$75 million Gwinnett courthouse expansion moves forward

Plans for a major expansion of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration are moving forward after a long delay.

By a 4-1 vote, the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners Tuesday awarded a $74.6 million contract to Gilbane Building Company to do the work, which was delayed by the Great Recession.

The company will build a 180,485-square-foot addition to the county’s main courthouse and administrative building in Lawrenceville. It also will build a 1,500-space parking garage.

Most of the money for the project comes from a sales tax for construction projects that voters approved in 2008.

GJAC, which opened in 1988, houses a variety of courts and criminal justice offices, as well as administrative offices like the Board of Commissioners, county manager and tax assessor. The expansion would add up to 10 courtrooms, a new jury assembly area and other facilities.

Gwinnett officials say the project will make the county's criminal justice system more efficient. Superior Court Judge George F. Hutchinson III recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a lack of criminal courtrooms at the existing facility makes scheduling all kinds of cases more difficult.

By adding criminal courtrooms – complete with holding facilities to separate the accused from witnesses and others – the expansion will make scheduling easier and speed up cases, Hutchinson said.

The project was originally scheduled to be finished in 2013. But with county revenue plummeting amid the Great Recession, commissioners postponed the project in 2010.

Commissioner John Heard voted against awarding the construction contract. He expressed concern that the county interviewed only two of four companies that sought the contract.