Ground is broken for new Sussex Family Court

Construction of $115 million building and garage in downtown Georgetown will be completed in 2024
July 1, 2022

Story Location:
Market Street
Race Street
Georgetown, DE 19947
United States

The long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony took place June 28 in downtown Georgetown on the site of what will be the new Sussex County Family Court building at the corner of Race and Market streets, across from the Sussex County Courthouse.

“This is a great day for the Family Court of the State of Delaware and the citizens of Sussex County who access the court. This new building will provide a safe, dignified and appropriately spaced courthouse for our employees and litigants,” said Delaware Family Court Chief Judge Michael Newell. “This new courthouse reflects our continued commitment to provide fair, efficient and equal access to justice to Delaware families.”

“State workers in each branch of government work hard every day, and they deserve to go to work in facilities where they can do their jobs well,” said Gov. John Carney. “That’s why we’ve made it a priority to include in our budget funding for a secure and modern Sussex County Family Courthouse. Thank you to Chief Judge Newell for leading this effort, and to everyone involved in this project that will better serve Delaware families.”

The new $115 million, 107,800-square-foot courthouse will replace an outdated 30,000-square-foot building not far away on The Circle in Georgetown that was built in 1988.

Studies dating back decades showed the existing facility was unsafe by modern court standards and caused issues for litigants and court staff. Among other issues, the waiting areas and courtrooms in the current courthouse do not allow for adequate and appropriate distance between litigants, and court staff have to share elevators and hallways with detainees, rather than each having their own secure areas.

“We are grateful for the support from the governor and the General Assembly for the new Family Court facilities which are so urgently needed,” said Collins Seitz, chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.

The Delaware Judiciary made it a priority to keep the courthouse in downtown Georgetown as part of its ongoing commitment to keep city and town centers in Delaware thriving. Furthermore, the Delaware Judiciary worked with Georgetown on design elements of the building to ensure it met community standards and blended in with the historic nature of the town.

The new facility will have more courtrooms – eight as opposed to the current six – and those courtrooms will be more than twice the size of the existing courtrooms: from 1,400 to 1,800 square feet in the new building versus an average of 600 square feet in the existing courthouse. The additional courtrooms will allow Family Court to better handle the volume of cases in Sussex County, which has nearly doubled since the existing Family Court courthouse opened in 1988.

The new building will also have additional space for the Department of Justice, Office of Defense Services, Office of the Child Advocate and other court system partners, and a 300-car parking garage.

Other speakers at the groundbreaking included Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, a member of the Judicial Construction Oversight Committee; Georgetown Mayor Bill West; and Family Court Judge Peter Jones.

The ceremony concluded with a presentation by building architect William J. Lenihan of Tevebaugh Architecture and Bud Grove, a senior vice president of Wohlsen Construction, which will carry out the construction.

Construction is expected to begin in the fall and be completed in late 2024. The first phase of the project includes demolition of several buildings along South Race Street and East Market Street.

The existing Family Court building will revert to the control of state facilities management.


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