Demolition Kicks Off New Courthouse Expansion Project

By Aziza Jackson

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Demolition has begun on Waukesha County’s $38.5 million courthouse expansion project, the first of two steps that will expand and modernize the county’s court facilities.

Waukesha County leaders recently broke ground on the new expansion project that is expected to be complete in 2021. The project includes the demolition of approximately 52,000 square feet of intake courtroom and unused jail space, which will serve as the construction site of a new secure courtroom addition.

“This project will improve public safety for the residents who use our courthouse and employees while accounting for our growing population,” said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow. “It’s the culmination of years of strategic planning and budgeting by Waukesha County staff that will ensure our facilities continue to serve residents for decades into the future.”

A 62,000-square-foot, four-story, eight-courtroom addition will be built on the site, which is located next to the Waukesha County Jail. The new facility will feature improved security and prisoner transport to courtrooms by eliminating the need to escort inmates through public courthouse spaces. Members of the public will also gain improved access to the new courtrooms through efficient facility layout.

Gilbane is providing construction management services on this expansion project; work involves overseeing the preparation of the budget, design and demolition of the original jail facility and intake court, as well as construction of the four-story addition that will house eight new court rooms.

The county retained Zimmerman Architectural Studios to develop a “courthouse study” to provide a comprehensive analysis of courthouse space requirements and design needs. Zimmerman recommended the two-step design approach when the study was initially completed in 2013.

Demolition and construction on the new, secure 62,000-square-foot courtroom facility is currently underway. In 2022, a $58.6 million renovation project will begin on the existing courthouse structure that was originally built in 1959 to update aging mechanical systems, create a more efficient layout, and increase accessibility.

The renovation will consist of a three-phase vertical segmented approach to provide newly renovated facilities for all divisions. Courthouse renovation will also include the installation of new state of the art mechanical, electrical, fire protection, window systems and new wall, floor and ceiling finishes in all renovated areas. This approach will not require temporary offsite relocation of courthouse personnel.

Both courthouse projects will enhance security at the courthouse by establishing “three-way separation” among inmates, court staff, and court visitors, which is a judicial standard that limits unnecessary interaction and prevents potential confrontations. Other security enhancements will include improved video surveillance, upgraded fire protection, better courtroom design with clear line-of-sight for judges and bailiffs to monitor people, ability for judges to automatically lock-down courtrooms in emergency situations, installation of staff and public announcement systems to provide notifications during emergencies, and redesign of the security entrance to improve the flow of courthouse visitors.

Officials from Waukesha County, Gilbane Building Company, Zimmerman Architectural Studios, Inc., trade contractors and the community recently came together to celebrate the official groundbreaking for the project.

“Gilbane is excited to partner with Waukesha County on this exciting project to expand the courthouse facilities. We look forward to continue our strong partnership with the county and local trade contractors to successfully deliver this project,” said Laura Hause, senior project manager at the Gilbane Building Company.