Crews Break Ground on New Federal Courthouse

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Crews officially broke ground on the new federal courthouse on Wednesday.

The roughly $137 million federal courthouse will sit where the Riverfront YMCA once stood at the corner of Second and Locust Streets.

"So it's the combination of its location out of the flood plain, it's environmentally clean, it's accessible to our constituents, it's on bus lines where people come to the federal court on buses. All these factors played into the decision and it wasn't an easy decision, but it's an exceedingly important one," Chief District Judge John Jarvey said.

Even though crews already started work city officials and residents still aren't happy that the prime real estate won't be utilized for commercial development to benefit the city and its residents.

“It is a prime example of wasteful government spending. There is absolutely no need for a new building. I know that they say there would be some safety and ADA issues, but you can address those without building a new building. Really, there’s just no support for it,” Former Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley said.

Federal officials said the new building will provide space for everyone to be under one roof and security will be at the modern level with updated court rooms.

“For security purposes this is an enormous enhancement. If you come to our existing building, you'll also see that it's not at all accessible for the handicapped and this building creates tremendous accessibility," Jarvey said.

City Councilman Josh Mandelbaum said they will do their best as a council to make sure the building continues to fit the city as a whole.

“I think we will always keep working with them to make sure that it integrates the pedestrian experience and fits with what’s going on as best as possible in the broader community, whether that be the river walk, whether that be accessibility on Grand. We will continue working on it so that going forward it’s a building that is a part of the fabric rather than an isolation,” Mandelbaum said.

As for the old federal courthouse, federal officials said they will first reach out to federal agencies to see if they want to utilize the space and then reach out to the city and county in hopes it will be used for some sort of civic function.

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