Project to Watch: Lake County Courthouse Celebrates Topping Out

WAUKEGAN, Ill. — A topping out ceremony held on April 11 marked the placement of the final beam atop the new eight-story tower. The tower is Phase II of a three-phase $112 million expansion of the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan.

Construction on the second phase of the expansion project began last June after the Lake County Board approved a revision to the project in 2014. The revised plan addressed the $16 million in cost overruns that were projected since the estimated $100 million project was approved in November 2012. County planners trimmed the costs to $12 million by revising exterior and interior finishes. In July 2014, the board approved an amended design plan that eliminated one floor — turning a nine-story project into an eight-story one — and calling for two fewer courtrooms than originally envisioned, reported The Chicago Tribune.

The current plans call for a 200,000-square-foot tower to be built with 12 courtrooms and a renovated overhead walkway that connects the tower to the existing courthouse facilities. The updated design also includes two top floors that will remain unused and unfurnished and would be able to house six future courtrooms. The project is still on track for a May or June 2018 completion.

Lake County Circuit Deputy Chief Judge Jay Ukena told The Chicago Tribune that the project is currently ahead of schedule and that its design incorporates a lot of glass to allow for natural light to come into the facility. Los Angeles-headquartered AECOM Technical Services Inc. is serving as the architect and engineer on the project, while Bethesda, Md.-headquartered Clark Construction Group LLC is serving as the construction manager.

As part of first phase of the project, an underground tunnel was completed last May connecting the new tower to the original Robert H. Babcox Justice Center, which houses the Lake County Jail to the south. The tunnel took about a year to complete and allows for secure and efficient in-custody transfers between the two facilities.

The third phase of the expansion project will include 45,000 square feet in renovations of the Babcox Justice Center, including updated intake and booking areas as well as kitchen and dining areas. Construction on these renovations are expected to begin later this year, with an estimated completion to be 2019.