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New Court Site Announced

Downtown L.A.: State building declared unsafe after the Northridge quake will be razed and the land sold to the federal government.

February 02, 2002|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

California and federal officials announced Friday the state will sell an empty office building in downtown Los Angeles that will be bulldozed for construction of a 20-story federal courthouse by 2008.

The building, at 1st Street and Broadway, was deemed unsafe after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It will be razed and the land subject to a toxic cleanup before construction begins, officials said.

The federal government has allocated $34.5 million for the purchase and design work, and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles) expressed confidence that Congress will soon appropriate the $414 million needed to build the courthouse.

Richard Scofield, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, confirmed a nonpartisan commission on judicial needs has placed Los Angeles very high on a priority list to receive the money.

The new courthouse will be the quarters for 60 U.S. district judges and magistrates, while the existing federal courthouse at 312 N. Spring St. will be used mainly for U.S. attorney offices, officials said.

The other U.S. courthouse downtown is in the Roybal Federal Building.

At the same time, the U.S. General Services Administration invited artists to submit proposals by Feb. 15 for interior and exterior art for the new structure.

The prospect of a new federal courthouse, the third in downtown Los Angeles, comes at a time when the Civic Center area is about to undergo substantial new building, clearing and renovation, with the city, county, state and federal governments all involved.

* The California Department of Transportation plans to begin construction in the middle of next year on a $170-million regional headquarters on property bounded by 1st, 2nd, Los Angeles and Main streets.

* The old Caltrans building and other structures on the block bounded by 1st, 2nd, Main and Spring streets will be razed, and that area will become open space. The city has set aside $25 million for the project and negotiated a land swap with the state.

* The venerable county Hall of Justice on the north side of Temple Street between Broadway and Spring Street, vacant and in considerable disrepair for several years, also would be refurbished under a contract between the county and a private partnership that is now in final discussions. The value of the project has been put at $80 million or more.

The projects continue a downtown building boom that began with the new Roman Catholic cathedral and Los Angeles Philharmonic concert hall. Both are well along in the construction process.

Aileen Adams, secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, said the state agreed to sell the 3.7-acre 1st and Broadway site to the federal government for $2.5 million.

She said $500,000 of the purchase price for what was known as the Junipero Serra State Office Building will be put in escrow to pay for removal of any ground contamination. The rest of the money will go into the state's general fund.

Adams said building the 1.3-million-square-foot courthouse is expected to produce between $100 million and $150 million in construction wages as well as a substantial number of permanent courthouse jobs.

Meanwhile, Sharon Yonashiro, a county official involved in developing plans for refurbishment of the Hall of Justice, said Friday the county last year entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Clark Construction Co., Urban Partners and a number of architectural firms to pursue the project as a long-term lease and lease-back arrangement.

"We are very anxious to proceed," she said. "A big transaction and negotiations take a long time, but we are very seriously working with this entity toward bringing a contract to the Board of Supervisors for approval."

County Sheriff Lee Baca has expressed interest in moving his department's headquarters back into the Hall of Justice when the refurbishment is complete.

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