Behind the red fence on Route 1, Elm Street, in Biddeford, work has commenced on the new York Judicial Center. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — Motorists driving by 511-515 Elm Street on Route 1 will see a big red fence there these days. Behind the fencing, huge pieces of heavy equipment have moved mounds of earth, and there are other signs of construction.

The long-anticipated York Judicial Center project has begun. Workers have been on the site for about seven weeks, said Philip Johnston, the state’s representative on the project.

Johnston said the first pour for the foundation footings took place the week of Dec. 14, and the second, the week that began Dec. 21.

After the footings, he said, the foundation walls will be constructed, and so on. The building will be 115,000 square feet and encompass a 34,000 square foot footprint.

Julia Finn of the Maine Judicial Branch said work is progressing.

Foundation work is beginning at the site of the York Judicial Center on Route 1 Biddeford. The new consolidated court building is scheduled to open in the spring of 2023. Tammy Wells Photo

“We continue to work with the architect on finalizing the interior features of the building,” she said in an email.

Consigli, which has offices in seven states, including Maine, is the contractor for the project. The company has prior courthouse experience in Maine, including the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta and the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

Johnston said the winter weather is not likely to hamper construction, except for the time it would take for any snow removal.

“Over all, the project is going as anticipated,” Johnston said.

The building is expected to be mostly complete by February 2023, with a view to opening that spring.

The York Judicial Center has been a long time coming. In 2016, the Maine Legislature passed a bill sponsored by former Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, that budgeted $65 million for a new court house in York County. Later that year, a court site selection commission chose the Elm Street site as the location for the new courthouse from an original slate of 27 possibilities.

Work on the new building began after the state secured the necessary permits from the city of Biddeford, following the City Council’s July vote on a contract zone for the project. A contract was required to build the structure at 511-515 Elm St., on property formerly owned by the city, because at 68.5 feet, it exceeds by nearly twice the 35-foot maximum height allowed in the zone.

The city sold the property to the Maine Governmental Facility Authority in 2017 for $810,000.

The new building consolidates and replaces the three Maine district courts operating in Biddeford, Springvale and York, and the York County Superior Court, which sits in the county-owned courthouse in Alfred. The consolidation is aimed at creating efficiencies in the states court system.

The stately York County Court House building in Alfred, which contains the county Registries of Probate and Deeds, the York County Probate Court, The York County District Attorney’s Office and other county-related functions, will remain open.

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