St. Louis County has officially broken ground on its new $122 million Family Courts Project in Clayton.
County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, County Council Chair Hazel Erby along with others involved with the project ceremonially broke ground on May 13.
In addition to building a new Family Courts building, KCI Construction, St. Louis County’s general contractor on the project, will perform major upgrades to the existing courthouse and its infrastructure. These improvements will include enhancing security at the facility, as well as rewiring and expanding office space.
Work started on the project at the beginning of the year and is expected to be complete by late 2016. Officials wished to wait for pleasant weather and the start of physical construction before scheduling the groundbreaking ceremony, but despite Tuesday’s rain brought out the shovels and poured a little concrete.
“In 1972, Vice President Spiro Agnew cut the ribbon on the ‘New Family Court’ just down the street at 501 South Brentwood,” said County Executive Dooley. “When that courthouse opened it was a significant step-up in service to the children and families served in the Courts.”
County Executive Dooley said a lot changes in four decades which can cause inefficiencies in the courts process including case load increases, technology shifts and more.
“What was great 42 years ago provides very poor support today,” he said. “The services of our family court have changed but our facility has remained the same; it’s out of step with the needs of the Court and the families who rely on these services.”
KCI has already removed the plaza-level balcony on the existing Courthouse and demolished other infrastructure in preparation for the start of construction of a new, 152,000-square foot Family Courts building on top of the courthouse’s south parking garage at the intersection of Bonhomme and Meramec.
The County’s existing Family Courts facility is located on Brentwood Boulevard in Clayton, and has numerous problems. These include a chronic lack of space that often requires crime victims to sit within a few feet of their accused assailants. Additionally, many staffers are squeezed into offices that were originally detention cells. The building also contains asbestos, has a roof that regularly leaks and is cooled by an energy inefficient (and often malfunctioning) HVAC system.
The main courthouse is in very serious need of modernization to its electrical and HVAC system. Also, the building has unacceptable security issues that leave judges and staff vulnerable in chambers and hallways. Patrons are forced to wait in time-eating security lines to be individually admitted.
#1- St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley and the County Council Chair Hazel Erby along with project team members pour concrete at the Family Courts Groundbreaking on May 13, 2014.
#2- A rendering of St. Louis County’s Courts Project, looking northwest from the intersection of Bonhomme and S. Central Avenue in Clayton.