Justice Center, architects win design award

  • The Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Aerial view of the Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Registrar of Probate John Merrigan.  STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Judge William Mazanec in his chambers. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2019 11:29:29 PM
Modified: 10/10/2019 11:29:18 PM

GREENFIELD — The 104,00-square-foot, $66 million Franklin County Justice Center has received the American Institute of Architects New England Award for its design, and Register of Probate John Merrigan and Judge William Mazanec say they aren’t surprised.

“We worked hand-in-hand with the architects of this project and they were very accommodating and adaptive to our situation,” Mazanec said. “It doesn’t surprise me that the building won an award, because it’s a beautiful building. It’s a building that changes your thinking — it embraces Main Street’s and the community’s roots and past at the same time looking modern, letting a lot of daylight in with all the glass. It calms people down when they’re in crisis.”

Mazanec said he got an education in architecture while working with the architects, including Principal in Charge Josiah Stevenson from Leers Weinzapfel Associates in Boston.

“We used to have a building that had no windows,” Mazanec said. “That added to the stress of victims, jurors, everyone. Now, that’s not the case, and that’s a credit to the design. They found a way to think outside of the box. The building really is warm, pleasing, beautiful.

“Some of the people who come here aren’t exactly having their best day,” he said. “The design helps them get through a day that can be intimidating. Now, everyone has their own entrance — detainees, victims, families, staff. They don’t meet until they’re in the courtroom. It used to be they’d pass each other in the hallway. This was a real team effort.”

Merrigan, who also worked with architects and the contractor throughout the project, said “it’s a great building.” He said he, Mazanec and others worked hard to preserve the front of the building and some of the fixtures inside, along with some pieces of Art Deco, which are incorporated into the design. For instance, light fixtures were refurbished to “fit” the new building’s design and eagle emblems were incorporated into walls.

Stevenson said architects designed the reconstruction of the 1931 brick-facade Franklin County Courthouse, which is now called the Franklin County Justice Center, as well as the four-story glass-accented addition that stands where the original building’s southern leg and rear parking lot sat for many years.

The project took three years to complete, beginning with emptying the building in February 2014. At that time, most court functions and about 100 staff moved to 50,000 square feet in the Greenfield Corporate Center at a cost of $1.7 million a year. Construction began that April with asbestos removal and demolition of the southern leg along Hope Street.

According to the American Institute of Architects, the new Justice Center “adds significant new space and re-conceives the original building to create a coherent new whole for Greenfield’s future.”

The Justice Center includes the old front building, which houses clerical staff, and an 83,000-square-foot addition, which houses a secure new entry, six courtrooms, a law library, a secure detainee area and a jury pool room, along with a service center staffed by two lawyers who don’t give legal advice, but help visitors fill out paperwork, make sure everything is in order before someone heads to court and direct visitors to where they need to be.

Merrigan said the Justice Center is LEED Gold, with two sustainable features — overlooking the top floor is a green roof that slows the storm surge in the street that used to flood and the reuse of the old front building.

“The state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the architects and the contractor were great partners,” Merrigan said. “And, the Trial Court was very supportive. This was definitely a great team effort.”

Merrigan said the project “pushed the envelope” when it came to energy efficiency, minimal environmental impact and decreasing carbon, along with creativity.

“When the Franklin County Courthouse project began, Judge Mazanec insisted we rename the new building the Franklin County Justice Center, because more than criminals do business there,” Merrigan said. “It’s a more welcoming name.”

Stevenson said that’s what architects were going for — a welcoming, calming environment.

“We’re very honored to receive the award,” Stevenson said. “It was a challenge to build a modern building in a town that hasn’t seen a lot of change in that way — we worked with the local Historical Society to make sure we were preserving its history. It reflects democracy. It’s welcoming and transparent, and I think that’s what people see now that it’s completed.”

Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-9591, ext. 269, or afritz@recorder.com.


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