By Erin Weeks, Independent Tribune – February 2019

CONCORD, NC – The new courthouse could be open for business in late 2022, with construction beginning in the summer of 2020.

County commissioners heard an update at their Monday, Feb. 4, work session on the expansion plan for the Cabarrus County Courthouse—a $120 million project that includes renovating the existing building and erecting a new one on adjacent property that is currently a parking lot.

“It certainly is a project that we have talked quite a bit about over quite a long period of time,” commission chair Steve Morris said. “So it’s exciting to see it get moving.”

Board members will make a final decision to initiate the design contract at their regular meeting Monday, Feb. 18.

The courthouse expansion project will alleviate an increased demand for courthouse activities as well as update the current building, which is 45 years old. The N.C. Administrative Office of Courts reported that Cabarrus County court activity has increased 131 percent over the past three decades; court filings from 1986 to 1987 totaled just more than 27,000, while filings for 2016-2017 rose to about 63,500.

Planning for a courthouse expansion began almost a decade ago. Area Manager of Operations Kyle Bilafer said the first space needs study happened in July 2009. Silling Architects began observing Cabarrus County Courthosue proceedings and flow last year, attending every type of court possible to understand how the facility operated. The company then took several courthouse tours and met with Cabarrus County staff to discuss what works and what doesn’t.

Out of all of the research came a preliminary design for the new facility—essentially moving blocks around on the site to see what pieces might fit where.

“It was very important for us to understand the urban fabric of downtown Concord and how this building was going to fit within Concord,” Thomas Potts with Silling Architects said. “We really began to develop how the building might operate, how big of a scale it might be, how it would interact with the site, how it would interact with the existing building, what’s usable in the existing building, what spaces do we need. We really did study this and try to get the best sense of what the best use might be.”

One big decision that came out of the process was to move the front door of the new courthouse onto Means Avenue and turn that street into a pedestrian walkway and public plaza. That allows the entryway and the courthouse facility to engage more with the heart of downtown, Silling staff said. How exactly that would look and be used is still uncertain and would be part of the deeper design phase.

The new courthouse would also have other secure entry points for staff and defendants traveling back and forth from the detention center.

A bulk of the new building will serve new judicial functions in a four-story facility lining Church Street. As the building moves back to connect with the current courthouse, the ceiling steps down and drops a floor. Extra space is built in to the renovation plans for the current courthouse as well as into each department in the new facility to plan for future growth.

“There is departmental elbow room and then sprawl space for future growth,” Potts said. “I think that’s really important in this county given the population growth.”

Courthouse By the Numbers:

-240,000 square feet in the new facility
-72,000 square feet in the existing facility (Renovations)
-312,000 square feet total
-4 Superior Court jury-capable Courtrooms
-6 District Courtrooms
-2 future Courtrooms
-45,000 square feet of total shell space for expansion
-14,000 square feet of expansion space in the new facility