NEWARK, NJ - The historic Essex County Hall of Records in Newark is getting a modern companion building, county officials announced today.
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo announced that the county will build a new 150,000 square-foot office building in the juror's parking lot next to the Hall of Records.
The building will provide space for 11 courtrooms for Tax Court and modern office space for Essex County's constitutional offices, including the Clerk's Office, Board of Elections, Superintendent of Elections/Commissioner of Registration, Surrogate's Office and Board of Taxation.
"Many of the visitors who come to the Hall of Records to conduct business or search for records have a difficult time navigating our hallways and finding the offices they need," DiVincenzo said.
"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," DiVincenzo said. "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 building will be named in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The U.S. District Courthouse in Newark is also named in honor of the civil rights leader.
"Although he never was elected to office, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most dedicated public servants our country has witnessed, giving his life to help others and to promote equality and justice," DiVincenzo said.
Gov. Phil Murphy joined DiVincenzo at the announcement. Last week, DiVincenzo endorsed Murphy for a second term. Murphy is running for reelection next year.
"I can think of no better person whose name should be on this building. More than half a century after his death, people continue to be inspired by Dr. King's message and we hope they get that same feeling of confidence when they enter our King Building," he added.
"The lessons taught by Dr. King deserve to be repeated," Murphy said. "This building will be dedicated to the cause of justice and when someone enters this building to register to vote or cast a ballot, the cause of justice will be carried out. It will remind us all that our government depends on all of us doing our part."
The MLK Building will include cafeteria space that will be large enough to accommodate the entire complex and will replace the current café on the Hall of Records third floor. A pedestrian bridge will connect the new building to the Hall of Records.
The modern glass and steel building is in stark contrast to the stately 120-year-old Hall of Records, designed by Cass Gilbert. The new building was designed by Comito Associates PC, which received a professional services contract for $2.3 million.
Gregory Comito, the owner of Comito Associates, the Hall of Records and the Historic Courthouse are representative of the era they were built.
"Today, literally 100 years later, our structural systems, energy needs and building requirements are much different," Comito said. ".Steel structural systems are essential to building economics and common erection practices. Glass skins enable us to maximize daylight, enhance the quality of office life and help comply to energy requirements. Designing in a green roof and using extensive recycled building products were unheard of just a few years ago -- let alone the turn of the century -- but are what I consider mandatory today as responsible architecture, certainly in a public administration building."
However, Comito said the scale and rhythm of the two buildings are similar and in tune.
"The vertical accentuation we use is throughout the courthouse complex buildings and the scale of the new courts building on MLK Boulevard is dead-on as the the height, massing and streetscape with the setbacks and raised public plaza of the adjacent Hall of Records," Comito said.
The Essex County Department of Public Works will monitor the project to ensure delays are avoided. The building is being funded through the Essex County Capital Budget and is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2021.
The construction of the Dr. King Building is part of a multi-phase project to provide additional office space and modern working conditions at the Hall of Records Complex.
Currently under construction is a new 900-car parking deck on West Market Street which will be utilized for employee parking. Also underway is the renovation of the two office buildings at 320-321 University Avenue in Newark as the new headquarters for the Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits. Both of these projects are expected to be completed in 2020.