Just Say NO to Federal Courthouse Plan

29 10 2009

Once again, the Federal Courthouse is trying to expand into the ex-Granby Tower site. And, once again, we need to fight any plan that takes land off of the tax roles. The General Services Administration (GSA – they are in charge of federal construction projects) already has a plan that is acceptable. The plan that I am referring to would construct a 7-story addition in the middle of the current building:

FedCourtHouseTower

Norfolk Federal Courthouse - Tower Alternative

In fact, not only does this option conserve land and fit in better with an urban environment, this alternative is actually less expensive than building on the Granby Tower site. Let’s back up for a second. If you had not heard of this project before or have forgotten, there were five alternatives considered. They are called the Southern, Western, Northern, Eastern, and Tower Alternatives, with the name referring to the location of the annex in relation to the current building. Here are diagrams of the first four, showing where they would be located what method would be used to connect them:

FedCourtHouseAlts

Off-Site Alternatives for the Norfolk Federal Courthouse Annex

As you can see (or if you can’t, click the picture for a larger version), the Southern and Eastern Alternatives each close a road. In fact, the Eastern Alternative called for closing an entire block of Monticello Avenue. That left two other off-site options. The Northern Alternative would demolish the Greyhound Station and have to find a way to cross Brambleton Blvd. The easiest of these four is obviously the Western Alternative, which is to put the annex on the Granby Tower site. While this seems like a good idea, lets look at the final option that was researched by the GSA: an on-site addition. This on-site addition would be in the form of a tower on top of the current building. This final alternative is actually more cost effective than the next most plausible (Western Alt.). Here is the cost breakdown:

FedCourtHouseCosts

Source: Draft Environmental Assessment for the Walter E. Hoffman United States Courthouse Proposed Courthouse Annex Norfolk, Virginia - GSA 2006

The GSA must work together in order to build consistently with local goals. This is not my opinion, this is fact. According to the GSA’s Urban Development/Good Neighbor Program,

“The core mission of the Urban Development/Good Neighbor Program is to provide GSA regional offices and their stakeholders with the technical, training, and outreach resources they need to implement good neighbor principles in the business practices of the Public Buildings Service. Those principles are:

  • Locate new owned and leased federal facilities in places that support local plans;
  • Design new facilities to create outstanding federal workplaces and support neighborhood urban design goals;
  • Renovate existing federal properties to improve their public spaces, create positive First Impressions, and encourage stakeholders to improve neighborhood conditions;
  • Manage federal properties to encourage public use and openness; and
  • Participate in neighborhood physical and management improvement efforts around federal properties.”

Take note on two of those in particular. “Design new facilities to create outstanding federal workplaces and support neighborhood urban design goals” and “Renovate existing federal properties to improve their public spaces, create positive First Impressions, and encourage stakeholders to improve neighborhood conditions.” Building a mediocre 5-story building across from the current building does not support our urban design goals and taking property off of the tax roles absolutely does not improve neighborhood conditions. Despite the failure of Granby Tower, the site still holds the potential for success. Currently, it is still being taxed. The GSA is the reason why Granby Tower failed. The GT would have been under construction but instead the GSA said that they might want the site. If they had gone with the tower in the first place, we would have both. Please contact the GSA (Region 3) at (215) 446-5100 and let them know that you deserve a quality project. Tell them that the City deserves the Tower Alternative for the Walter E. Hoffman United States Courthouse Proposed Annex.

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One response

8 11 2009
Bernard Kofira

Your doing a fantastic job Russell, hold their feet to the fire

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