Federal Courthouse in Idaho to Relocate

Aug. 23--The federal government plans to swap its historic downtown Coeur d'Alene courthouse for a larger, four-story building to be built in an office park near U.S. Highway 95 and Hanley Avenue.

A lack of space, parking and security were cited as top reasons for the move. The existing courthouse, a 21,160-square-foot brick landmark, will likely be refitted for commercial office space, though no firm plans have been developed, said Bill Lesh, spokesman for the U.S. General Services Administration.

The new courthouse will be more than twice the current size and located on a four-acre parcel northwest of the busy intersection, not far from large office buildings occupied by Hecla Mining and Coldwater Creek. JDL Enterprises, of Bellevue, Wash., was selected from 29 bid proposals to design and build the courthouse.

Construction of the 50,000-square-foot building is set to begin in March, with completion one year later. The contract requires the building to be ready for occupancy by June 1, 2008. It will be leased by the federal government for $2.5 million annually over the term of the 15-year contract, Lesh said.

ALSC Architects, the same Spokane-based firm that designed the Hecla Mining headquarters, has been selected by JDL Enterprises to design the courthouse, said Marian Kessel, JDL's project manager. General contractor will be Garco of Spokane.

Lots of glass and stone will be used in the construction of the new building, Kessel said. The parcel is notable along Highway 95 as one of the few pieces of land left where towering ponderosa pines and firs still stand. Designers attempted to spare as many of the trees as possible to "keep as much of that atmosphere as we can," Kessel said, adding that the finished building "is going to have a great presence in that area."

City officials would have preferred the courthouse to remain downtown, but the federal government needed more space than was available, said Coeur d'Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem.

"We don't like to see anyone go, but we certainly have a clear understanding of why that had to happen," Bloem said. "For them to stay downtown was going to be close to impossible because of the security they needed and the amount of space they needed. ... They made a commitment to stay within city limits, and they stuck with that."

Lesh, with the General Services Administration, listed office space and parking as top reasons for the change. He admitted security also was high on the list but declined to specify how the new site will offer increased protection.

"The design will include a number of safety features protecting our tenants. Other than that, I can't say a word," Lesh said.

The current courthouse serves as office space not only for the court and clerk system, but also the U.S. Marshal Service, the U.S. Attorney and the federal probation service.

Because the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the federal government will work to ensure that any future owners of the building -- including other government clients -- will protect the architectural integrity of the building, Lesh said.

The GSA is considering options for the existing courthouse, he added.