EVERETT — Three years and $74.8 million later, the Snohomish County Courthouse renovation project is complete.
County Executive Dave Somers and other local officials cut a ribbon Thursday to celebrate the building and its new additions.
“This is a great day for Snohomish County and our residents,” Somers said. “The previous courthouse building, built in 1967, was seismically unsafe, risking a disaster in an earthquake. The elevators were notoriously unreliable, making our residents, particularly those with disabilities, have to wait and struggle to get to any higher floors.”
In addition to sprucing up the current campus, the project included a new five-story wing and another courtroom.
The project’s cost came in about $1.8 million under its $76.6 million budget, county spokesperson Kent Patton said.
Construction broke ground in 2018, and was mostly completed in June. However, the building was mostly closed to the public due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
On July 6, the courthouse and other county buildings reopened to visitors.
Talk of replacing the courthouse began in the early 2000s.
The old building provided little space for security screening, leading to long lines under the elements. Other problems included chronic elevator break-downs, asbestos hazards and outdated plumbing. The more than 50-year-old building wasn’t up to modern earthquake standards either.
A 2008 ballot proposal would have paid to replace the building, but it was vetoed amid feuding between the county council and the executive at the time. Then the recession hit.
A few years later, county leaders revived the idea of a renovation or a new courthouse. They settled on a major overhaul estimated to cost $75 million, then switched plans to building from scratch after being told — inaccurately — that a new building wouldn’t cost much more.
During former County Executive John Lovick’s tenure, county leaders instead started pursuing a new nine-story justice building at an estimated cost of $162 million. In the summer of 2015, a split county council pulled the plug on that project a week before a scheduled groundbreaking over financial and parking concerns.
When Somers took office, he recommended the current renovation and addition plan.
In its 53 years, the courthouse has been renovated 13 times, Patton said.
When it first opened, it housed six courtrooms, the jail, health department, sheriff’s office, school district, county council, county assessor, health department, morgue, and the kitchen and laundry for the jail.
As the county’s population tripled over the next half-century, all but the courts, sheriff, and public defender’s office moved to different buildings.