Stanislaus County to Select Site for New Courthouse

MODESTO, Calif. — Though budgetary constraints continue to push the construction date of the new $277.2 million Stanislaus County Courthouse further and further back, the county has now identified a preferred site for future construction.

The project, which is funded by the state’s courthouse construction fund, was initially set for completion in mid-2016. However, current projections now set the courthouse’s completion date in 2018.

The 2.75-acre preferred site of the new courthouse, to be designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, with offices in San Francisco, is located two blocks from the current courthouse in the downtown Modesto area. The site, which is now being negotiated for acquisition, will feature 26 courtrooms in approximately 301,000 square feet of building space. Architectural design on the project is currently scheduled to begin sometime after July 1, 2014.

The long-planned county courthouse has had many bumps in the road in terms of funding, but site approval will be an important step in the process.

“We had gotten approval just before all of the budget cuts came down from the state. When those funds were removed from the state construction, there was a process that had to be done that reviewed every single project,” said Rebecca Fleming, executive administrator for Stanislaus County’s superior court. “Fortunately we were able to continue to move forward but we had to go through the process with the other courts as well.”
The original courthouse was constructed in the late 1800s, Fleming said, with additions being built out throughout the main courthouse. The current courthouse is now very crowded, with minimal support for modern technology, she explained.

“It was really never intended to be a fully functional multi-case courthouse,” she said.

Security is the main concern, Fleming said, largely because the current courthouse lacks a holding area.
“Where we’re located, there’s a jail adjacent to the courthouse and there’s a tunnel that goes underneath the parking lot,” she said. “For a holding area, we actually utilize part of that space and we don’t actually have an adequate security holding.”

The new courthouse will allow the county to consolidate all its courthouses into one, with the exception of the juvenile courthouse. The centralized location will allow all resources and employees to more easily collaborate in order to offer a more efficient judicial system to the public.

“It gets everybody in one place so we can take care of all of their needs,” Fleming said. “Often times people will have more than one need and it’s very difficult when you have to send them to three different places.”