Plans Announced for New Catonsville Courthouse

Plans have been unveiled for the new Maryland District Court in Catonsville — a project in the works for more than a decade — and a groundbreaking could start before the end of the year.

Construction is estimated to take two years, Therese Yewell, communications director for Maryland's Department of General Services, said in an email.

Located at the Rolling Crossroads Professional Park, near North Rolling and Johnnycake roads, the 130,000-square-foot courthouse will have seven courtrooms — more than double its predecessor, currently in operation at 900 Walker Ave.

There will also be two smaller hearing rooms, suitable for civil cases.

A need for more space was the catalyst for the move, Yewell said. Baltimore County law requires that the facility remain in the 21228 ZIP code.

The $50.3 million facility will be paid by Maryland capital funding. The project, which at one point was on target to be completed by 2015, had been delayed because of budget shortfalls, Yewell said.

A $2.8 million deal between the state and Whalen Properties, a Catonsville developer, to relocate the courthouse was approved by the Board of Public Works and finalized in May 2011, according to state officials. The purchase was made with $2.5 million in state funding allocated in 2007 and $350,000 in state funding allocated in 2009. The land deal had been discussed since at least 2002.

The new building will replace a structure built more than 25 years ago and will have more advanced security technologies. It will also have a design that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards and be Maryland's first courthouse with a "green" roof, eco-bioretention and reforestation, Yewell said.

A rendering of the new courthouse was unveiled earlier in the month. State Del. Charles Sydnor, D- District 44B, was among the audience members who saw it and left impressed.

"The facility in Catonsville was too small to accommodate the type of workload that the court needed and had," he said. "I'm glad it's coming."

The project was designed by a joint venture design team of Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc. of Hagerstown and RicciGreene Associates of New York.

In addition to the courthouse, a $10 million parking garage with room for 425 cars will be built on the site.

In a statement, Mary Ellen Barbera, chief judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, said she is pleased to see the project come to fruition.

"Fourteen years in the making, we've worked closely with the Legislature, which has been with us every step of the way," she said. "The new courthouse will replace an antiquated facility that is not providing the optimal level of efficiency and public safety that Marylanders deserve."

The Arbutus Business and Professional Association had concerns about the move in 2011. Its secretary at the time, Terry Nolan, said the courthouse has been "an economic growth pull" for nearby Arbutus, particularly for the legal and professional businesses in the area.

But now under different leadership, the issue hasn't been discussed in a long time, according to its current president, Bettina Tebo.

"It hasn't been on our radar because the last two years, we're focusing on so much growth, our new office and bringing members in," said Deborah SeBour, the group's vice president.

As for what happens at the site of the current facility, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, whose Catonsville campus is adjacent to the courthouse, had previously expressed interest in obtaining the land.

"We are still keeping an eye on the property as plans develop for a possible new location of the courthouse," Dinah Winnick, the university's director of communications, said in an email.

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