The opening of the city’s new courthouse is set for next month.
The new consolidated Thunder Bay Courthouse, after facing a series of delays to its opening, is scheduled to be completely operational on April 14, according to the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The opening of the new facility is being eagerly anticipated by members of the city’s legal community, some of whom have waited more than 20 years for a consolidated building.
“I think our members are generally excited about finally getting into the new institution,” said Thunder Bay Law Association president Chris Hacio on Friday.
Bringing together the two levels of court means lawyers who practice at both courthouses won’t have to rush to different ends of town for proceedings.
Interview, settlement and mediation rooms that were not available at the old courthouses allow lawyers to provide improved services to clients. Previously, Hacio said lawyers would sometimes be forced to hold client meetings in hallways.
The transition will begin during the first weekend of April, when the Superior Court of Justice will shift from Camelot Street to the new building.
The Ontario Court of Justice will follow suit the next weekend, moving from the Arthur Street courthouse.
The announced opening date is months behind the targets set during construction.
Initially, the courthouse was scheduled to open in the fall of last year. It was then pushed back to early this year and is now set for April.
While Hacio said the province was forthcoming about when to expect the move, the uncertainty was still a little troublesome.
“It has created some scheduling problems because people have trials, motions and other criminal type proceedings and it makes it difficult when you don’t know where those hearings will be held,” Hacio said.
Lydia Stam, past president of the Thunder Bay Law Association, said that while she doesn’t anticipate significant problems arising from the move she wouldn’t be surprised if some do come up.
It can’t be taken for granted that amalgamating two facilities into one is going to be seamless, especially for staff working in the new building.
“I think for the staff of the courthouse there is going to be a lot of major changes and that it’s going to be difficult,” she said. “It’s going to be more difficult for them to support us initially until everything’s organized and begins to flow.”
One issue that has been continually highlighted is the lack of parking space available at the downtown south core site.
Hacio said his members are looking for an additional 15 to 20 spaces and is also concerned about members of the public being late for court appearances due to difficulty finding a spot.
He added he is in communication with the Thunder Bay Parking Authority to see if there are any potential solutions.
Stam said while parking issues have been highlighted at the new consolidated facility, it is worth noting that it can be a struggling finding a spot at the Superior Court.
Based on the small size of the lot and area restrictions, it’s not uncommon to have to walk a fair distance to get to the building.
The legal community is already beginning to prepare for the move. Lawyers are being contacted and reminded to remove all personal belongings, such as gowns, from the existing courthouses so nothing is lost or left behind.