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City and County Eying Park Land for New Courthouse Building

Brent Warren Brent Warren City and County Eying Park Land for New Courthouse BuildingDorrian Commons Park. All photos by Brent Warren.
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The City of Columbus and Franklin County announced today that they are considering building a new municipal courthouse at the southeast corner of High and Mound streets downtown. The land is currently occupied by Dorrian Commons Park and the four-story James A. Karnes Building, which holds several county agencies.

The Franklin County Municipal Court is currently housed in an 18-story building at 375 S. High St. that was dedicated in 1979. Money for a new municipal courthouse – an estimated $130 million – was allocated as part of the $1.03 billion bond package that was approved by Columbus voters last spring.

“The Franklin County Municipal Court has one of the largest dockets in the state and needs the space to best serve the people of the County,” said Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Ted Barrows in a press release. “The city and county have been working collaboratively to find the best solution.”

The release also stated that the county had originally been considering a different site for the new courthouse – an empty field at the southwest corner of Main and High streets – but now “intends to retain the site for future development.”

There is also a second empty field owned by the county, just east of Dorrian Commons Park – known as Franklin Commons – that sits on the north side of Mound Street, next to a county-owned parking lot.

Today’s announcement did not contain any information about plans for either of the under-utilized sites, or a firm plan for what will happen with the current courthouse building, beyond saying that it is likely be renovated.

The earliest that construction could start on a new courthouse would be 2022, according to the county. A request for proposals (RFP) for the design of the new building, which will be issued by the city, has not yet been posted.

The county also announced plans to name the recently-remodeled Judicial Services Building at 369 S. High St. in honor of former county commissioner Michael J. Dorrian (the namesake of Dorrian Commons Park), and the new county corrections facility at 2551 Fisher Rd. will be named for former County Sheriff James A. Karnes.

Dorrian Commons Park, which was closed and fenced off by the county in late 2018. A cast of a Henry Moore sculpture that once sat in the park was moved across High Street in 2014 to the plaza of the remodeled Hall of Justice.
This empty field at the southwest corner of Main and High streets – as seen from Front Street – was considered but rejected as a site for the new courthouse.
The James A. Karnes Building.
The current home of the Franklin County Municipal Court.
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