With judges and City Council members present, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder Thursday officially kicked off the expansion of the Manchester Courthouse with a groundbreaking ceremony at 102 E. 10th Street. The $23.3 million expansion will more than double the size of the existing courthouse, from 27,000 to 58,000 square feet, including three General District courtrooms and support facilities.
“This project marks the end of the way things used to be done in the City of Richmond,” said the Mayor. “It marks the end of ignoring problems and simply hoping they will go away, which always would come back to cost the City many millions more than if the problem had been addressed.”
Richmond judges filed a lawsuit against the City in 2001 after years of complaining about inadequate courtroom conditions in the City’s Public Safety Building in Downtown.
Upon taking office in 2005, the Mayor became involved in the lawsuit when the City Attorney, who by City Charter serves as his legal counsel, sued him as a defendant.
Rather than agree to have the City spend an estimated $55 million to renovate the Public Safety Building, which had initially been approved by City Council, the Mayor orchestrated a plan to expand and renovate the Manchester Courthouse. The Mayor’s solution, which was accepted by the judges and ended the lawsuit, produced a savings of $49 million for the City. This savings represents a portion of the $350 million overall savings achieved by the Mayor on behalf of the City since he took office.
The Mayor and other officials said that the Manchester Courthouse expansion would help to jumpstart revitalization along the Hull Street corridor, just south of the James.
Judge Gregory L. Rupe, who said he has seen drug peddling and other illegal street activity during his 24 years presiding at Manchester, said he believes the courthouse expansion will be a tremendous boost for redevelopment in the area.
In addition to housing new General District courtrooms, the expanded Manchester Courthouse will include additional office space for the Commonwealth’s Attorney, increased file storage, a new underground “sally port” prisoner transportation area, and improved holding areas for prisoners.
The expansion also includes three new permanent parking lots adjacent to the courthouse, increasing the total number of off-street parking spaces from 24 to 187.
The courthouse completion date is January 2010, at which time judges still presiding in the Public Safety Building courtrooms will have new ones at the Manchester Courthouse.