Ann Arbor police and court officials say 'thank you' to public for new Justice Center building downtown
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Police Chief Barnett Jones remarked today there are probably a lot of former police officers who wish they could have worked in a facility as nice as Ann Arbor's new police-courts building.
"I'm saying thank you for all the police officers who are working in this facility now and those who will be coming in the future," Jones told a crowd of about three dozen people gathered inside the lobby of the new building during a special open house event.
"It is a professional building," Jones added. "We now have a professional interface with our citizens. We've been professionals, and now we have a wonderful building that can showcase all of our talents. Thank you, thank you, and thank you."
Ann Arbor officials invited the public to tour the new building, which officially opened in January at the corner of Fifth and Huron downtown adjacent to city hall.
The top two stories are now home to Ann Arbor's 15th District Court, which was forced to move out of the Washtenaw County Courthouse. The second and third floors are now occupied by the police department, which vacated cramped quarters inside city hall. The city's information technology department has taken over the first floor of the new building.
The nearly $50 million, five-story addition to city hall was constructed by Lansing-based Clark Construction Co. It was designed by Quinn Evans Architects of Ann Arbor.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The official name of the new building is the Ann Arbor Justice Center. City hall will continue to be called the Guy C. Larcom Jr. Municipal Building. Both buildings will be referred to collectively as the Ann Arbor Municipal Center.
City Administrator Roger Fraser called the new Justice Center a "beautiful building" completed for a modest amount of money. He said he was just sorry he wouldn't get to fully enjoy it, as he'll be retiring from the city in two weeks to take a job as deputy state treasurer.
"This building has been in the works for a long time," Mayor John Hieftje said, recalling early drawings he saw back in 1999 when the plan was to tear down city hall.
Chris Easthope, a former Ann Arbor City Council member and now a judge working inside the new 15th District Court, said the City Council took a lot of criticism for the project but it was needed. He said it will make a difference in the community for decades to come.
"And I know this has been fought over in the press about why we needed it, but truly as an attorney before I became a judge, I was aware of our court facilities and what was working and what wasn't," Easthope said in a speech today.
"Our court system, while the building was beautiful, it was really not a safe court system," he said. "It wasn't set up to have so many small courtrooms in it, and it wasn't a good place for victims to come and be out of the public view. It wasn't good for people waiting to hear their cases or have children in the court, and we were marching Michigan Department of Corrections convicted felons, murderers, what have you, right down the middle of the hallway."
Remaining construction work, including renovations inside city hall, is expected to be finished by mid-June. A water-based art installation is expected to be installed outside by the end of July.
"Thank you to everyone who put in sweat equity in this building," Jones said in closing today, "because we deserve it, the citizens deserve it, the community deserves it."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.