Fresno County’s Superior Court is set for a shake-up as the California Judicial Council begins eyeing real estate to replace three of its five facilities in downtown Fresno.
Court planners are eyeing two-acre parcels that can provide 413,299 square feet of usable facilities for court operations.
The backstory: California lawmakers appropriated $749 million toward the a new court facility, aiming to replace the honeycomb-facade courthouse in Fresno’s Courthouse Park.
- The exit from the main courthouse comes amid a report from the Judicial Council of failing to meet seismic and other modern building standards, undersized facilities, unworkable logistics for handling attorney-client interactions along with maneuvering in-custody criminal defendants.
- Fresno’s main criminal courthouse has been the source of contention and hard feelings since its construction in 1966, when it replaced Fresno’s historic, neoclassical-style courthouse over similar seismic concern.
Driving the news: The site selection phase of the courthouse project will see Fresno County’s Superior Court eliminate three buildings it currently rents – the main criminal courthouse, the North Annex Jail, and it M Street Courthouse.
- The first two are owned by Fresno County. The latter is owned by the Wolfsen Land & Cattle Company.
- The move out of leased spaces and into state owned-and-operated facilities has emerged as a logistical and operational priority for California’s judicial branch.
- In 2007, the Fresno-based Fifth District Court of Appeal dedicated its freshly-built George N. Zenovich Building in Fresno’s Armenia Town after a thirteen year bid by then-Presiding Judge James Ardaiz to exit its leased space on Capitol Street (near a newly-constructed Federal building) and have its own home.
- In 2010, Fresno County Superior Court formally dedicated the remodeled B.F. Sisk Courthouse after acquiring the property from the Federal Government (who vacated the property for the Robert E Coyle Federal Building) for $1.
What’s next? While still in site selection, the Judicial Council is eyeing the commencement of design-build for the courthouse project to begin December 2025 and complete for opening in January 2031.
- All told, the new courthouse will house 36 courtroom, consolidating the number of courtrooms held in the three existing buildings under one roof, while allowing for court expansion.