held up for more than two decades, caught the courthouse by surprise. For the last three months, local officials scrambled to get detailed plans to Congress by mid-April.
The additional space should improve the flow of justice. Now, Whitney says, up to four judges are forced to use the same courtroom – far more than what’s recommended.
“We have no problem with courtroom sharing,” he said. “We just have a lot more judges sharing than most folks.”