February 24, 2009 in Idaho

CdA’s new U.S. courthouse increases space, security

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

People file out of a courtroom after the dedication ceremony for the new U.S. Courthouse in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

For the first time in 80 years, Coeur d’Alene has a new federal courthouse.

The old U.S. courthouse, built in 1928 and located downtown, has become outdated in terms of space, parking and the need for modern security features.

The new building offers 60,000 square feet of space spread over four levels on the city’s north side, just west of U.S. Highway 95 and north of Hanley Avenue. In an increasingly common phenomenon related to tighter federal purse strings, the $22 million building will be owned by the developer, JDL Enterprises of Bellevue, and leased to the federal government.

The government’s real estate arm, the General Services Administration, has a 15-year renewable lease, said Peter Gray, a regional account manager for the GSA.

“We replaced an old, dysfunctional federal building – one that didn’t meet current security requirements – with a new, state of the art high-quality design,” said Robin Graf, the GSA’s acting regional administrator.

The building will house the U.S. Magistrate Court, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Probation and Pretrial Services, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Trustees. The building also offers room to expand for the next 20 to 30 years, Gray said.

Among the new security features are courtrooms located in the center of the building and on the top floor, so they are harder to reach and windowless. Secure entrances are provided for each of the three primary populations of people who come and go: the public, prisoners and judges. The heavily treed site also assists in providing security by creating a natural barrier to vehicles drawing too close. Floor-to-ceiling windows circling much of the building’s perimeter provide easy views of approaching visitors.

Still, with rapid advancements in technology, said Patrick McDonald, the U.S. marshal for the district of Idaho, this brand-new building will be outdated in a matter of years. Technology provides for advancements in security, but also assists those who would seek to breach that security, he said.

“This building is state of the art, but in two years it won’t be,” McDonald said.

The new building also is seeking LEED certification – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The old courthouse, at Fourth Street and Lakeside Avenue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a downtown icon, Mayor Sandi Bloem said. She said she was disappointed when she heard three years ago that the federal courthouse’s location would change.

The new building, however, fosters a “sense of respect,” she said. “Great cities are only as great as the spaces they give to the public realm.”

The new federal courthouse serves the state’s first judicial district, which encompasses Idaho’s five northern counties, an area that stretches from the Salmon River to the Canadian border, said Terry Myers, chief bankruptcy judge for the district of Idaho.

“We are honored over and over that you chose Coeur d’Alene,” Bloem said.

The GSA is seeking another governmental or nonprofit agency to occupy the old federal courthouse, Gray said.

Contact Alison Boggs at (208) 765-7132 or alisonb@spokesman.com.


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