Historic Fredericton justice building to become UNB law school

The justice building on Queen Street in downtown Fredericton is slated to become the new University of New Brunswick faculty of law.

A combined $62 million will be put toward making the project a reality, with $24.9 million from the federal government, $20.7 million from the province and $16.6 million from the University of New Brunswick.

Announcing the project Wednesday, Dominic LeBlanc, the federal minister of intergovernmental affairs, infrastructure and communities, said the money will pay for upgrades to the building’s ventilation and communication systems, accessibility features and lighting.

It will also address flooding, he said. To avoid being closed because of high water some years, the Fredericton courthouse has had to relocate out of the downtown area, away from the St. John Rivers.

A man with black hair wearing a dark suit, standing in front of a wooden podium.
Dominic LeBlanc, the federal minister of intergovernmental affairs, infrastructure and communities, said the money will support upgrades to the building’s ventilation and communication systems, accessibility features and lighting. (Pat Richard/CBC)

“The renewal of the building will preserve the history of the building, while providing a more modern and energy efficient space for students, faculty, staff and the public,” said LeBlanc.

“This is very much about bringing the law faculty closer to the community [and] the community closer to the law students, the faculty [and] the researchers who will be doing work.”

A new justice building is going up on King Street, between Regent and Carleton, scheduled to be completed by 2025 according to the province.

A mock-up of a room with bookshelves lining the walls and tables with people sitting at them.
This mock-up shows the proposed reading room for the faculty of law in the renovated justice building. (Submitted by Regional Development Corporation)

Use of the building as a school isn’t a new idea. In fact, it started as one.

The original stone and brick structure opened in 1876 as a Normal School for training teachers. In 1929, that building burned down, but the columned-front entrance was preserved and the school was rebuilt and reopened in 1931.

Eventually, it became the high school in Fredericton, and then in the 1970s was turned into a courthouse.

A mock-up of a room with a court bench at the front and long classroom-style tables facing it.
A rendering of what the courtroom will look like when the building reopens as the UNB faculty of law. (Submitted by Regional Development Corporation)

Premier Blaine Higgs said an estimated 350 new law students are expected to enroll in the faculty over the next five years.

With the downtown location, he said the school will be able to provide important services to the community, including a permanent home for the UNB legal clinic, which offers free legal representation for those who don’t qualify for legal aid.

A man in a navy blue suit standing at a wooden podium
Michael Marin, the dean of law at UNB, said the building will be home to a legal observatory and multiple research centers. (Pat Richard/CBC)

Michael Marin, the dean of law, said the UNB legal clinic has already served more than 100 clients in Fredericton.

There will also be multiple new research centers for “major legal and policy challenges,” he said.

With the additional space for the faculty that will come by taking over the justice building, Marin said there will be room for new programs that will “make legal education more available to more people.”

“In doing all of this, our students and professors will be interacting every day with the ordinary people they serve, enabling all kinds of informal learning that’s just as important as anything taught in a classroom,” he said.

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