Abbotsford’s cramped and deficient courthouse will be replaced by a new $150 million building that will expand the court services available in Abbotsford.
The province announced Monday evening that a new 14-room courthouse would be built on the civic precinct lands adjacent to City Hall. The new building would have 14 courtrooms, a dramatic increase from the current five-courtroom facility. Included in the new building would be eight provincial court rooms, three judicial conference rooms and three Supreme Court rooms. Currently, the closest Supreme Court services are located in Chilliwack or New Westminster.
Construction on the new facility, which will be located at the corner of Trethewey Street and Veterans Way on land currently occupied by a gravel parking lot, is expected to begin in mid-2018. The building is expected to open in 2021.
The present courtroom was deemed six years ago to have “very serious functional, overcrowding, security and safety issues.”
In 2014, a plan developed to address the shortfall of courtrooms listed a new building in Abbotsford as a “high priority.” It recommended a $63.7 million replacement with nine provincial and five supreme courtrooms.
“Abbotsford Provincial Courthouse has serious deficiencies and it will be difficult to maintain safe and effective operations at this location beyond 2018,” said the report.
Asked what would be done to bridge the gap between 2018 and the completion of the new courthouse, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said it was hoped a new courthouse in Surrey would alleviate some of the issues. He said the province would also count on the ingenuity of employees at the current facility.
“There’s no question there is still going to be some pressure between now and the completion of this project,” he said. “I think the knowledge that construction will underway will mean that those involved in dispensing justice – not just the lawyers and judges but the sherrifs, the police officers, the clerks – they’re a resourceful and committed group and they will help get us to the completion of this project.”
The province says construction of the new facility will create more than 1,000 jobs during its length.
Mayor Henry Braun said that the courthouse will employ around 250 people when complete, compared to the approximately 60 who work at the current facility, and have twice the footprint of City Hall.
Braun said the facility and its workers will add to the vibrancy of the city centre area along South Fraser Way, as defined in last year’s Official Community Plan
“It will be an iconic building. There will be a lot of jobs, a lot of spin-offs, there will be new judges here and all of the support staff. They’re high-paying jobs and this will help solidify us as the hub of the Fraser Valley.