Construction is almost complete at the long-awaited new judicial courthouse in downtown Provo.
The eight-story concrete, grey building towers over nearby hotels, banks and restaurants at 111 W. Freedom Blvd. Dozens of enormous floor-to-ceiling windows cover the outside of the building and provide spectacular views of the mountains and urban city streets.
“One of the things that will grab the public is just how bright and light it is,” said Mark Urry, the trial court executive for 4th District Court.
He led a media tour through the courthouse on Thursday, pointing out the spacious courtrooms and hallways winding through the facility.
“I like to call it the crown jewel of courthouses in Utah,” he said. “You’re looking at a one-stop shop location for all of the court needs that the public might have.”
The new 4th District Courthouse combines juvenile court, adult district court, child welfare mediation and the Office of Guardian ad Litem, Urry explained. The building officially opens on Monday, Jan. 28.
In the past, Provo district court was held at a cramped brick courthouse at 125 S. 100 West. Juvenile court hearings happened at separate juvenile courthouses in Orem and Provo.
Now all district and juvenile court hearings and paperwork filings will be handled at the second largest courthouse in the state.
“The biggest benefit to the community that I’m excited about with the opening of this courthouse is the consolidation of court operations,” Urry said. “It makes it much more efficient.”
More than 100 inmates are transported to and from the 4th District Courthouse in Provo every day. The new courthouse provides better security measures to improve protection for everyone in the building.
There are separate elevators for the public, staff and inmates, as well as bigger holding cells in-between courtrooms and nine additional deputy security positions.
“For the last three years, we’ve had a manpower shortage,” said Lt. Eldon Packer with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. “With the addition of the juveniles and the adults together, that’s really what pushed to get us the extra personnel to be able to run the facility.”
The facility has 16 courtrooms with 52,540 square feet of windows and 12,539 cubic yards of concrete. That same amount of concrete could create a sidewalk 48 miles long from Provo to Salt Lake City.
Adult and juvenile courtrooms are also built slightly differently, said Jim Bauer, the trial court executive for 4th District Juvenile Court.
“Juvenile court has more of a collaborative approach. It’s less adversarial than a traditional court case,” he said. “They are trying to work together for the best interest of children and families.”
Judicial district court judges were assigned their various courtrooms based on seniority. Judge Lynn Davis, the longest seated judge in Utah, claimed a courtroom on the top floor on the north side of the building. Judge Suchada Bazzelle, the most senior judge in juvenile court, has a bright courtroom on the fourth floor with windows facing south.
“There are a lot of windows here to capture the beauty we have in this part of the state,” Urry said.
As the most technologically advanced courthouse in the state, the building cost more than $91.5 million funded through revenue bonds.
There is also a large media room for high-profile cases with a large jury seating area and guest gallery.
“The members of the public should not see any change in what they need to accomplish. Operations should be transparent to them,” Urry said.
The building has already won two awards in 2018 for its design and construction. Utah Construction and Design named the courthouse the Most Outstanding Project of the Year, and the Associated General Contractors awarded the facility as the Most Outstanding Government/Public Building.
“With any construction project of this size, you’re going to run into issues,” Urry said. “But this has been a project that has been on time throughout the entire construction timeline.”
After the official opening, the brick Provo courthouse will be owned by the Mountainland Technical College. The juvenile courthouses in Orem and Provo will be occupied by the Department of Children and Family Services and Juvenile Justice Services.
A public open house will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 1. Community members can walk through the courthouse and talk with staff about various functions in the building.
“It’s built for what we need now but it’s also built for the future as well,” Urry said.