Nearly 300 attendees – socially distanced in person and via livestream – attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Will County Courthouse on Friday, October 9. The new courthouse aims to bring an open, transparent face to the justice system through an easy connection to pedestrian foot traffic, a green plaza, and a sweeping glass façade. The project broke ground in December of 2017 to replace the existing courthouse, located on an adjacent site.
The building provides 38 courtrooms for criminal, civil and family law cases, designed with users’ comfort as a priority. The courthouse also houses offices for the circuit court clerk and satellite offices for probation, states attorney and the public defender. Effective daylight harvesting, high-performance glazing, energy-efficient systems, vegetated roofs and a landscaped public plaza solidify the project’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
“This building is one of many investments by Wight in the community of Joliet, a sign of our commitment to transparency and equity through architectural design,” explains Danielle Appello, head architect for the project. “The building connects to its surrounding community and provides a new anchor for the downtown to keep growing in years to come.”
For the City of Joliet, the courthouse is an integral part of the redevelopment of the downtown area and a catalyst for its future growth. “It’s not just a beautiful building or a courthouse, but rather a symbol...that we are all created equal,” Chief Judge Richard C. Schoenstedt said in his remarks at the ceremony. “We dedicate ourselves in this courthouse to the truth, and justice will follow.”
Other speakers included Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, State Representative Larry Walsh Jr., County Board Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, County Executive Denise Winfrey, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas L. Kilbride. Members of the Lincoln-Way West Chorale performed the National Anthem, with County Board Member Pastor Herb Brooks Jr. delivering the invocation.
The city’s investment in this role for the courthouse led Wight & Company to design a building that is accessible and comfortable for all users. Modern screening technology, along with separate public, private, and prisoner internal circulation routes, maximize safety. Exterior physical barriers protect the civic plaza from unauthorized vehicle access. Additionally, the building provides rare amenities, like comfortable jury assembly room, a law library and self-help legal center, and a café that provides space for users of the building to gather and take a breather from the goings-on if necessary.
“Creating a comfortable, yet polished space for the multiple populations that use the courthouse was a top goal,” says Jason Dwyer, President of Design & Construction at Wight & Company. “We worked closely with Will County to ensure the space provides cutting-edge, well-designed facilities in a way that’s welcoming to its users and the community.”
We thank everyone in the Will County and Joliet communities for making this project possible. Learn more about how the new courthouse is promoting transparency in justice in our previous Insight, ”How Civic Architecture Can Address 21st Century Challenges.”