Honorable Frank J. Guarini Justice Complex

Master Plan Vision

The transformation and modernization of the Hudson County Justice Complex is planned as a catalyst for the revitalization of the Journal Square community in Jersey City. Through the construction of the Honorable Frank J. Guarini Justice Complex and the renovation of the landmark William J. Brennan Courthouse, Jersey City will create a new civic district.

Removal of the outdated Hudson County Administration Building at 595 Newark Avenue, which currently houses a majority of the County’s court spaces, will open a large, prominent and well-located site to higher uses, including parkland.

 

History & Need

William J. Brennan Courthouse

The Hudson County Courthouse, now called the William J. Brennan Courthouse, opened in 1910. The Superior Court - Hudson Vicinage, Criminal, and Family Courts, were relocated to the Hudson County Administration Building in 1957, leaving the Beaux-Arts granite neighbor largely abandoned. Since restored, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and rededicated, the William J. Brennan Courthouse now houses approximately 80% of the Civil Courts, three Appellate Courts, and several administrative functions including the County Executive’s offices.

The Hudson County Administration Building at 595 Newark Avenue, though relieved of some functions, continues to be inadequate to serve the needs of the Hudson County Vicinage and does not meet current court standards defined in the New Jersey Courthouse Facility Guidelines (2009). Since the 1980s, numerous studies have determined that the Hudson County Administration Building is inadequate and overburdened, all concluding that the building should be replaced and that it would be "enormously expensive" to address the security, electrical, and asbestos problems.

Hudson County Admin. Building
"The entire infrastructure is essentially kept alive with Band-Aids."
Assignment Judge Peter Bariso Jr.

A 1988 "Court Facilities Needs" study by the National Center for State Courts found:

  • The Administration Building is "functionally unsatisfactory in terms of circulation, structural and environmental systems for the general, judicial and ancillary functions of a court building"
  • "most...functional areas were rated unsatisfactory in terms of security control, private access and use, and control of light, sound, temperature and atmosphere. It would be enormously expensive to remedy the building's security problems, inadequate electrical wiring and asbestos problems. A more sensible approach would be an entirely new building in order to meet the functional needs of the court."
  • "The Administration Building's heating and ventilation system is unable to meet the needs of the building. Some rooms have been rendered unusable at times due to extreme temperatures."
  • From 1991-1993, the Freeholder Board commissioned a "Hudson County Government Center Master Plan and Space Requirements Program" which found:

    "The County Administration Building is past its prime and is in deteriorating condition requiring constant and costly repair by the County. In addition, it is of an antiquated design not compatible with modern government use. The building is large, but has an inappropriate physical layout providing less than effective work space and circulation. The various functional deficiencies, as well as mechanical/electrical and other system deficiencies of the facility have been well documented over the years in several major evaluations and reports initiated by the County. If the building it to be retained and substantially renovated for future expansion needs it must by law be upgraded. In order to upgrade the building to a level of modern acceptability as a government work space, it must be entirely gutted and rebuilt from the existing structure out. The cost of such an extensive renovation is prohibitive and the resulting modernized building would still possess a seriously deficient functional layout. The Planners are recommending that this building be replaced."

    Since the building has a single central corridor, it lacks basic separation of the public, judges, victims of crimes, witnesses in trials, undercover officers, and defendants, who frequently cross paths outside of the courtrooms. Courtroom functions have inefficient space and configurations, which are not suited to deliver modern court services. Administrative areas are not configured efficiently or in compliance with the applicable New Jersey Courthouse Facility Guideline standards.

    Project Benefits

    In addition to addressing the security, safety, and environmental challenges with the existing facilities, the project will provide key benefits to the neighborhood including traffic flow improvements, an opportunity for new open space, and supporting the neighborhood's revitalization.

    Central Ave Extension

    Improved Traffic Flow

    Traffic Circulation Improvements

    Central Avenue will be reconnected between Hoboken and Newark Avenue. Oakland Avenue, currently a one-way street, will be widened and upgraded to a two-way street. The reconfigured street network will improve traffic flow through the neighborhood and facilitate access to the Journal Square Transportation Center.

    New businesses

    Revitalization

    Neighborhood Revitalization

    The transformation and modernization of the Hudson County Justice Complex is planned as a catalyst for the revitalization of the Journal Square community. By serving as an anchor for the neighborhood, the Justice Complex will help attract new merchants to Newark Avenue and the surrounding area and help catalyze the transformation of Journal Square.

    Public park

    Open Space

    Public Park

    Through a partnership with Jersey City, the removal of the vacated structure at 595 Newark Avenue will allow for the construction of a public park. After the Hudson County Administration Building offices have been relocated to the new facility, Jersey City will pay for the demolition and removal of the vacated structure.

    Project Site & Overview

    Project Site
    ➊ = William J. Brennan Courthouse
    ➋ = Hudson County Administration Building

    The new Honorable Frank J Guarini Justice Complex (red area) will be bounded by Newark Ave, Oakland Ave, Rt 139, and a new 2-way Central Avenue extension that will be constructed between Hoboken Ave and Newark Ave. Cook Street will be removed. The Project Site will cut through Hoboken Avenue to include the parking lot to the north. Additionally, Oakland Avenue will be widened to accommodate two-way traffic.

    The new Justice Complex will house 24 Courtrooms (2 Civil, 10 Criminal, and 12 Family), Hearing and Mediation Rooms, Grand Jury, and Jury Assembly spaces. Courts Administration, the Hudson County Prosecutor, the Surrogate, and the Sheriff’s Department will also have office space in the building. Amenities will include a 75-seat public cafeteria, a self-help law library, a children’s play area, and training spaces for staff.

    High-traffic elements, such as the Jury Assembly, are clustered together on the Ground Level. The Family Court occupies Level 3, the Criminal Court occupies Level 2, and the supporting Administrative Offices are located above on Level 4. The Ground Level and Court floors are designed so that all public circulation and programs are oriented along the new Central Avenue Extension. Private functions, such as the judge’s chambers and the jury deliberation spaces, are located on the south side of the Court floors and are completely separate from the General Public.

    Courtrooms and the holding areas that support them will be sandwiched between the public and private zones. By design, the public, judges, and defendants will only meet within courtrooms themselves. Defendants will be delivered to courtrooms by way of a secure Sally Port, a central holding area located below grade, dedicated elevators, and holding areas adjacent to their assigned courtrooms.

    Project Renderings

    Slide 1
    View from Newark Avenue & Central Avenue
    Slide 2
    Public Entrance on Central Avenue
    Slide 4
    Judge's Chambers and Staff Entrance on Oakland Avenue
    Slide 3
    Public Entrance on Central Avenue
    Slide 5
    Future Parkland on Former Hudson County Administration Building Site

    Traffic Circulation Improvements

    Roadway work that will provide circulation improvements to the area will occur first in preparation for the construction of the new Hudson County Courthouse Complex. The reconfigured street network will improve traffic flow through the neighborhood, reduce bottlenecks, and facilitate access to the Journal Square Transportation Center.

    Existing Site
    Existing Site

    The existing street network results in significant traffic congestion.

    Central Ave Extension
    Central Ave Extension

    Central Avenue will be reconnected by the two-way Central Avenue Extension Project.

    Oakland Ave Widening
    Oakland Ave Widening

    Oakland Avenue will be widened from a one-way street to a two-way street with parking on one side.

    Cook and Hoboken Closures
    Cook and Hoboken Closures

    Cook Street and Hoboken Avenue between Oakland Avenue and Central Avenue will be closed.

    Project Schedule

    Construction of the Justice Complex will require a phased approach to ensure continuity of government functions and services to the community.

    Site Clearance and Road Upgrades, 2018-2020

    Phase 1 of the Master Plan sets the stage for transformative work to follow. Central Avenue, currently interrupted between Hoboken and Newark Avenues, will be reconnected by the Central Avenue Extension Project. Cook Street will be closed and absorbed into the project site of the Justice Complex. Oakland Avenue, a one-way street which varies in width from 20-25 feet, will be widened to 40 feet and upgraded to a two-way street. Hoboken Avenue be closed between Oakland and Central Avenues to allow the proposed Courthouse and parking structure to share a single uninterrupted lot.

    ➊ = Parking site
    ➋ = Courthouse site
    ➌ = Central Avenue Extension
    ➍ = Cook Street Closure
    ➎ = Oakland Avenue Widening
    ➏ = Vacation of Hoboken Avenue

    Renovation to Brennan Courthouse, 2020-2021

    Phase 2 consists of a partial renovation of the six-story William J. Brennan Courthouse. The 10,000 GSF Surrogate’s Office will move into swing space in anticipation of a new home in the Honorable Frank J. Guarini Justice Complex, and a 4,800 GSF space on Level 1 will be renovated for Civil Division administrative use. A 9,600 GSF space on Level 3 will be renovated to include two new Civil Courtrooms and chambers.

    ➊ = William J. Brennan Courthouse

    Justice Complex, 2020-2023

    Phase 3 includes the construction of the new Honorable Frank J. Guarini Justice Complex. At approximately 405,000 GSF, this building will replace courts facilities currently located at 595 Newark Avenue. In addition, this phase will include the construction of a new parking structure (450 spaces) for courthouse staff.

    ➊ = Parking Garage (450+ cars)
    ➋ = Justice Complex

    Justice Complex Public Park, 2024-Completion

    Phase 4 will include the removal of the vacated structure at 595 Newark Avenue and creation of a generous green space by the city of Jersey City. The new public park will be bound by the Brennan Courthouse to the Southeast, the Guarini Courts Complex to the Northeast, and Central Avenue.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why must we build a new Courthouse?
    Due to the inadequate conditions of the current Hudson County court facilities as initially set forth in a study commissioned by the Board of Freeholders in 1988, the Hudson County Assignment Judge had indicated that, unless steps were immediately undertaken by the County to address these conditions, he would seek permission from the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court to initiate legal proceedings against the County compelling the construction of a new courthouse. Had that occurred the County would have lost the ability to control both the size and the cost for the facility. As the result of the cooperation received from the Assignment Judge, the County was able to develop a proposal regarding a new facility that was acceptable to the Judiciary yet at a cost that the County believed to be fiscally prudent.
    Why didn’t we renovate the existing courthouse?
    The existing building at 595 Newark Avenue was constructed in 1957 and deemed obsolete in 1980. The layout of the facility does not conform to the NJ Courthouse Facility Guidelines (c.2009).
    Did we consider other options instead of building a new structure?
    The project team and stakeholders considered a renovation of 595 Newark, adaptive reuse of 2 Journal Square, and new construction. Following analysis and discussion with stakeholders, it was determined that new construction was the only feasible option to ensure compliance with the NJ Courthouse Facility Guidelines and ensure continued, uninterrupted use of the existing court facilities during construction.
    Why is the courthouse being built at this location?
    The current property is owned by the County of Hudson which allows for the current Courthouse to remain in service while the new Justice Complex gets constructed and is adjacent to the William J. Brennan Courthouse housing Civil Courts.
    Why was it necessary for the County to acquire all the land for the courthouse?
    To allow for the new Justice Complex to be constructed. Some of the property has been donated to the County by Congressman Frank J. Guarini.
    Why is Cook Street being vacated?
    To improve traffic circulation and to allow for the new Justice Complex to be constructed.
    What is going to happen on Central and Oakland Avenues?
    Central Avenue will be extended from Newark Avenue to Hoboken Avenue and Oakland will be widened to facilitate two-way traffic to simplify traffic movements in the area.
    Why was the courthouse designed with this configuration compared to other courthouse designs?
    The courthouse was designed to facilitate use by the public and to ensure security of all visitors. Public functions and high-volume courtrooms are located at Ground Level. Criminal Court and Family Court functions are located one and two levels above grade, respectively, to simplify access and make the building easy to navigate. Private administrative functions are located in the upper two floors, away from public access.
    Why are Courthouses expensive to build?
    To function appropriately, courthouses require rooms with high ceilings and limited interior columns, robust interior finishes capable of standing up to public use, and reinforced perimeters to defend against security threats. These factors lead to construction costs that are higher than a general office or residential building.
    Why is the main entrance to the courthouse on Central Ave?
    The main entrance has been located on Central Avenue to allow visitors to enter at the ‘center’ of the building to reduce walking distance inside the building. Central Avenue is the public entrance to the facility while Oakland Avenue will accommodate defendant and administrative access to the facility.
    What is the purpose of setting back the building?
    The building has been set back from the property line to ensure that the facility can be protected from security threats.
    Why was this design chosen?
    The design was chosen because it provides a secure and functionally efficient building for the lowest capital investment.
    What are the benefits of this design?
    The benefits of the design allow for large open floor plans with minimum column locations and open lines of sight in courtrooms.
    How much is the courthouse expected to cost and why?
    It is estimated to cost $300M to $320M.
    Did the County purchase all the property or was some of it donated?
    Some of the property has been donated to the County by Congressman Frank J. Guarini.
    What will happen to the present courthouse?
    The City of Jersey City has agreed to demolish the building and construct a park in the area where the courthouse presently stands after the occupants are relocated into the new courthouse.
    Will the Brennan Courthouse remain part of the Judicial complex?
    Yes, it will house all ten (10) of the civil courtrooms for the Hudson Vicinage.
    Will the Brennan Courthouse be upgraded to accommodate the needs of the courts?
    Yes, it is currently undergoing interior renovations to allow for (2) two more Civil Courtrooms making a total of (10) ten Civil Courtrooms.
    Does the County intend to provide a parking facility?
    Yes - for assigned jurors, county employees, and court employees.
    Who will occupy the new courthouse?
    Criminal and Family Courts, Landlord Tenant Court, Administrative Offices for the Courts, the Surrogate, County Sheriff, County Prosecutor, and county maintenance personnel.
    Will there be an option to park a bicycle for those choosing this mode of transportation?
    Yes, bicycle racks are proposed to be installed.
    Why is it important to address the circulation surrounding the site of the new Courthouse?
    Connecting Central Avenue at Newark Avenue and Hoboken Avenue to make it one continuous street as well as the widening of Oakland Avenue to permit two-way traffic will improve traffic circulation around the area.
    How can I learn about project updates?
    Click here to sign up for project updates via email. News updates will also be posted here.
    What is the timeline for groundbreaking on the new courthouse?
    Groundbreaking is presently scheduled for the Summer of 2020.
    How long will construction of the new courthouse take?
    Construction is presently expected to take approximately 42 months.
    Will the historic Brennan Courthouse be demolished?
    No. The landmark structure will be partially renovated to include two new Civil Courtrooms as well as offices for the Civil Division.