Mired in budget shortfalls and scandal, the General Services Administration (GSA) couldn’t afford to build a new office building next to its planned federal courthouse in downtown LA without some help. The agency recently announced its plan: a property swap. It hopes to sell its landmark art deco courthouse at 312 North Spring Street to help pay for the construction of the new facility, near First Street and Broadway. The agency will release an RFQ for the new federal building in the coming months.
“This plan would save millions in tax dollars and ensure the North Spring Street courthouse does not become another excess property on the government’s books,” said Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator for the GSA. (His predecessor Martha Johnson recently resigned.)
GSA spokesperson Traci Madison denied that the move was a result of recent scandals at the agency, in which several people, including Johnson, were accused of lavish spending and other improprieties. “The Administration’s strong push to aggressively dispose of unneeded property and improve the utilization of our assets, prompted us to identify a cost-effective plan to address the future of the courthouse located at 312 North Spring Street,” said Madison.
The streamlined Spring Street courthouse, built in 1940 by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, is a Los Angeles landmark. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But the building, said the GSA, had become outdated and was in bad need of renovation. Madison said it also still needs to be appraised for its actual value. The GSA estimates that its value “will yield a federal building of approximately 150,000 to 175,000 square feet.”
In addition to the funds from the sale, the move, said the agency, will save more than $10 million per year in lease costs, and save more than $250 million in renovation costs. The move will also help the government consolidate employees scattered across the city. They’ll now be located either in the new federal building or at the U.S. government’s other buildings at 300 North Los Angeles Street and 255 East Temple Street. No buyer for the Spring Street courthouse has been identified, said Madison, who added, “We are optimistic that a private sector partner will be found.”
The date for an RFQ for the new federal building is still some time away. “There are a number of actions that must take place in the planning process before we reach the RFQ stage,” said Madison.
Thanks also to the new plan the new federal courthouse—adjacent to the new federal building—is still on schedule, said Madison, with a design-build team being chosen this fall and completion expected in 2016. The shortlist for that project, announced in April, includes SOM with Clark Construction; Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates with Hensel Phelps; Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects with McCarthy; and NBBJ with Mortensen.