Lake County officials tour new court tower, Nixon pedestrian bridge

  • Lorena Hernandez shows off one of the new courtrooms with retired judge Wallace Dunn during a tour of the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story courthouse features 12 new courtrooms to help reduce congestion in the old court facility.

      Lorena Hernandez shows off one of the new courtrooms with retired judge Wallace Dunn during a tour of the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story courthouse features 12 new courtrooms to help reduce congestion in the old court facility. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story building features 12 new courtrooms.

      Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story building features 12 new courtrooms. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • The new Lake County court tower in Waukegan. The 8-story courthouse will primarily house felony courtrooms.

      The new Lake County court tower in Waukegan. The 8-story courthouse will primarily house felony courtrooms. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Visitors get a glimpse of a new courtroom Tuesday during tours of the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan. The new 8-story building, which will open to the public July 30, features 12 new courtrooms to help reduce congestion in the old court facility.

      Visitors get a glimpse of a new courtroom Tuesday during tours of the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan. The new 8-story building, which will open to the public July 30, features 12 new courtrooms to help reduce congestion in the old court facility. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Lake County Chief Judge Jay W. Ukena talks to a crowd during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story courthouse is set to open to the public July 30.

      Lake County Chief Judge Jay W. Ukena talks to a crowd during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story courthouse is set to open to the public July 30. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • The bridge between the two courthouses was named the Audrey H. Nixon Pedestrian Bridge during Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan.

      The bridge between the two courthouses was named the Audrey H. Nixon Pedestrian Bridge during Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • State Sen. Terry Link points to Lake Michigan through the large windows during a tour of the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story courthouse features 12 new courtrooms to help reduce congestion in the old court facility.

      State Sen. Terry Link points to Lake Michigan through the large windows during a tour of the new Lake County court tower in Waukegan on Tuesday. The new 8-story courthouse features 12 new courtrooms to help reduce congestion in the old court facility. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

Calling late Lake County Board member Audrey Nixon an inspirational "bridge between the divided," county leaders dedicated a pedestrian bridge in her honor Tuesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new court tower in Waukegan.

"I know my friend Audrey Nixon is smiling down on us and beaming with pride," said Lake County Board member Mary Ross Cunningham, who represents District 9 serving portions of Waukegan and North Chicago.

A memorial on the bridge that connects the old courthouse and the new $110 million court tower at 301 Washington St. features a photo of Nixon and the words, "Bridges divide. We can accomplish so much by working together."

Nixon, 81, died in her North Chicago home in April 2017. She was the longest-serving board member at the time of her death, having first been elected in 1982. Her 14th District includes neighborhoods in North Chicago, Park City, Waukegan and Gurnee.

The dedication of the Audrey H. Nixon Pedestrian Bridge marks the first time elected officials were allowed to tour the new 200,000-square-foot tower building that houses 12 courtrooms, a jury assembly area, various administrative service areas and room for future court expansions. It is expected to open to the public July 30.

The 8-story tower is the tallest building in Waukegan, despite being two floors shorter than the old courthouse and administrative building across the street, said Danny Davis, 19th Judicial Circuit Court executive director. It's taller ceilings push the building's height to 170 feet, he said.

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The new facility will primarily house felony courtrooms, Davis said. Bond court will be in the tower until renovations on the existing bond court can be completed in one year, he said.

Felony criminal courts will essentially be shut down for one week starting July 23 to move the courtrooms and judges to the new tower, Davis said.

Bond and arraignment courts will remain open on a limited basis between July 23 and July 30 in case the courtrooms are needed, Davis said. The current courthouse will remain in operation and will house family, misdemeanor criminal and civil courts.

The county board approved building the court expansion project in 2012.

"I just want to thank everyone who made this important day possible," said Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, who spoke during the ceremony.

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