By Matt Masich, STATE BILL COLORADO
DENVER — Mary Mullarkey dreamed of getting a new Supreme Court building from the time she first became chief justice of Colorado’s high court a dozen years ago, she said. At first it was no more than “a gleam in my eye, or figment of my imagination.”
Now that dream is being brought to life. Mullarkey was joined on Monday by Gov. Bill Ritter, Attorney General John Suthers, Treasurer Cary Kennedy and a host of dignitaries at the event celebrating the start of construction of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center. They marked the occasion by scrawling their names in a slab of wet concrete that will be placed somewhere in the new Supreme Court building.
Construction began a month ago, and the ceremony took place in a pit carved two stories below street level, so the event was called “All Rise” rather than a “groundbreaking.” Addressing the crowd, Mullarkey rattled off some big numbers: 2,000 jobs created directly and and 1,300 jobs created indirectly in the construction of the new courts complex and state museum; $60 million in rent that state agencies will save over the next 30 years by being housed in the Carr center, which is the first new state office building to be built in 25 years. Mullarkey said she hopes it lasts a 100 years or more.
Ritter spoke about the new center’s namesake, who was Colorado governor when World War Two broke out. Carr opposed the internment of Japanese citizens and Japanese-Americans. “No other political figure of Ralph Carr’s stature stood up to say that’s wrong,” Ritter said. Carr’s stance went against popular sentiment at the time, eventually costing him reelection.
It wasn’t a sure thing that the Supreme Court building would get Carr’s name. Ritter said he had to negotiate for it with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who wanted to name Denver’s new justice center after Carr. The Denver courthouse was eventually named after judges Benjamin Barr Lindsey and James C. Flanigan.
The Carr center will show that the judicial branch is coequal to the legislative and executive branches, Suthers said. He added that the 400 employees of his Colorado Department of Law are excited about moving into the new building, which is slated to open in 2013, if for no other reason than to have elevators that work.
The two-building Carr center will consolidate seven state agencies that had been housed in 10 separate buildings, Kennedy said. The construction of the $258 million center was financed with certificates of participation issued through the Build America program, saving the state $77 million, she said. The certificates will be paid back with court fees, which were increased for this purpose two years ago, and through the rent state agencies will pay to stay in the Carr center.