Case Studies

Courthouse Planning & Design, Operational Analysis, and Activation

Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice CenterJustice Planning Associates began working with Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Ohio) and its Juvenile Justice System in 2006, and continued to assist the County through the completion and opening of the Juvenile Justice Center in 2011. Although originally regarded as a paradigm for juvenile court operations since its creation in 1901, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court had seen its physical facilities deteriorate even as the Court continued to grow in size and scope. Long considered to have some of the worst conditions for a Juvenile Court in the nation, the existing Court, with six judges, 24 magistrates, and nearly 600 employees, was housed in three overcrowded and operationally-obsolete facilities, two of which were retrofitted buildings never intended for court operations. For nearly 20 years, the Court and the County had struggled to agree upon a plan for developing a new unified Juvenile Court and Juvenile Detention facility.

JPA was brought into the project during a period of stressful relationships between the County and the Juvenile Court. Agreement had been reached to build a new 200,000 square foot Juvenile Detention Home to eventually accommodate more than 200 juveniles. A suburban site had been purchased and a design had been completed. But agreement had not been reached on the composition, size, or cost of a new juvenile courthouse; or how to build it on top of an already designed Detention Home.

JPA's initial task was to determine composition, size, and cost of a new facility, achieve consensus, and then program, and assist in the design of, the facility. During the early stages of the project, however, it became apparent that JPA would have to take a leadership role in the design process in order to create an aesthetically and operationally appropriate court facility without substantially altering the basic concept of an already-designed detention home. The result is a 400,000 square foot courthouse containing 37 courtrooms, and up to 42 judicial officers, with internal expansion capabilities (through completion of shell space, and through selective displacement of less essential functions) to support the operation of the Juvenile Court well into the middle of the 21st Century.

Working with the County’s Program Management Team, JPA took the leadership role in both the exterior and interior design of the Justice Center. The exterior design, developed with the designers of the Detention Home, had to provide an operationally and visually appropriate courthouse on top of an already-designed detention facility. The interior design of the Courthouse, developed with a separate design team, carefully balanced aesthetic issues of formality, richness, and color, with durability and long-term value. In coordination with the Program Management Team, JPA initiated a proactive value engineering process during schematic design, so that as design directions, materials, and finishes were selected, the selections could be factored into an ongoing budget. The Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center is the only new facility in the County’s memory to come in several million dollars under budget.

After completion of both design phases, JPA continued to work with the County and the Court to provide construction oversight, activation planning, and move management assistance. The new facility gives the Juvenile Court the operational consolidation that it has long required, enhances delivery of services to the public, and achieves the desired goals of appropriate image, functionality, and long-term expandability.