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Des Moines Leaders Not Impressed With Preliminary Federal Courthouse Plans

DES MOINES, Iowa --City officials never liked the plan to put the new federal courthouse on the site of the old YMCA, a piece of prime waterfront real estate. If they weren't excited when the federal government made the decision, they say they're even less enthusiastic now.

“Unfortunately, the designs that we see have sort of exacerbated the issues” said Mayor Frank Cownie.

The early designs are not being made public at this time. Mayor Cownie says his team wasn't even allowed to bring cell phones into the meeting with the General Services Administration. However, he says he wasn't impressed.

“The entrances we thought we were going to have seem to prohibit public access, or even [allow] pedestrians [to] walk around the building either on the Grand side or the Second Avenue side and it looks like there's not going to be much of anything on the Locust Street side” he said.

The government says the 100 million-dollar project is needed because the current federal courthouse isn't up to their safety specs. Initially, Mayor Cownie says the GSA told him the building would be "catalytic" to the riverwalk.

“We have worked as a general public, this city, businesses, and our citizens to talk about what the riverwalk should be and what the riverfront should be in the 21st century” said Cownie.

If you ask citizens, they could think of several alternative uses for the space.

“A garden out here, anything like that, a park, you know, more areas down here down by the river. It's such a beautiful place especially in the summer, it'd be great to see something like that out here” said Rob Petrie.

“I kinda think about the Riverwalk in San Antonio and what they have; a lot more shops, a lot more restaurants, a lot more things you can do at night and feel safe out. So, those are kind of the things I'd like to see down here” said Lori Muck.

“A lot of different kinds of entertainment venues that could be in place right there, a lot of night activities, music is one I think of” said Michele Tilotta.

Mayor Cownie and the members of the city council signed a letter voicing their concerns to the GSA, Iowa's senate delegation, and Representative Cindy Axne.

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