AUGUSTA — A grand open house for the Capital Judicial Center has been postponed from its original May 1 date. It is now set for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 18.
“It is being delayed due to the schedules of many elected officials, some of whom will be occupied with other business on the first,” said Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the Maine court system.
The 120,000-square-foot, four-story, glass-and-granite facade building, which houses the functions of Unified Criminal Docket, Augusta District Court, Kennebec County Superior Court and family court and holds six separate courtrooms of varying sizes, opened for business on March 2.
Since then, members of the public and those involved in court cases have walked through the building, admiring the view of the Kennebec River and downtown Augusta as well as the art stationed throughout the building.
“Hopefully the grand opening will coincide with the Supreme Court holding session in the refurbished courtroom in the old courthouse,” said Joseph Jabar, an associate justice on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Jabar served as the liaison for the Maine Judicial Branch and chairman of the courthouse committee. He is one of seven judges who have their chambers in the Capital Judicial Center.
“The building has been fantastic,” Jabar said Saturday via email. “We’ve had a few items to deal with, but overall the punch list has not interfered with the functioning of the courts. The judges are very happy with courtrooms, the technology and the flow of the courthouse. We’ve had several jury trials, and the juries appear to be comfortable in the new courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms. The attorneys love the numerous conference rooms where they can meet with their clients, something that was not available in the old courtrooms.”
Chief Justice Leigh Saufley originally invited the public to view the Capital Judicial Center on May 1 when she addressed the Legislature earlier this year. However, the building is still getting some finishing touches.
A long wooden bench was installed early last week under the large windows on the east side of the first floor. It provides seating for people waiting for documents from the nearby clerk’s windows.
Outside the building, workers have been installing new handrails on granite steps between a discontinued section of Perham Street and the new building.
Parts of the $57 million new courthouse project are still underway. Earth-moving equipment is grading an adjacent area that will be a 92-slot public parking area. Once the area is prepared, the paving will be done.
Currently visitors to the new courthouse park in numbered spaces on two terraced levels. Eventually that area will be reserved for people who work in the Capital Judicial Center.
Next door, the rehabilitation of the historic Kennebec County Courthouse continues. Part of the project will give public access from the newer building to a large, ornate courtroom on the second floor of the older building.
The two buildings are currently linked by a glassed-in bridge that allows pedestrians to cross the former Perham Street between the two buildings, but it is generally closed pending completion of the entire project.
“I would say overall the Capital Judicial Center has been a huge success,” Jabar said. “I look forward to having the new parking lot completed and the beautiful old courtroom restored.”
Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin said Friday that a crane is expected to lift the steel for the second walkway into place early this week. In the meantime, the lawn in front of the Probate Court wing of the county courthouse is torn up and fenced off, with the temporary fencing extending into a lane of Court Street. Plywood blocks off some windows of the second floor of the older building where the restitution clerks on the district attorney’s staff had their offices.
Both projects are expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
Betty Adams — 621-5631