Thursday, January 23, 2020

Essex County Unveils Plans for New 150,000 Government Office Building

New Jersey’s Essex County is advancing plans to construct a 150,000-square-foot office building at its government complex in downtown Newark, the county seat.

The development is part of a series of updates and expansions that Essex County is making to its properties in New Jersey's largest city, which has also seen a surge in the private real estate development of both office and multifamily buildings.

The latest project is slated for what is now a jurors' parking lot on the south side of the Essex County Hall of Records center. The planned building, with its front entrance to face Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, is expected to house 11 courtrooms for tax court and space for the county clerk, board of elections, superintendent of elections, surrogate's office and board of taxation, according to a statement from Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr.

Plans for the new building also include cafeteria space large enough to accommodate the entire complex and would replace the current cafe on the Hall of Records' third floor. A pedestrian bridge would connect the new building to the records hall.

County officials outlined details of their plans for the development Wednesday at a news conference that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy attended. At the event, DiVincenzo said he's proposing to name the building the Essex County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Building in honor of the legendary civil rights leader.

The county has awarded Comito and Associates a $2.3 million professional services contract to design the building. A resolution to award a publicly bid construction contract is on the agenda for an Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting on Feb. 26.

The county is funding the project, scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2021, through its capital budget. The Essex County Department of Public Works will monitor the construction.

"Many of the visitors who come to the Hall or Records to conduct business or search for records have a difficult time navigating our hallways and finding the offices they need," DiVincenzo said in a statement. "When the Superior Court was looking for modern space, we realized this was an opportunity to create a state-of-the-art building where we could consolidate our constitutional offices and create an atmosphere that was more user-friendly. Visitors already are taking time out of their busy schedules to come to the Hall of Records; we want to make it as easy as possible to get to the office they need."

The new King building is part of a multiphase county project to provide additional office space and modern facilities at the Hall of Records complex. Right now, a 900-car deck for employee parking is under construction on West Market Street, and the renovation of two office buildings at 320-321 University Ave. is underway. That location will serve as the new headquarters for the Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits. Both projects are expected to be completed this year.

Essex County dedicated an 8-foot bronze statue of King and named a plaza after him in 2015. That original statue will be incorporated into the proposed building. In addition, a new 16-foot bronze statue of King will be commissioned and placed at the front entrance to the planned building on King Boulevard.

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