Midday on Fridays, you will find some 2,500 members of the Islamic Society of Baltimore walking to the mosque off Johnnycake Road in Catonsville, says its president, Muhammad Jameel. And on a high holiday, such as on Sept. 11, you may find as many as 14,000 Muslims making their way there.
That traffic will be exacerbated when the State of Maryland constructs a new courthouse on a six-acre site half a mile from the mosque on North Rolling and Johnnycake Roads. The courthouse will replace the Catonsville District Court currently located across from the Wilkens Precinct Police Station and adjacent to the University of Baltimore County campus.
Muhammad and other community members got an update on the plans to relocate the District Court at an Aug. 30 meeting held at the mosque. Representatives from the Department of General Services and Maryland Judiciary presented on the design plans, and answered questions. People had the opportunity to view the renderings, which were first unveiled in June at a meeting with District 44 legislators and others.
It was necessary to hold the forum, said District 10 Delegate Charles Sydnor III, “because there were concerns that the community expressed to me that I didn’t have answers for. I thought it would be best to bring in people intimately involved in the project.”
Barry Miller, General Services project manager for the courthouse’s construction, told attendees that the project is a done deal but that he would work to address the community’s concerns and access the necessary resources to accommodate their needs.
“I’m hoping that Rolling Road and Johnnycake Road will be improved and expanded” to alleviate the traffic, Muhammad said. In addition to wider roads, he said, “People should have sidewalks, extensive lighting since many people walk instead of drive.” He added that the lighting will help calm people’s fears about a court house that might house sex offenders and other criminals.
Mary Breland, vice president of the Westview Community Association, came with a neighbor, Ronnie Stewart of Village Oak, to hear how parking and the potential for a significant increase in traffic in the area would be addressed. She was pleased to hear that state officials would work with the community to get changes.
The plan to move the courthouse, which is currently located across from the Wilkens Precinct Police Station and adjacent to the University of Baltimore County campus, to another site in zip code 21228, began in 2002. It got a major boost with $28.5 million in state funds for the 2017 fiscal year.
The building will be LEED-certified, have five levels and a parking garage to accommodate 425 vehicles. It will triple the District Court’s current space to 92,000 square feet and house seven courtrooms. The total gross square footage is 130,000.
Construction on the courthouse is slated to begin in January 2017 and be completed in 2019.
“I envision economic benefits and job opportunities for those who live in the area,” said Sydnor. “It’s a good infusion for the community.”