News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 6, 2007

New federal building slated for downtown

Facility will house district, bankruptcy courts, other agencies

By Howard Greninger

TERRE HAUTE — A new federal building will be constructed at 921 Ohio St. in downtown Terre Haute to house the U.S. Southern District and bankruptcy courts as well as other federal agencies.

The U.S. General Services Administration on Aug. 31 awarded a contract to Thompson Thrift Development to construct a new 14,000-square-foot building on the vacant 1.9-acre lot, said GSA spokesman David Wilkinson.

The lot, east of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, had formerly housed Bunch Nurseries.

The new federal facility’s final design is not yet complete, but the facility will be leased to the federal government for 10 years at an annual rent of $484,784, Wilkinson said.

It is a fully serviced lease, which means it includes maintenance costs, Wilkinson said. Other federal agencies that will be in the new facility are the U.S. Marshal’s Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Probation and Pre-trial Services.

“There is one economy and that is the court space will be used by both the district court and bankruptcy court, as opposed to separate court rooms,” Wilkinson said.

“It will be a new and modern building. It won’t be all that elaborate, but it will be functional,” Wilkinson said. “It keeps the courts in Terre Haute.”

GSA Regional Administrator James C. Handley said a specific occupancy date has yet to be determined. “GSA will be making our best efforts, working with the U.S. Postal Service to set a date when the post office and courthouse on Seventh Street can be vacated for its transfer to [Indiana State University,]” Handley said in a release.

“This is a long-awaited major step forward,” Handley said.

Indiana State University in 2003 signed a memorandum of understanding, also signed by the U.S. Postal Service and the GSA, to allow ISU to obtain the current federal building for use by the university’s College of Business.

The federal government deemed the current courthouse, at the corner of Seventh and Cherry streets, unsuitable after September 2001, when new security guidelines and setback requirements were enacted. The GSA’s lease on the current federal building expires in September 2009.

The GSA in 2004 sought and received four proposals for a new federal building, initially seeking a new federal courthouse between 90,000 and 135,000 square feet.

The GSA rejected those proposals and in March 2006, the GSA published a notice saying, through a competitive procurement, it wants to lease about 12,500 to 15,400 square feet of space for the courts and other tenants.

In its agreement with ISU, the federal government is to upgrade the current federal building, including heating and air conditioning, prior to the transfer to ISU. More than $6 million in federal funds had been secured for work on the building by 2005.

In 2005, ISU officials estimated the total project for the new College of Business at $18 million, with ISU to obtain more than $12 million in private funding.

The GSA still has a “phase two” construction contract for work on the interior of the current federal building. “That contract has not been issued, but will be shortly,” Wilkinson said. The government already has done work to the outside of the building and has painted part of the interior.

Federal agencies occupy 13,806 square feet and pay a total of $312,100 per year in rent at the current federal building. The breakdown is $274,000 a year in rent by the courts and probation for 12,118 square feet; $33,000 a year by the U.S. Marshal’s Service for 1,460 square feet; and $5,100 a year by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for 228 square feet.

“That is not significantly more than what they will be paying and the space is very comparable in total size and they are moving into new space. It also meets new security requirements, which means setbacks from adjoining buildings and streets,” Wilkinson said.

Handley said “keeping the federal courts downtown was an important consideration. It also was essential to find a suitable site and a developer who could design and build a facility that met the government’s special needs and security requirements. All that took longer than expected.”

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com