San Diego Central Courthouse Occupancy Date Delayed

SAN DIEGO — The July opening of the new $555.5 million San Diego Central Courthouse in downtown San Diego will be delayed because workers are re-testing the building’s smoke exhaust system, officials announced on June 21.

The new location’s probate and family courts planned to be up and running by July 17, according to The San Diego Union Tribune, and citizens were even told to report there for jury duty. The issue is that while the state fire marshal approved the fire alarm and sprinkler systems, but the fire control panel still needs to be reprogrammed. That equates to 1,100 smoke dampers in the heating and ventilation system having to be retested at about 15 to 20 minutes per damper (or 300 hours of work).

Mike Courtney, director of the California Judicial Council’s capital construction program, announced that the project team is still figuring out whether or not that work will take two weeks or a month. To accommodate any issues, court staff members will be placed at the new location to redirect the public to the appropriate location, reported The San Diego Union Tribune.

Meanwhile, a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting was already held on June 5 for the 704,000-square-foot facility that consolidates San Diego County’s criminal trial, family and civic courts into a 22-story tower. It features 71 courtrooms and a skybridge that connects the facility to the existing Hall of Justice, and will replace the Family Court and Madge Bradley buildings in downtown San Diego. It is the most expensive of the 47 California projects that were funded by increased court filing fees.

The project will also open without the original 320-foot underground tunnel planned to connect inmates from the downtown jail to the new courthouse. Original cost estimates for the tunnel jumped from about $3 million or $5 million to $25 million, which is why the state decided to put it on hold, according to NBC San Diego. Plans to build the tunnel in the future depend on the county assuming ownership of the land occupied by the old courthouse and old county tunnel. If that happens and the project is approved, the project would also include demolition and remodeling of the old buildings.

Despite the tunnel not being built, inmate and public separation was an integral part of the new facility’s design. In fact, a bank of elevators in the middle of the building — hidden from public view — will transport inmates from basement holding cells to their respective courtrooms, according to The San Diego Union Tribune.

San Francisco-based Skidmore Owings & Merrill served as the project architect, while Redwood City, Calif.-based Rudolph and Sletten served as the construction manager at-risk.