Nevada County is looking for a consultant to assess the historic Nevada County Courthouse, located in downtown Nevada City, and offer recommendations for its future re-use.
Planning now is timely as the State Judicial Council of California will build a new courthouse at a new site within city limits, with plans to open in 2028.
The County issued a formal Request for Proposals this week for a “highest and best use study” that will include public input in planning for the future of the historic building. The County owns 49 percent of the courthouse facilities with 51 percent owned by the State.
Supervisor Heidi Hall said it’s important the community has as much input as possible in determining the future use of the old courthouse.
“It is in the heart of Nevada City,” Hall said. “Ideally, it will be a beautiful economic driver that supports the needs and aesthetic of Nevada City with a new or a set of new uses located right downtown.”
Nevada City Mayor Daniela Fernandez is looking forward to the results of the study.
“This study is an important first step in determining the future of our courthouse,” Fernandez said. “We appreciate collaborating with the County in envisioning how to maintain our downtown aesthetic and replace the economic engine that the courthouse provides to our city.”
According to the Request for Proposals, possible community ideas for the courthouse that have been raised to date include affordable/workforce housing, a hotel, a school (i.e., arts college or law school), a museum or gallery, with space for municipal parking or a public park. The study will explore these and other ideas.
The study will need to assess the old courthouse building’s condition, assess its potential for development, and include re-use options preferred by the community. The study will also have to include costs associated with reuse and identify potential funding sources.
The existing courthouse is located at 201 Church Street and is a three-story, six-courtroom facility. It was constructed in 1864, remodeled and expanded in 1900 and 1937 (during which its current Art Moderne façade was added) and includes an annex constructed in 1964. Despite its long history and its presence in Nevada City’s historic district, the location is not listed in the California Register of Historical Resources or the National Register of Historic Places.
“As a court, the current space is considered unsafe, undersized, substandard, overcrowded, and functionally deficient,” according to the Request for Proposals. “Challenges to court operations include severe safety concerns associated with seismic deficiencies, non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, and no sprinkler system.”
Hall said she is aware that residents have strong opinions on the future of the courthouse.
“We will be working with the City and community in a robust process to gather input,” Hall said. “Everyone will get the chance to weigh in on the options for the future use of the building and site but it has to be economically viable.”
Proposals are due by January 5, 2024. Those interested in submitting proposals can contact Desiree Belding, County Deputy Purchasing Agent, at 530-265-1557 or desiree.belding@NevadaCountyCa.gov.