SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 22, 2013

Salem Probate Court project to start next year

SALEM — The $60 million renovation of the Salem Family and Probate Court building is set to begin next year.

Design plans for the long-stalled project were discussed at a meeting this week between state and local officials.

“The project is absolutely moving forward and going to happen,” said state Rep. John Keenan, who attended the meeting Tuesday at the J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center.

The state expects to begin “early construction activity” in March and get into full swing by the fall of 2014, according to a spokesman at the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance.

State officials said they plan to move Probate Court employees over to Shetland Park for a construction project that will take more than two years, according to several people who attended the meeting.

The fate of Probate Court, which is located next to the new state courthouse on Federal Street, is important because it sets off a game of musical chairs involving a state agency and two former and vacant court buildings — the Superior Court/County Commissioners building on Federal Street and the nearby District Court property on Washington Street.

The court properties are linked in several ways, not the least of which is the furnace in Probate Court, which also heats the vacant Superior Court building.

State Sen. Joan Lovely and Keenan have filed legislation to transfer Superior Court and District Court to the Salem Redevelopment Authority, which a few years ago successfully developed another former state property — the old Salem Jail.

However, Secretary of State William Galvin has raised concerns because of his interest in moving the Southern Essex Registry of Deeds to the District Court building or another public space. The registry moved into Shetland Park more than five years ago when construction began on the new courthouse.

“I don’t believe public services like this ... should be in private space,” Galvin said. “It’s very expensive.”

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