This rendering, from a design update presented to Columbus Councilors on Oct. 10, 2023, shows the new judicial center across 10th Street from the Springer Opera House.

This rendering, from a design update presented to Columbus Councilors on Oct. 10, 2023, shows the new judicial center across 10th Street from the Springer Opera House.

Credit: Columbus Consolidated Government

Construction on Columbus’ new judicial center got the final green light from city councilors Tuesday as they committed to building the new courthouse on the north side of the existing Government Center block.

Council proceeded with that plan for the $200 million project despite objections from the Springer Opera House and other opponents.

Springer representatives objected to an eight-story building directly across 10th Street from the three-story theater. They worried that construction could damage the 1871 opera house and impede traffic.

The plan council approved Tuesday was the same one the architectural team previously presented: to renovate and reuse the central plaza and east and west wings of the current complex, preserve the three-deck underground parking garage beneath them, and build the new tower on the north side.

When the new building is finished, the courts will move there from the existing 12-story tower to the south, which will be demolished to make room for additional parking.

Here’s what the project’s to offer, for a construction budget of $192.5 million:

  • 342,000 square feet of space.
  • 18 courtrooms, with five of those unfinished “shell” courtrooms for future expansion.
  • 31 holding cells for jail inmates awaiting court.
  • 24 judicial offices. Nine elevators.
  • Around 500 parking spaces, including 188 in the underground parking deck for court staff.

Construction is set to begin in January and finish in 2027.

Councilor Glenn Davis emphasized Tuesday that the city already has invested funds in the current plan, and it cannot recoup those costs if it backtracks or starts over.

Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge said the city is “obligated” to spend approximately $13 million on the current design.

Davis said a new design now could cost up to $30 million more, with the money already spent wasted. “That money goes down the toilet,” he said.



The first steps in the project council approved Tuesday, with a price tag of $5.9 million, include traffic changes, demolishing landscaping on the block’s north side, removing ramps on the parking deck’s north side, and “mass excavation” for the new building.

New walls will be installed on the north end of the parking deck to buttress it for the adjacent excavation and construction.

A security fence soon will surround the site, and cranes and other equipment will be moved in, said Doug Kleppin, the lead architect with the SLAM Collaborative design team.

He and Henry Painter of the Gilbane Building Company gave this timeline for what’s to come:

  • Building the new center, from January 2024 to June 2026.
  • Moving court personnel from the old tower, July through August 2026.
  • Demolishing that tower, September 2026 through February 2027.
  • Completing parking lots and landscaping, March through August 2027.

Here’s how the construction’s to affect traffic flow and parking:

  • No on-street parking will be available on the south side of 10th Street, west side of Second Avenue, and east side of First Avenue.
  • First Avenue will be a one-way southbound street.
  • Second Avenue will be a one-way northbound street.

Two-way traffic on 10th Street will continue.



A portion of the $200 million voters approved for the project in November 2021 is to pay for furniture and equipment, plus fees and other expenses to finance the project.

Kleppin said the current construction budget still leaves adequate funds to cover any unexpected costs.

The original plan, when the sales tax referendum passed, was to clear the entire downtown block and put the new justice center in the middle of it.

Inflation in the price of materials put that estimate $50 million over budget, forcing the design team to rework it.

Painter has said construction material costs skyrocketed 40% between 2021 and 2022, after the COVID pandemic. The cost increases since have “flattened” to a more typical 2% per year, he said.

Going back to the original plan could cost $50 million more plus 4% growth in material costs over two years, he said.

City administrators did not immediately disclose the new redesign to the public, first holding private briefings with judges and others who will use the building. Council was not shown the updated plan until its Sept. 12 meeting.

That drew immediate opposition from the Springer, which joined in a petition drive asking city leaders to postpone the project and come up with a more acceptable alternative.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Ledger-Inquirer.