A new courthouse is set to be built in Fredericton and attached to New Brunswick’s Centennial Building, as the historic building receives renovations over the next five years.
Premier Brian Gallant, along with members of all levels of government announced the project in the building’s foyer on Wednesday. Gallant says the project will reduce provincial expenses and create 800 short-term jobs.
The Centennial Building was originally built to celebrate Canada’s centenary. The 50-year old facility is in need of upgrades and has only been operating at 32 per cent office space capacity, according to Gallant.
“The building unfortunately is functionally obsolete and in need of repair and refurbishment,” Gallant said.
The project is estimated to cost $76 million and is expected to be complete by 2021. Existing office space will be renovated while the “B block,” which faces Brunswick Street, will be demolished. The courthouse is expected to then be built on that site.
Gallant said it’s a positive solution to two challenges within the province.
“[What] we had before us was a decision on whether to refurbish, renovate or demolish this building,” Gallant said. “And we had a decision on what to do with regards to the courthouse.
“[Both] these decisions came to us on our plate at the same time so we looked for the most efficient way to try to deal with both situations.”
New Brunswick Court of Appeal Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau said the current courthouse is “unacceptable.”
“We had problems with the heating, we had problems in terms of our inability to conduct hearings in both official languages,” Drapeau said. “We didn’t have sufficient number of courthouses.”
Drapeau said he’s happy with the new downtown location.
“What I want is an efficient courthouse in which we can deliver justice to the citizens in an efficient and affordable fashion,” Drapeau said.
Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien said the announcement is good news for the city.
“The key is that it’s going to keep a core nucleus of people working in our downtown core, which is very important for any kind of modern, vibrant city,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said there’s no risk the old courthouse will disappear, but said the facility could change, and he’d like to see if the city can work with the province to obtain the building but he understands the province has a process to follow. He said the iconic building was his Grade 10 school.
O’Brien also said the city’s main infrastructure priority is still the development of a new performing arts centre.
“We have an award winning City Centre Plan we just adopted to say how we want our city to grow and change over the next 25 years and a lot of it’s purposed on trying to keep street-front buildings and people in our downtown,” O’Brien said.
The premier said work on the Centennial Building this winter will focus on art work removals and hazardous material investigations.
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