New Brunswick

New Fredericton courthouse will be built attached to old Centennial Building

The Gallant government will spend $76 million to renovate the landmark Centennial Building in downtown Fredericton, including the addition of a new courthouse.

Province will spend $76M on renovating Centennial Building in downtown Fredericton and adding new courthouse

The Centennial Building in Fredericton will lose this wing in a renovation project that will give the Court of Queen's Bench, Court of Appeal and provincial court five storeys of their own. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The Gallant government will spend $76 million to renovate the landmark Centennial Building in downtown Fredericton, including the addition of a new courthouse.

The province will demolish the back wing of the building, pointing toward Brunswick Street, where a new five-storey courthouse will be attached to the remaining wings of Centennial.

It will house the provincial court rooms, Court of Queen's Bench and New Brunswick Court of Appeal, all of which are now in the aging Justice Building on Queen Street.
Premier Brian Gallant and Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien, right, show off sketches for the planned renovation of the Centennial Building.

Attaching the new 8,360-square-metre courthouse to the Centennial Building is expected to save as much as $20 million compared to the cost of a stand-alone building.

Premier Brian Gallant told reporters the province was facing two decisions: whether to demolish Centennial and whether to replace the courthouse.

"These decisions came to us, on our plate, at the same time, so we looked for the most efficient to try to deal with both situations," he said. "We think this is a positive solution to both those challenges."

The project is expected to be finished in 2021. Gallant said it's expected to create the equivalent of 800 jobs during construction.
Fredericton's justice building is currently located on Queen Street. (CBC)

Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau welcomed the announcement.

He said the current building doesn't have enough space for simultaneous translation in Court of Appeal hearings, doesn't have enough Court of Queen's Bench courtrooms, and relegates provincial court to the basement, where there are no windows.

"I've been chief justice for 14 years, I've seen four premiers during that time, and I've argued with them for a new courthouse since my appointment," he said.

A $76 million renovation of the Centennial Building will include the addition of a five-storey courthouse. (Jacques Poitras, CBC)
"They listened carefully, they were supportive, but this is the first premier to take concrete action, and we're very grateful for this decision by the government."

The court building will share some facilities with Centennial but will have separate security features have become standard in other courts in New Brunswick.

The large black 22,300-square-metre Centennial Building opened in 1967 and was designed to hold all government offices that existed at the time.

But the building has reached the end of its natural lifespan, with electrical and ventilation systems becoming more expensive to maintain.

In 2013, the provincial government moved many Centennial Building offices into the new Chancery Place building across the street.

A view of the construction site that became the Centennial Building in the 1960s. (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)
Auditor General Kim MacPherson criticized the government in 2015 for not making a decision quickly on whether to refurbish or demolish the Centennial Building, which was two-thirds empty at the time. 

Officials said Wednesday all government offices have now moved, and the last occupant, a community health centre, will relocate within the next three weeks.

When the two refurbished wings of Centennial reopen in 2021, government offices now in other buildings will move there. Those remaining wings have 10,200 square metres of space.

That will include some departments now using private, leased office space around Fredericton, creating a potential cost-saving for the province.

Six murals created in 1967 for the lobbies on the six floors of the Centennial Building will be preserved as part of the refurbishment.

Auditor General Kim MacPherson criticized the government in 2015 for not making a decision quickly on whether to refurbish or demolish the Centennial Building. (CBC)
They are by artists John Hooper, Claude Roussel, Bruno Bobak, Jack Humphrey, Tom Forrestall and Fred Ross.

Fredericton architect and author John Leroux, who has written a book about the murals, called them "really a cultural gem. … It's good that they realized the importance of these. It's part of the whole package."

The Centennial Building's design is often mocked, but it is "without question one of the most important 20th-century buildings in New Brunswick," Leroux said. "It's hard for a lot of people to see that, but it is. And now it's going to be one of the most important 21st-century buildings."

This archive story looks back to summer 1980 when civil servants were ushered out of the Centennial Building after high levels of asbestos were found. 4:12

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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