Fall River hopes new trial court the key to revitalization

Marc Munroe Dion

All of humankind's great endeavors begin, at least ceremonially speaking, with the blade of a shovel slicing into the ground.

That was the ceremony Monday afternoon on South Main Street, where a full crew of local dignitaries momentarily bent their backs to break ground for the new Fall River Trial Court.

The site is a field of gravel now, a gap that gives travelers down South Main Street a clear view of the Lizzie Borden House two blocks away.

The view did not exist until a wrecking ball took down South Main Place, the vacant, neglected urban shopping center that was Fall River's last attempt to jumpstart a downtown renaissance.

Fall River Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. said downtown benefited greatly from the "subtraction" of South Main Place.

"This is a joyous occasion in the proud city of Fall River," said the Honorable Robert A. Mulligan, Massachusetts Trial Court chief justice for administration and management.

Others agreed that the $70 million dollar project, slated to finish in two years, won't just be a new courthouse but a key to downtown's economic revitalization.

"This city is just going to be fabulous in years to come," said Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court Margaret Marshall.  "This is a tribute to all three branches of government."

The new 153,000-square-foot building will be the new home of the Bristol County Superior Court Fall River Session, Fall River District Court, and the law library and a satellite office for the Bristol County District Attorney's Office.

The new courthouse will hold nine courtrooms, office space for court personnel, holding cells and transaction areas for the public to conduct court-related business. The building will be handicapped accessible.

"This is part of our service to the people of Greater Fall River," said state Sen. Joan Menard.

"This downtown area is really in a rebirth, and this courthouse will be the keystone of that," said State Rep. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport.

State Rep. Robert Correia said he believes the site of the new courthouse represents the "best bang for the taxpayer buck," and will bring increased foot traffic and businesses to downtown Fall River.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Barbara Rouse said many court facilities in Massachusetts are old and not able to carry the loads imposed on them by criminal and civil cases. She said Fall River District Court handled 28,196 criminal and civil cases last year and is the sixth busiest court in the state.

E-Mail Herald News Staff ReporterMarc Munroe Dion at mdion@heraldnews.com.