North Wing renovation aims to improve County-City Building safety

Superior Court’s Criminal Division will be a safer place to do business this fall following completion of the North Wing renovation project. The new spaces on the second floor, which will open for business in about a month, include separate corridors for inmates and the public and provide expanded and secure inmate holding areas. Corrections officers will be able to escort inmates directly from the jail to court without having to pass through public areas.

“This new facility is a long time coming,” said Superior Court Presiding Judge Tom Larkin during the recent ribbon-cutting event for the County-City Building Phase 2 Renovation Project. “[W]e really believe [it] will make this system more efficient, more effective and, most importantly, safer.”

The $8.7 million project includes three Criminal Division (CD) courtrooms, attorney interview rooms and improved court administration space. The renovated area totals 15,570 square feet.

Larkin recalled serving in the courtrooms called CD1 and CD2 after joining the Superior Court 12 years ago. “I couldn’t believe what was going on there [in terms of inmates mixing with court officials, other county employees and the public]. When we first went to the County Council and county executive with our need for more courtrooms, we talked about these CD courts and their importance.”

Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg, who served the county as prosecuting attorney for 16 years, agreed Phase 2 will greatly benefit the court and justice system. “The county has been talking about this facility for decades, and we finally got it done,” he said. “We have wanted to reorganize the courthouse in a more efficient manner, and that is exactly what this does.”

Chief of Corrections Rob Masko welcomed the new facility, saying it will make it safer for both correction officers and inmates, as well as court employees. “It enhances our ability to serve the judges and perform the daily tasks of getting criminal justice done in Pierce County,” he said.

The project’s first phase was completed in June 2007 at a cost of $7.6 million and included remodeling the third and four floors of the building tower to provide five new courtrooms and administrative space and new City of Tacoma attorney offices.

Phase 3, which starts in 2009, involves remodeling former Superior Court areas on the fifth floor to create three new District Court courtrooms at an estimated $4.6 million.

Phase 4 would start in 2010 and involve remodeling vacated District Court areas on the ninth floor to create office space for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The cost estimate is $2.2 million.