Howard County officials broke ground Monday on a new 238,000-square-foot courthouse in Columbia.
The project includes a four-story atrium, 691-space parking garage, chambers for six judges, as well as distinct hallways and separate, secure elevators for prisoners. The new Circuit Court building will also include office space for the state’s attorney, sheriff and register of wills.
The developer Edgemoor-Star America Judicial Partners beat out two other finalists competing for the public-private partnership to build the $140 million project that will replace the county’s 175-year-old courthouse in Ellicott City.
The new courthouse is expected to open July 2021. After it opens, officials plan to solicit private interests to re-purpose the old courthouse building.
Last summer, when still a County Council member, County Executive Calvin Ball cast the lone vote in opposition to approving a public-private partnership project for the new courthouse. Ball had expressed concern about the project’s scope and site selection process.
Pulling out of the deal would have cost the county in excess of $55 million, according to documents obtained by the Howard County Times.
Peterson did not make Ball, who participated in the groundbreaking, available for an interview with the Howard County Times. In an interview with WBAL NewsRadio at the groundbreaking event, Ball spoke of the central location of the planned courthouse — which is located on county-owned land off U.S. 29 in Columbia.
“It's important to me that people have access to justice, access to fairness,” he said to WBAL. “And having a place where everyone can get to pretty easily is something that ensures that vision is actually realized.”
Nine groups had expressed interest in the project, one of the largest government buildings planned in the county this decade. The development group will finance the construction and also be responsible for designing the building and handling operations and maintenance under a 30-year contract using what the county has called “a hybrid financing solution.”
Howard County is expected to provide $75 million, borrowed through general obligation bonds, and a yearly service payment estimated at $10 million beginning in 2021, when the building is projected to open. After 30 years, the county will take over the building, according to the terms of the deal.
Under the terms of agreement, Edgemoor-Star America must hire minority- and veteran-owned businesses for construction, operations, maintenance and supplies for at least 15% of the work.