A new judicial complex will soon soar above downtown Atlanta

An artist rendering of the new judicial complex to be built across the street from the Georgia Capitol.

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An artist rendering of the new judicial complex to be built across the street from the Georgia Capitol.

Georgia officials broke ground Thursday on a judicial complex that could wind up being the costliest building in state history.

The new state courts building will house the newly expanded Georgia Supreme Court and Georgia Court of Appeals with a commanding view of the Gold Dome across the street.

The complex, which is set to cost at least $105 million, was built on the spot where the Georgia Archives Building once rose. Nicknamed the White Ice Cube, the state tore down that building earlier this year to make way for the judicial center that courts officials have said was desperately needed.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Gov. Nathan Deal and a phalanx of judges and justices dug shovels into soggy ground to formally kick off the construction.

Georgia Appeals Court Chief Judge Stephen Dillard said what will soon rise there will be a “modern, forward-thinking building” that encourages collaboration. And Deal invoked the Latin motto inscribed in the current courthouse building.

“Let justice be done though the heavens may fall,” he said, nodding to the downpour lashing the muddy grounds. “Well, let’s hope no one takes the latter seriously.”

Plans for the new building, which is set to open in 2019, include a towering four-story atrium with giant windows overlooking the Capitol. Designers hope to eventually build a park over nearby roads to link the complex to the Gold Dome, but there is no funding yet to do so.

The governor called it a timely reminder that “Georgia puts a high value on the rule of law.” Asked to elaborate after his remarks, Deal said people sometimes see the justice system as a “cliché” of sorts.

“We pay lip service to the concept of rule of law,” Deal said. “But in reality, it’s the rock-solid bottom that is the underpinning of our democracy, and we should all be reminded about that. And this building is an excellent opportunity to do that.”