The eventual ribbon cutting for Philadelphia's new Family Court will be a relief to many troubled families and children - providing them a modern, accessible setting where broken lives stand a better chance of being put back on track.
But the project's bungled and costly path to completion in mid-2015 will be anything but cause for celebration by Pennsylvania taxpayers footing the bill.
The final chapter in that saga may have played out Tuesday, with the $4 million settlement of a lawsuit concerning the role of a former project adviser to the state courts, an attorney who later signed on as codeveloper of the courthouse under construction at 15th and Arch Streets.
That inherent conflict was exposed in 2010 by Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron, leading to the removal of the adviser, Jeffrey B. Rotwitt, and triggering a still-festering public dispute over who was to blame.
Rotwitt, also fired by his law firm, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, still contends he alerted state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille to his developer role, while Castille denies he was told. The settlement of the lawsuit Castille filed leaves that issue unresolved, but Obermayer and its insurer will reimburse the state court system $2 million each.
However, taxpayers still don't come out ahead. The courts under Castille spent $2 million on legal and consulting fees to unravel the mess before relaunching the project under the state's construction-management arm. And Castille's lawsuit put the controversy's overall cost at more than double that amount.
The only clear financial upside to the Supreme Court's unimpressive oversight of the new Family Court could be that, during the ensuing delay, construction costs dropped sharply due to the recession-driven real estate slump.
However, that also meant another year's delay in replacing the shabby, inadequate Family Court facilities that for years put families in turmoil through additional hardships they hardly needed.