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A historic courthouse in Charlotte is updated and expanded by Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Government Buildings

A historic courthouse in Charlotte is updated and expanded by Robert A.M. Stern Architects

Robert A.M. Stern Architects’ design retains the original building’s look and presence.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | August 2, 2023
Jonas Courthouse and new addition in Charlotte, N.C.
The new wing for the Jonas Federal Building in Charlotte, N.C., brings a 108-year-old structure into the modern era while maintaining its architectural legacy. Image: Francis Dzikowski (OTTO)| Courtesy of RAMSA

The Charles R. Jonas Federal Building and Courthouse in Charlotte, N.C., is a historic Neo-classical edifice built in 1915. The building’s size was tripled in 1933. But more recently it has been badly in need of upgrading to 21st Century justice standards, especially in the areas of security, energy efficiency, and workspaces for support staff.
 
A Building Team that included the designer Robert A.M. Stern Architects and CGL Companies (which specializes in justice-related projects) recently completed a $164.7 million modernization and addition of an eight-story wing that accommodates nine new courtrooms, chambers, and support spaces. The new wing, which rises up behind the original building, maintains the courthouse’s Classical architectural presence along Charlotte’s skyline.

A historic courthouse in Charlotte is updated and expanded by Robert A.M. Stern Architects
The project included more access to outdoor spaces.

Unintrusive modernization of the Charles R. Jonas Federal Building and Courthouse

Charlotte-based Jenkins Peer Architects was AOR on this project, which was completed 11 months ago and had its ribbon cutting last May. fs3|Hodges was the CMa and Brasfield & Gorrie the CMc. The project added 195,719 sf, bringing the building’s total gross size to 315,685 sf. The new wing includes a top-floor Special Proceedings Courthouse and judges’ chambers. The addition is seeking LEED Gold certification.

Unintrusive modernization of the Charles R. Jonas Federal Building and Courthouse
A double-height atrium and stair hall connect the existing building to the new wing.

Inside, a distinguishing feature is how the historic and new facades meet in a double-height stair hall inserted between the two structures. A skylight provides natural light from above the interiors. Outside, RAMSA created a two-story, lighted portico that mimics the columned front of the original building.
 
“We’ve successfully updated the Jonas Courthouse for the future without compromising on what has made it a treasured part of uptown Charlotte’s architectural fabric,” said Kevin Kelly, Partner at RAMSA, in a prepared statement. “For cities across the country, it’s an example of how significant and historic civic infrastructure can be modernized in a way that maintains a distinct character and presence.”
 
This project is the result of a 2012 examination by the U.S. Courts and General Services Administration for the potential reuse of the city-owned Jonas Courthouse to meet long-term housing needs. Charlotte agreed to a property exchange that returned ownership of the Courthouse to the GSA.

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