The Centre County government held an opening ceremony for the Temple Court Building on Friday and offered the public an opportunity to tour the facility.
The ceremony marks the end of a project that started in 2012 when the county purchased the four-story, 34,000 square-foot building for about $450,000. The renovated Temple Court Building, which adjoins the Centre County Courthouse Annex, was redesigned to maintain the historical aesthetics of the downtown area required by the Bellefonte Historic Architecture Review Board.
Centre County Board of Commissioners chairman Michael Pipe and commissioner Steve Dershem served on the three-member board in 2012. Former commissioner Chris Exarchos was the third member of the board. Dershem said the success of the project took efforts from people all throughout county government, but he credited Exarchos’s vision for the building as the catalyst.
“I remember being across the street. Chris and I were there, he pointed to the then Mid-State Bank Building and said, ‘There’s your next court facility’,” Dershem said. “I thought that’s pretty ambitious, that’s a pretty aggressive thought to have there, but as life and time presented itself, it’s a reality.”
A few months after the county purchased the building, a fire severely damaged the Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre, which adjoined the Temple Court and Courthouse Annex buildings. The fire-damaged buildings were removed in 2014. Exarchos said because of the empty land, the county was able to acquire a 10-foot parcel of land, which allowed for the construction of a corridor joining the Temple Court and Courthouse Annex buildings.
The Temple Court Building was constructed in 1894, which required the county to incorporate the corridor design into the existing historic building. The corridor complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provides a secure single-entry point that allows access to both buildings.
The first two floors of the building will be home to the probation and parole offices. The district attorney’s offices will be on the third and fourth floors. Probation director Tom Backenstoe and District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said the offices in the courthouse lack the space needed to conduct business, considering the county’s growth.
Parks Miller said about 10 years ago the county was handling about 1,500 cases a year and now it handles about 3,000. She added that the courthouse office space is small and creates an unprofessional atmosphere.
“For us, it’s not just an opportunity to have a better working environment,” Parks Miller said. “It gives us the ability to feel that when someone comes into the office with the worst part of their life having happened, they will see a professional appearance. I think it means a lot to crime victims.”
The renovation’s cost is about $6.3 million. Pipe said the county paid for the project with capital funds generated by property taxes, and there was no money borrowed.
Over the next few months, the building will be filled with furniture, technology infrastructure will be installed and minor finishing carpentry will be completed. All of the offices are expected to be filled and operating by summer.