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“Justice Center” architects win design prize

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The 104,00-square-foot, $66 million Franklin County Justice Center has gotten the American Institute of Architects New England Award for its design, and Register of Probate John Merrigan and Judge William Mazanec state they aren’t shocked.

“We worked hand-in-hand with the architects of this project and they were very accommodating and adaptive to our situation,” Mazanec said. “It doesn’t surprise me that the building won an award, because it’s a beautiful building. It’s a building that changes your thinking — it embraces Main Street’s and the community’s roots and past at the same time looking modern, letting a lot of daylight in with all the glass. It calms people down when they’re in crisis.”

Mazanec said he got training in engineering while at the same time working with the architects, incorporating Principal in Charge Josiah Stevenson from Leers Weinzapfel Associates in Boston.

“We used to have a building that had no windows,” Mazanec said. “That added to the stress of victims, jurors, everyone. Now, that’s not the case, and that’s a credit to the design. They found a way to think outside of the box. The building really is warm, pleasing, beautiful.

“Some of the people who come here aren’t exactly having their best day,” he said. “The design helps them get through a day that can be intimidating. Now, everyone has their own entrance — detainees, victims, families, staff. They don’t meet until they’re in the courtroom. It used to be they’d pass each other in the hallway. This was a real team effort.”

Merrigan, who likewise worked with planners and the contractor all through the venture, said “it’s a great building.” He said he, Mazanec and others endeavored to protect the front of the structure and a portion of the apparatuses inside, alongside certain bits of Art Deco, which are consolidated into the design. For example, light apparatuses were renovated to “fit” the new building’s structure and hawk tokens were joined into dividers.

Stevenson said draftsmen planned the reproduction of the 1931 block exterior Franklin County Courthouse, which is currently called the Franklin County Justice Center, just as the four-story glass-highlighted expansion that stands where the first building’s southern leg and back parking area sat for a long time.

The project took three years to finish, starting with emptying the structure in February 2014. Around then, most court capacities and around 100 staff moved to 50,000 square feet in the Greenfield Corporate Center at an expense of $1.7 million per year. Development started that April with asbestos evacuation and destruction of the southern leg along Hope Street.

As per the American Institute of Architects, the new Justice Center “adds significant new space and re-conceives the original building to create a coherent new whole for Greenfield’s future.”

The Justice Center incorporates the old front structure, which houses administrative staff, and a 83,000-square-foot expansion, which houses a safe new section, six courts, a law library, a protected prisoner territory and a jury pool room, alongside an assistance focus staffed by two legal advisors who don’t offer lawful guidance, yet help guests round out desk work, ensure everything is all together under the steady gaze of somebody heads to court and direct visitors to where they should be.

Merrigan said the Justice Center is LEED Gold, with two supportable highlights — ignoring the highest floor is a green rooftop that eases back the tempest flood in the road that used to flood and the reuse of the old front structure.

“The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the architects and the contractor were great partners,” Merrigan said. “And, the Trial Court was very supportive. This was definitely a great team effort.”

Merrigan said the venture “pushed the envelope” when it came to vitality proficiency, insignificant natural effect and diminishing carbon, alongside creativity.

“When the Franklin County Courthouse project began, Judge Mazanec insisted we rename the new building the Franklin County Justice Center, because more than criminals do business there,” Merrigan said. “It’s a more welcoming name.”

Stevenson said that is the thing that architects were going for — an inviting, quieting condition.

“We’re very honored to receive the award,” Stevenson said. “It was a challenge to build a modern building in a town that hasn’t seen a lot of change in that way — we worked with the local Historical Society to make sure we were preserving its history. It reflects democracy. It’s welcoming and transparent, and I think that’s what people see now that it’s completed.”

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