FRAMINGHAM – The Danforth Building in downtown Framingham will become a new regional justice center.
The City of Framingham and the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) have reached an agreement, announced Framingham Chief Operating Officer Michael Tusino Tuesday night at the Framingham City Council meeting.
Seven years ago, this month, the then Town of Framingham ordered the tenants, including Danforth Art Museum, the Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest, the Police Athletic League boxing program and the Performing Arts Center of MetroWest, out of the building by September of 2016, as the the building’s heating system was beyond repair. The museum had been at the Danforth Building since 1975. It is now located adjacent to the Framingham Centre Common.
The proposed regional justice center would not only house the Framingham district court, but the juvenile court, a veterans’ court, and a housing court under one facility.
There are two possibilities for the former Danforth Building, which has been used lately as a set for the HBO series Julia.
One demolishes the century-old building and erects a new building to serve as the court house, within walking distance to the Framingham Police Station, Framingham City Hall, and downtown Framingham.
The second option is to keep the façade of the building and renovate the interior of the Danforth Building.
DCAMM has already hired a design firm – Kallmann McKinnell & Wood – to study the options and complete the “final design for the new Framingham Regional Justice Center to be located on the site of the existing Danforth Museum Building” at 121 Union Avenue in Framingham.
The 121 Union Avenue Site shares a lot with the Framingham Public Library.
The site is also within walking distance to Framingham Police headquarters, the Memorial Building (Framingham’s City Hall), and downtown Framingham.
The study & design project cost is $4.436 million, according DCAMM.
The DCAMM website states “estimated Construction Substantial Completion Date: Spring 2024.”
The firm has constructed several courthouses, and constructed Boston City Hall.
The estimated construction cost of the regional justice center, was estimated at $59 to 74 million, by DCAMM, in November of 2022.
State Representatives Priscila Sousa and Jack Patrick Lewis are expected to file legislation to turn over the existing court house on Concord Street to the City of Framingham, once the regional justice center is constructed and operating.
Legislation is needed to gift state property to the City.
Legislation is not needed for the City to gift property (Danforth Building) to the Commonwealth.
Constructed in 1952, Framingham District Court is located on Route 126 near the Musterfields, a Framingham Housing Authority complex.
Additions and renovations occurred at the courthouse in in 1962 and 2008.
The state-owned courthouse is about 27,500 square feet of space on a one acre property.
The current Framingham courthouse currently has 3 courtrooms and a hearing courtroom.
But there are several deficiencies with the current Framingham Court House. There are security and accessibility upgrades needed.
The state also identified “holding area deficiencies, due to the age of the building, and operational issues.”
Given the condition of the building, a study was requested in 2017 to “determine critical and immediate needs.”
In 2017, the Executive Office of the Trial Court (TRC), working in collaboration with DCAMM, completed the Courts Capital Master Plan. That plan “identified Framingham District Court as one of the priorities for improvement in the first phase of implementation … for completing critical repairs,”
In the spring of 2019, the Commonwealth authorized $250,000 to the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to conduct a study.
Senate President Karen Spilka has been a driving force to get the regional justice center for Framingham.
Mayor Charlie Sisitsky has been working collaborative with the Commonwealth on this project, since he was sworn in on January 1, 2022.
“We have been working closely with the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), to develop a state of the art Regional Justice Center in Framingham. The current Framingham District Court is in a state of disrepair and desperately needs replacing. The proposal to create an 8 court Regional Justice Center at the site of the former Danforth Museum has the potential for over a $100 million investment by the State.,” said Mayor Sisitsky. “We are confident that this will spark economic development in this area of the City and this is a big step toward achieving downtown goals for the entire community. As a result of this project, we will be getting the old Court House for future development.”