Polk County Courts

Des Moines, Iowa
  • Client
    Polk County
  • SQ. FT.
    406,260
  • Budget
    $81,000,000
  • Market
  • Year
    2016-2020

In 2010, the local community voted to approve a referendum intended to address the existing overcrowded court system, building deficiencies, improve courthouse safety, and reduce the county’s reliance on leased property for court-related functions. OPN worked with Polk County to determine the viability of pursuing renovations which would result in a consolidated, county-owned, centralized, three-building District Court complex that will meet the needs of a judicial district for the next 30-plus years.

Now complete, the multi-phase Fifth Judicial District Master Plan ultimately realized three major projects:

Polk County Justice Center | 2016

A renovation of a former department store located in the heart of downtown Des Moines. The new Justice Center is home to the County Attorney’s offices, juvenile court services, and 15 courtrooms, including: traffic, small claims, and juvenile courts, all with secure circulation. High activity spaces were strategically placed at the lower levels, and quieter functions above.

Polk County Criminal Courts | 2019

The new Criminal Courts Facility transformed from an old 8-story County Jail. The building contains 6 high-volume courts and 4 criminal jury courtrooms, with the flexibility to add 5 more in the future. The building functions with entirely separate and clear delineation between public, staff, and detainee spaces.

Polk County Historic Courthouse | 2017, 2020

Renovations at the historic courthouse occurred in two phases. The first phase (2017) focused on revitalizing exterior limestone and metal. Phase 2 (2020) involved interior rehabilitation to bring the building back to it’s original grandeur.

Use of Indiana limestone, glass curtain walls, and zinc cladding at exteriors unify the urban courts exteriors and create a cohesive civic campus. These projects revitalized three underutilized, under-served buildings in an important re-developing area of downtown Des Moines. The courts are now accessible, transparent in their function, navigable, and welcoming.

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