The crew that began the demolition of an old courthouse downtown Thursday morning didn’t start ripping holes in the side of the building, to the disappointment of at least one TV cameraman. Nor will there be any dramatic, Las Vegas-style implosion.

Instead, a worker on an excavator swung around its extended arm and, as if peeling an onion, slowly used the giant teeth on the bucket to start stripping off the outside layer of bricks.


The bricks will be temporarily used as a road bed so construction equipment doesn’t sink into soft ground on the site while tearing down the rest of the 50-year-old building.


Later, the bricks will be recycled along with the concrete that makes up most of the old courthouse – a requirement for Norfolk’s new courthouse to earn green-building certification.


The old building, a squat, two-story structure, housed the Norfolk Circuit Court, which moved in January 2015 to a new eight-story building next door. The city’s General District Court, whose old building was demolished last year, is also in the new courthouse.


In spring 2017, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court – which has temporarily been housed in another building – will move into a second phase of the new courthouse, along with the law library.


The $123 million courthouse project has been in the works for more than a decade.


The knockdown that started Thursday is expected to take up to eight weeks. It follows about six weeks of work to remove asbestos from the 100,000-square-foot old courthouse, said Tim McCrane, a senior project manager for the Norfolk Department of Public Works.


At 8 a.m. Thursday, workers from Macsons Demolition & Environmental Services started tearing the bricks off the building’s northeast corner.


It was slow, dusty work. Sometimes, just a few bricks at a time clattered to the ground. Other times, a huge sheet of bricks fell at once.


“It’s a little bittersweet,” Jack Doyle, the chief judge of the Circuit Court, said later of the old courthouse coming down.


He tried his first case there and has fond memories of its staff.


But he said the new building is more secure. In the old courthouse, inmates in shackles sometimes had to be taken through public hallways because of the building’s layout.


After the old courthouse is gone, the site will become a plaza between City Hall and the new courthouse. Main Street will be extended to create a new drop-off area for cars. To lessen flooding, the grounds will be raised to the height of the nearby light-rail tracks.


In the short term, McCrane said, the plaza will have trees, grass and benches. Later, other features will be added.


Keeping the land fairly open allows the city to plan for the future, which eventually could include new civic buildings.


“The City Hall building’s 60 years old,” McCrane said. “It’s not going to last forever.”