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Debate brewing over potential relocation of Richmond downtown courts building

Published: Jun. 16, 2021 at 2:21 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 3:02 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Potential plans are in the works to relocate The John Marshall Courts Building, but a group of lawyers and judges say they want to have input too.

The president of The Richmond Bar Association has two concerns: the safety of the John Marshall Courts building and having a seat at the table on its possible move.

“When you look at this building. It is a huge glass façade that goes all the way around the building. It is impossible to make this building safe,” said Connor Johnson, Richmond Bar Association President.

Johnson wrote a letter to the city after he learned about potential plans in the works to move the courts building from downtown. One of the potential locations is near The Richmond Justice Center on Oliver Hill Way.

In his letter, Johnson wrote seven circuit court judges oppose that location. He also says after protests turned destructive last summer and issues with COVID-19, a host of security issues have come to light.

“The city had already begun a process of building a new courthouse in a different location where because the judges of the courts, the BAR association, the lawyers that practice in these courts weren’t consulted,” said Johnson.

The piece of property here off 9th Street will be part of the City Center plan to revitalize part of downtown. City hall says a final decision won’t be made until September.

“We know there are deficiencies in the current courthouse and that’s why we’ve endeavored to build a new courthouse,” said Mayor Levar Stoney, Richmond.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney addressed the issue during his weekly briefing at city hall. The mayor says no one should jump to any conclusions.

“Now, this courthouse may not be in the downtown core but this is very early and all conceptual at the moment,” said Mayor Stoney.

The city is adding some judges to the oversight committee for the plans.

A meeting was held on June 22 where the committee decided to recommend a complete replacement.

The city says that the building would need $18.7 million in renovations, and the estimated value of the building is $74 million.

The final plan will not be in place until the fall. This replacement is a part of the overall city center plan.

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