Court conundrum

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Barb Sweet
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Master plan identifies eight options for St. John's courts

A master plan prepared for the provincial government lists eight potential options for the future of the St. John's courts, The Telegram has learned.

Proposed properties include the former Grace Hospital site on LeMarchant Road, the former Holloway School site between Long's Hill and Harvey Road, the former Horwood Lumber site on lower Springdale Street, a property on Bell Street almost across from Supreme Court on Duckworth Street and the block known as the Baird property across from Supreme Court on Water Street.

Top left, the former Grace Hospital site on LeMarchant Road. The former Holloway School is now a parking lot between Harvey Road and Long's Hill. Bottom left, the former Horwood Lumber site on lower Springdale Street. A block of buildings known as Baird p

A master plan prepared for the provincial government lists eight potential options for the future of the St. John's courts, The Telegram has learned.

Proposed properties include the former Grace Hospital site on LeMarchant Road, the former Holloway School site between Long's Hill and Harvey Road, the former Horwood Lumber site on lower Springdale Street, a property on Bell Street almost across from Supreme Court on Duckworth Street and the block known as the Baird property across from Supreme Court on Water Street.

The master plan was prepared by the BAE-Newplan Group Ltd. and obtained by The Telegram through access to information.

A breakdown of the cost of the various options was blacked out in the documents obtained by The Telegram.

The courts are currently spread out over a number of locations, including Supreme Court on Duckworth and Water streets. The Sheriff's Office and the Court of Appeal are also on Duckworth. Provincial court rents space in Atlantic Place on Water Street and Unified Family Court is on King's Bridge Road.

Rent for Atlantic Place - which includes space for victim services, provincial court, fines, probation, special prosecutions and Crown attorneys - is $1.4 million for the fiscal year ending March 2011. Logistical problems with installing security and technology and a lack of space have plagued the system for years.

Supreme Court opened in 1904. There's little meeting space for lawyers and clients and the courtrooms have awful acoustics.

The crammed Court of Appeal has no public washroom.

Among future priorities is the preservation of the historic image of Supreme Court as part of an active court system - most likely as the new home of the Court of Appeal and a possible federal court/tribunal hearing suite.

A downtown site is also considered a major objective, and parking is cited as a stumbling block at nearly all sites but LeMarchant Road.

No site was singled out.

Option 1

The Bell Street property, once considered for a hotel, includes the former Heritage Cafe Building. It borders on Church Hill and backs onto Henry Street. Both 344 Duckworth and 3-9 Church Hill are potential acquisitions.

Pros: It's close to Supreme Court and could be linked to it via a skywalk to the Sheriff's Office; upper floors offer stunning views; and it is in a reduced parking requirement zone.

Cons: Further expansion is uncertain; staff and visitor parking is a serious problem.

Option 2

The Baird property consists of the full block along Cliff's Cove-Baird's Cove between Water Street and Harbour Drive. This option would include acquiring Nos. 173, 171 and 169 Water Street and removing those structures.

Pros: Great views and downtown location; potential for "dramatic new courthouse construction" defining a "high-profile court precinct."

Cons: Height restriction would require the acquisition of considerable adjoining property; busy traffic area; parking and flooding issues.

Option 3

Another option uses both the Bell Street and Baird properties.

Provincial court would move to the Baird site and Supreme to Bell Street, which would be linked by skywalk to the current Supreme Court.

Pros: Downtown location, close to Supreme Court; some underground parking possible; potential to expand if adjoining properties are available; views of Narrows and Signal Hill.

Cons: Courts would not be consolidated; separate parking facility needed for staff and visitors.

Option 4

The Holloway Street site, once considered a site for condos in the oil bust of the 1980s, is being used as a parking lot.

Pros: commanding views; major consolidation of courts for the downtown; could accommodate all court support functions; landscaping might tie in with The Rooms.

Cons: Significantly removed from Supreme Court; would require large-scale parking facility due to city bylaws, which is not possible without acquiring more property.

Option 5

The former Horwood Lumber site is on lower Springdale Street bordering on New Gower.

Pros: downtown location; closeness of legal community; good views; potential to acquire other property.

Cons: no pedestrian link to Supreme Court possible; unable to consolidate all courts; extra facility required for parking; traffic issues on Water Street would be compounded.

Option 6

The old hospital on the Grace site was levelled and cleaned up. The former nurses' residence remains but would be torn down for parking, should that site be chosen for a new courthouse.

Pros: no restrictions on consolidation of courts.

Cons: It's not downtown; views are less desirable.

Option 7

Another option preserves only the facades of the old Newfoundland Museum and Court of Appeal buildings to front a new structure, which will include Unified Family Court - trial courts.

It would see properties alongside Supreme Court, including the High Sheriff's Office, demolished.

Pros: Brings Unified Family Court downtown.

Cons: Parking shortage; less opportunity for future expansion.

Option 8

The second option along the same vein would have the old Newfoundland Museum building remain intact, but only the facade of the Court of Appeal would remain, allowing small claims and traffic courts to move there.

Pros: elimination of poorly constructed buildings alongside Supreme would allow for landscaping and public space; the museum building would house Family Justice Services and possibly other offices such as the High Sheriff's Office.

Con: Lack of parking.

The master plan considers court requirements up to 2031.

Justice Minister Felix Collins was not available for comment Thursday, but via e-mail he said Justice is reviewing the master plan.

"We are committed as a government to providing the most effective and efficient court system possible," he said.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Supreme Court, The Telegram, Grace Hospital Holloway School BAE-Newplan Group Church Hill Newfoundland Museum The Rooms Family Justice Services

Geographic location: Water Street, Bell Street, St. John's LeMarchant Road Springdale Street Atlantic Place Harvey Road Duckworth Street Bridge Road Henry Street High Sheriff Narrows Signal Hill Holloway Street New Gower

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Comments

Recent comments

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Apparently looking at our ugly harbor front would ease the minds of those awiating trial. Although then again the residents who live in those areas are also hung up on being able to see the ugly harbor.

  • Tony
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    I believe the poor lawyers can afford a cab from the downtown to the Old Grace Hospital site.

  • Ed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Why is the view even a consideration?

    This is a proposed court location. Not a tourist attraction!

    Put it on the Grace Hospital site.

  • economist
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I think that taxpayer was referring to a new prison complex in the white hills area. He didn't say anything about lawyers being inconvenienced and moving the courts there. I agree that its backwards for govt to be looking at building new courts when they have a medium - maximum security prison dating back to the early 1800's that is in deplorable shape and can't house the criminals that are convicted in those same courts due to overcrowding.

  • Pete
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I don't like the Grace Hospetial location, I think it's to far away and could be used for something better. Bell Street may be the best location, it's right next to the court house, there is lots of space there which includes old non-heritage buildings not being utilized.

  • John Smith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I think they should consider the Colonial Building. It is, in my opinion one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, and it is in a state of decay. They could kill two birds, fix up the building, and get the courts in one area.

  • Takyai
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Most of the city's lawyers are located downtown - to be within walking distance of the court house. To move the courts outside the downtown area would be inconvenient and inefficient.

  • Laurie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    John Smith - the Colonial Building is currently being developed as a Provincial Historic Site and should be opened to the public again soon. br br The Grace Hospital location seems like the best of those. Lots of room to expand and right now its a big empty lot in the centre of town. And who needs a view with a courthouse?

  • Saucy Face
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Before they submit a proposal for a new downtown building, make sure it's 3 stories high, looks like something from 1892, meets the fire codes of that year and it can accomodate rats. That way they'll be sure to get the approval of Shannie, Peg Norman and Greg Malone.

  • Keith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Option 4: br br Pros: ... landscaping might tie in with The Rooms. br br GOOD GOD, NO!!! The LAST thing the city needs is another eyesore like The Rooms!!!

  • Lou
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Just wait till Peg Norman and the others get hold of this! The courthouse won't be allowed anywhere within a 50 mile radius of downtown.

  • P
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Why does the view seem to be a major consideration in each proposal?? Shouldn't the main consideration be the accommodations of the new facility being able to meet the requirements now and into the future as well as accessibility to public? Were these pros and cons written by a 5th grader? Con - Timmy likes this proposal but Mike doesn't. But I like Timmy more than Mike, so I like this proposal more

  • The Publican
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    The old Grace property would be my choice - large lot, plenty of potential parking without having to build a new parking garage, close to downtown, would revive the areas shops and take-outs, and traffic congestion not a concern as there was once a major hospital on this site. In regards to the 'view', I agree with others that this shouldn't be a priority.

  • taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    takyai I was talking about the prisons ,you know where people get sent when they go to court and if convicted? Its very inefficient to build new courts and not provide proper facilities for people working in corrections and the people who get sent to prison in a rat hole that doesn't have enough space. The lawyers and judges make enough money ,why should they be given new cushy chairs and buildings. Its stupidity to waste money on a courthouse while our prisons are falling apart and date back to the early 1800's.

  • C
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    In almost every one of these proposals, views seem to be a major concern, why exactly is this? Why do courts need exceptional view of anything other than the interpretation of justice? The last thing we need is more traffic and less parking, LeMarchant Road seems to be a viable solution in my opinion.

  • Ned
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I echo the previous comments !!! View ???? Not an issue !!!!! Parking, easy access, and the room to expand are the only considerations , the old Grace is the ONLY sensible option , but then again sensible and the government isn't always used in the same sentence at times !!!

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I agree with many of the above posts. What view has to do with the selection process is beyond me. They should focus on parking and access which is certainly a problem with the current Atlantic Place location.

  • taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    I think they need to build a new Prison first! Its stupidity to pump millions into the court system when the jails are full and offenders are given house arrest etc... due to lack of space. Its like putting the cart before the horse. Ask anyone who works at HMP how filthy and disgusting and archaic it is. The government should build a new prison in the White Hills area and make a major complex of buildings with a federal area,provincial,remand , new lockup and a female detention and youth detention centre.

  • Taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    More twaddle from Johnny again today. Put a court next to a playground and across the street from a primaruy school. As they say on the MC commercials PRICELESS!

  • Jordan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I think they should consider the Colonial Building. It is, in my opinion one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, and it is in a state of decay. They could kill two birds, fix up the building, and get the courts in one area br br There are major renovations going on there and there will be offices moving in there soon. I think it be a bit of a museum too. br br I like the Sprindale Street location. The west end of downtown is always mentioned as a site for higher office towers and if the provinces were to build down there it may kick start development in the area.

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Apparently looking at our ugly harbor front would ease the minds of those awiating trial. Although then again the residents who live in those areas are also hung up on being able to see the ugly harbor.

  • Tony
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    I believe the poor lawyers can afford a cab from the downtown to the Old Grace Hospital site.

  • Ed
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Why is the view even a consideration?

    This is a proposed court location. Not a tourist attraction!

    Put it on the Grace Hospital site.

  • economist
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    I think that taxpayer was referring to a new prison complex in the white hills area. He didn't say anything about lawyers being inconvenienced and moving the courts there. I agree that its backwards for govt to be looking at building new courts when they have a medium - maximum security prison dating back to the early 1800's that is in deplorable shape and can't house the criminals that are convicted in those same courts due to overcrowding.

  • Pete
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I don't like the Grace Hospetial location, I think it's to far away and could be used for something better. Bell Street may be the best location, it's right next to the court house, there is lots of space there which includes old non-heritage buildings not being utilized.

  • John Smith
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I think they should consider the Colonial Building. It is, in my opinion one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, and it is in a state of decay. They could kill two birds, fix up the building, and get the courts in one area.

  • Takyai
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Most of the city's lawyers are located downtown - to be within walking distance of the court house. To move the courts outside the downtown area would be inconvenient and inefficient.

  • Laurie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    John Smith - the Colonial Building is currently being developed as a Provincial Historic Site and should be opened to the public again soon. br br The Grace Hospital location seems like the best of those. Lots of room to expand and right now its a big empty lot in the centre of town. And who needs a view with a courthouse?

  • Saucy Face
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    Before they submit a proposal for a new downtown building, make sure it's 3 stories high, looks like something from 1892, meets the fire codes of that year and it can accomodate rats. That way they'll be sure to get the approval of Shannie, Peg Norman and Greg Malone.

  • Keith
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Option 4: br br Pros: ... landscaping might tie in with The Rooms. br br GOOD GOD, NO!!! The LAST thing the city needs is another eyesore like The Rooms!!!

  • Lou
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Just wait till Peg Norman and the others get hold of this! The courthouse won't be allowed anywhere within a 50 mile radius of downtown.

  • P
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Why does the view seem to be a major consideration in each proposal?? Shouldn't the main consideration be the accommodations of the new facility being able to meet the requirements now and into the future as well as accessibility to public? Were these pros and cons written by a 5th grader? Con - Timmy likes this proposal but Mike doesn't. But I like Timmy more than Mike, so I like this proposal more

  • The Publican
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    The old Grace property would be my choice - large lot, plenty of potential parking without having to build a new parking garage, close to downtown, would revive the areas shops and take-outs, and traffic congestion not a concern as there was once a major hospital on this site. In regards to the 'view', I agree with others that this shouldn't be a priority.

  • taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    takyai I was talking about the prisons ,you know where people get sent when they go to court and if convicted? Its very inefficient to build new courts and not provide proper facilities for people working in corrections and the people who get sent to prison in a rat hole that doesn't have enough space. The lawyers and judges make enough money ,why should they be given new cushy chairs and buildings. Its stupidity to waste money on a courthouse while our prisons are falling apart and date back to the early 1800's.

  • C
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    In almost every one of these proposals, views seem to be a major concern, why exactly is this? Why do courts need exceptional view of anything other than the interpretation of justice? The last thing we need is more traffic and less parking, LeMarchant Road seems to be a viable solution in my opinion.

  • Ned
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    I echo the previous comments !!! View ???? Not an issue !!!!! Parking, easy access, and the room to expand are the only considerations , the old Grace is the ONLY sensible option , but then again sensible and the government isn't always used in the same sentence at times !!!

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    I agree with many of the above posts. What view has to do with the selection process is beyond me. They should focus on parking and access which is certainly a problem with the current Atlantic Place location.

  • taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    I think they need to build a new Prison first! Its stupidity to pump millions into the court system when the jails are full and offenders are given house arrest etc... due to lack of space. Its like putting the cart before the horse. Ask anyone who works at HMP how filthy and disgusting and archaic it is. The government should build a new prison in the White Hills area and make a major complex of buildings with a federal area,provincial,remand , new lockup and a female detention and youth detention centre.

  • Taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    More twaddle from Johnny again today. Put a court next to a playground and across the street from a primaruy school. As they say on the MC commercials PRICELESS!

  • Jordan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    I think they should consider the Colonial Building. It is, in my opinion one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, and it is in a state of decay. They could kill two birds, fix up the building, and get the courts in one area br br There are major renovations going on there and there will be offices moving in there soon. I think it be a bit of a museum too. br br I like the Sprindale Street location. The west end of downtown is always mentioned as a site for higher office towers and if the provinces were to build down there it may kick start development in the area.