The new Union County Family Justice Center sits at the corner of Rahway Avenue and Cherry Street in Elizabeth. — Courtesy: Netta Architects
By Joshua Burd
Union County officials have cut the ribbon on a new 78,000-square-foot courthouse and family justice center in Elizabeth, marking the completion of a project designed by Netta Architects.
The Mountainside-based design firm said the facility, located at Rahway Avenue and Cherry Street, aims to alleviate severe space shortfalls at the main county courthouse and provide a suitable environment to serve families and children in need and in crisis. It will be home to the Union County Superior Court Family Division, which provides adjudication and legal assistance, counseling, support and housing aid for families dealing with issues of custody, child support, paternity, adoption, foster care placement, abuse and domestic violence.
Netta Architects joined members of the judiciary, including New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, and county government officials during a recent ceremony to unveil the stone and glass facility.
“We’re here to dedicate this building because we care about helping our youth and our families in need,” Union County Freeholder Chair Bruce Bergen said.
The four-story building has six state-of-the-art courtrooms, judges’ chambers, jury deliberation rooms, attorney/client conference rooms, family waiting rooms, administrative offices and prisoner intake/holding facilities, Netta Architects said in a news release. Architectural features include a canopied entrance plaza that welcomes the visitor and into a light-filled, easy to navigate building.
The complex is highly secure while offering family-friendly amenities such as a first-floor café and a play area for young children, the firm said. Special consideration was given to the design of family waiting areas to provide comfort, natural light and views and privacy to ensure safety and reduce stress.
“Victims of domestic violence will have waiting rooms right next to the courtroom, not down the hall or upstairs,” Union County Assignment Judge Karen Cassidy said. “There will be staffed, safe waiting rooms for children.”
In a news release, Netta noted that the project dates back to 2009 and that county officials had hoped to deliver it sooner, but the process was lengthened by the need to include many Union County, court and law enforcement stakeholders,.
But the limestone-clad building is now open, extending the streetscape of Elizabeth and creating an important new public presence at the intersection. The site provides about 150 parking spaces and is within walkable distance from the train station.
The facility will also house the Union County Prosecutor’s Office of Victim Witness Advocacy, which is accessible from a second entrance.