Monongalia County Justice Center
Originally built in the 1970s, the former Harley O. Staggers Federal Building and regional post office presented a very unique and exciting opportunity to serve the growing judicial services of Monongalia County. Having been vacant and closed for more than eight years, county leaders would ultimately purchase the 84,000 square foot, four-level building in 2007. The project made responsible use of the public investment while also contributing to the overall reduction of environmental impact in reuse of the existing building stock. The design’s resulting expression provided a strong community presence with an elegant exterior facelift while also introducing a more ordered, functional and secure setting for the County’s court operations.
The new Justice Center building occupies a 1.26-acre site situated on the southern side of downtown Morgantown. The site included an enclosed parking garage attached to the rear of the building and an exposed rooftop parking deck which now affords secure judges and staff parking. Vehicular access is also provided for detainee transport vehicles to reach a secure sallyport drop-off zone with immediate adjacency to central holding in the basement. The “reimagined” building front creates dramatic views of the immediate downtown and distant mountainous geography, as well as offering a calming abundance of natural daylighting to the public realm of the building.
The scope included a full exterior restoration comprised of new glazing with supporting sun control and shading devices, entry vestibule with canopy, white EPDM roofing, envelope sealant at infiltration points, and a highly insulative perimeter wall backup. Comprehensive mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems with lighting upgrades were major factors to achieving sustainability targets. This included full HVAC and lighting controls, VRF system with fresh air intake, perimeter radiant heat, dimmable LED light fixtures with occupancy sensors, and high performance plumbing fixtures. The interior design used environmentally preferable finishes and materials while creating new space for the County’s Circuit, Magistrate, Family, and Drug Courts, as well as spaces for the Prosecuting Attorney, Adult and Juvenile Probation, Home Confinement and Day Report Center.
The project’s renovations began with remediation of hazardous materials and the practical demolition of unusable interior walls. This left a stable core and shell with an open floor plate canvas for the design team to work with. The design implements three major ideas: clear and well-defined public spaces with a strong sequence from the entry to the courtrooms; introduction of natural daylighting; and the use of high contrast interior finishes to create dignified spaces. High volume functions of the court are located near the lobby and on lower floors. The circulation is simple, direct and distinctly separated into public, private and secure paths of movement. An advanced access control system integrated with building surveillance cameras provide the security staff with complete control of passage between these circulation networks.
On the first floor, visitors to the building are directed into an expansive public lobby and security screening/queuing station. The various supporting judicial services were strategically located on the first floor and included offices for the Circuit Clerk, Prosecuting Attorney, Probation, and Day Report. On the upper courts floors, the idea of a clear and simple circulation paths from the linear public waiting corridors and expands to the private staff circulation around the courtrooms. The judicial chambers are located at each corner of the building and arranged in a linear plan.
Courtrooms are located on the upper floors stacked and grouped inwardly oriented on the floor plan. They are served by intermediate secure detainee elevators and holding cells as well as jury deliberation rooms in immediate adjacency. A jury assembly area is presently located in a shell space for a future 4th circuit courtroom on the 3rd floor. Courtrooms are equipped with zoned lighting as well as state-of-the-art technology and audio visual features including interactive monitors, evidence presentation cart, sound system with assisted listening, and large format screens with video conferencing capabilities all fully operational from sophisticated bench control software.
Monongalia County Commission