Central Valley Congressman Jeff Denham has his jaws on the new federal courthouse planned for First and Broadway and he is not letting go. The US General Services Administration has a plan to build a courthouse and office building on the weedy, empty lot, and to pay for it in part by selling the old, unsafe courthouse on Spring Street to a private developer. The same developer would also handle the development of the new office building at First and Broadway. But Denham (the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management) calls that plan "definitely a sham," and says "It's unclear how these numbers actually add up," according to the LA Times. The paper asked some Downtown real estate experts what they think and they tend to agree, at least if the developer plans to convert the old courthouse into office space--the office market is pretty saturated (there's a 16.7 percent vacancy rate right now) and the Civic Center is not exactly a hotspot. Plus the old courthouse needs a lot of work to be usable--it's got asbestos, it's not up to seismic standards, and it needs "major fixes" in its electrical systems, on top of which it's a historic landmark (meaning major reviews for any big changes). The GSA estimates that a reno will cost about $250 million.
One UCLA professor guesses that a developer paying for both the old courthouse and the new office building would have to charge $4.80 a square foot at the courthouse (office rents Downtown average $2.87 a square foot).
Meanwhile, the GSA hasn't even "completed the historic preservation procedure to determine what types of uses would be possible" on Spring Street, nor has it met with any developers yet. Either way, the GSA says it'll start work on the courthouse part of the First/Broadway site; construction is scheduled to begin this year.
· Plans for L.A.'s old U.S. Courthouse hit a roadblock in Congress [LAT]
· Long-Empty First Street Lot Finally Getting Its US Courthouse* [Curbed LA]