News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 2, 2008

Federal courthouse construction starting this summer

Building expected to be in use by summer 2009

By Howard Greninger

TERRE HAUTE — Construction is expected to start in July or August on the new federal courthouse at 921 Ohio St., said David Wilkinson, spokesman for U.S. General Services Administration.

Federal offices are scheduled to occupy the new, single-story, 14,000-square-foot building in the summer of 2009, Wilkinson said.

The building site is a 1.9-acre vacant lot east of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church. The lot formerly housed Bunch Nurseries.

The GSA awarded a contract last Aug. 31 to Thompson Thrift Development to construct the new building. The government will lease the facility from Thompson Thrift Properties LLC under a 10-year agreement at an annual rent of $484,800, which includes maintenance costs, Wilkinson said.

Paul Thrift of Thompson Thrift said the company is “waiting for a review and comments on building specifications. There are about five different agencies plus the GSA, so it is quite a process.

“We are hoping to start construction in August, but the project is as their timeline dictates,” Thrift said.

The building, which will face Ohio Street, will house the U.S. Southern District Court and bankruptcy court and clerk offices for both courts, as well as offices for U.S. Probation, U.S. Marshal’s Service and U.S. Attorney.

“A big difference is the fact this building will comply with and provide new security standards for federal court operations,” Wilkinson said. “Since Oklahoma City, one of the things that have been emphasized in new courthouse construction, even leased, is a separate circulation system for the public, judges and defendants in criminal cases that they don’t travel the same hallways or elevators. That is an additional expense that courthouses 50 years ago didn’t have to worry about.”

Indiana State University is slated to take over the existing federal building at Seventh and Cherry streets for the university’s College of Business. That building was deemed unsuitable by the federal government after September 2001, when new security guidelines and setback requirements were enacted.

The U.S. Postal Service, GSA and ISU in 2003 signed a memorandum of understanding to allow ISU to obtain the building after upgrades by the federal government on heating, lights and interior and exterior painting. In 2005, ISU officials estimated an $18 million project, with ISU to raise more than $12 million in private funding, to convert the building for university use.

The GSA’s lease on the current federal building expires in September 2009.

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