Federal Courthouse Site

A plan to exchange an old courthouse for a new building could mean two structures are coming to the currently vacant site at First Street and Broadway

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - One of the most notorious blight spots in Downtown may not only be getting a new federal courthouse in a few years. There could also be a second building coming to the hole in the ground at the southwest corner of First Street and Broadway.

Officials with Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s office announced on Friday afternoon that the General Services Administration plans to transfer ownership of the Spring Street Courthouse, which is set to be vacated, to a developer.  

The developer, in exchange, would be required to build a new federal office building with a similar value to the Spring Street courthouse on the First and Broadway site.

“I applaud GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini for finding an innovative, practical, and fiscally responsible solution to meet our judiciary and federal workspace needs in downtown LA,” said Roybal-Allard in a statement.

According to a spokesman for Roybal-Allard’s office who did not want to be identified, the 1938 building at 312 N. Spring St. is valued at $53 million. That means a developer would have to build an approximately 150,000 to 175,000-square-foot building on the 3.6 acre site that will also house a $400 million federal courthouse set for completion in 2017.

Once the new federal office building is completed, the developer would then be the new owner of the Spring Street Courthouse building. If the plan comes through, it could be a stunning turnaround for a Civic Center property that has been a vacant blight for years.

Congress had long ago appropriated $400 million to build a 41-room courthouse on the site immediately west of the Los Angeles Times headquarters.

Since then, the General Services Administration, which acts as a landlord for federal agencies, spent $16.9 million to acquire and prepare the site, and another $16.3 million on designs for a 41-room courthouse. The project hit a wall in 2008 when due to delays and design changes, estimated costs tripled, making a 41-room courthouse impossible to build.

The Downtown community was surprised when in January Roybal-Allard’s office announced that that project was back on track with plans to build a smaller, $400-million federal courthouse with 110 parking spots, 24 courtrooms and 32 judges’ chambers.

As part of the new federal courthouse plan the 1938 Spring Street Courthouse, which along with the 1992 Roybal Federal Building currently house federal courthouse operations, would be vacated with all its operations relocated to the new courthouse.

But GSA officials still had not decided what to do with the Spring Street building, which also needs a $250 million retrofit.

 “The Administrator’s proposal will involve the exchange of the Spring Street courthouse for the construction of a new federal office building, and will save taxpayers more than $150 million over other proposals which called for the renovation of the aging Spring Street facility,” Roybal-Allard added in the statement.

If it’s built, the new office building will house the Office of the US Attorneys, and certain Department of Homeland Security personnel.

There is to timeline yet on when a developer will be selected or when the new office building would be completed.

©Los Angeles Downtown News.