NEW UNION COUNTY FAMILY COURTHOUSE NOW OPEN
Elizabeth, New Jersey (May 22, 2017) – After years of planning, design and a change of contractors during construction, Union County dedicated the new Family Justice Center. The new 78,000 square-foot facilities will alleviate severe space shortfalls at the main County Courthouse and provide a suitable environment to serve families and children in need and in crisis.
New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner helped cut the ribbon for the new Union County Courthouse when it opened with fanfare that drew elected officials, judges, and family law attorneys and advocates to the modern, stone and glass building. “We’re here to dedicate this building because we care about helping our youth and our families in need,” said Union County Freeholder Chair Bruce Bergen. “Victims of domestic violence will have waiting rooms right next to the courtroom, not down the hall or upstairs,” Union County Assignment Judge Karen Cassidy said. “There will be staffed, safe waiting rooms for children,” she said.
The new courthouse will be home to the Union County Superior Court Family Division which provides adjudication and legal assistance, counseling, support and housing aid for families dealing with issues of custody, child support, paternity, adoption, foster care placement, abuse and domestic violence.
The four-story building has six state-of-the-art courtrooms, judges’ chambers, jury deliberation rooms, attorney/client conference rooms, family waiting rooms, administrative offices and prisoner intake/holding facilities. The architectural features include a monumental canopied entrance plaza that welcomes the visitor and into a light-filled, easy to navigate building, designed as a safe and calming environment. It is highly secure while offering family-friendly amenities such as a first-floor café, and a play area for young children. Special consideration was given to the design of family waiting areas to provide comfort, natural light and views and privacy (with complete separation of adversaries) to ensure safety and reduce stress. In addition to important functional design criteria, the architects introduced smart building features such as solar-shaded windows and energy efficiencies that could not be easily realized in the Courthouse Tower or Annex. The facility will also house the Union County Prosecutor’s Office of Victim Witness Advocacy which is accessible from a second entrance.
The limestone-clad building extends the streets-cape of Elizabeth and creates an important new public presence at the corner of Rahway Avenue and Cherry Street, a short walk from the landmark Courthouse Tower. The site provides approximately 150 parking spaces and is within walkable distance from the train station.
“We started talking about this project in 2009,” Daniel Sullivan, the executive director of the Union County Improvement Authority, said during ceremonies Monday. County officials were hoping to deliver the project sooner, but with the requirement to include many Union County, court and law enforcement stakeholders, and the complex program and design requirements the project took much longer to bring to successful completion. The building will officially open for business this month.
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