By Charles Sowell  

MARCH 25, 2010 7:55 p.m. Comments (0)

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Work should begin by 2013 on a new federal courthouse to be located on East North Street across from the Greenville County Courthouse.

Greenville City Manager Jim Bourey announced the General Services Administration’s (GSA) decision on Wednesday.

The site is a parking lot that takes up an asymmetrical pentagon shaped block.

The GSA decision ends more than a year of speculation about just where the new building would be sited.

Last year, Mayor Knox White suggested the 4.9-acre AGFA office at the corner of Academy and West Washington was considered the prime site.

Judge Henry Herlong, at that time, agreed saying the West Washington had been requested by federal judges and the East North site would require a much taller building than five stories to meet federal setback standards.

It seems likely now that the 204,000 square foot building will be a tall one, said Scott May, president of Neal-Prince Architects the local firm that may have a part in designing the building.

“The main architect is Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge in Chicago,” May said.

Bourey said the city is pleased by the GSA decision. The building would support the eity’s downtown master plan for future growth and development.

Ample parking downtown in the city’s garage system as well as proximity to the existing federal courthouse and the concentration of legal professionals downtown all supported the decision, he said.

The work should only cause minor inconvenience to existing businesses, Bourey said.

The search for a new courthouse started in the late 1990s when the GSA said the current structure, built in 1937, could not meet future demands.

The GSA narrowed the site choices in 2007 to the Washington property, East North Street and a four-acre site near Falls Park on Camperdown Way.

The opening of the new courthouse will have a ripple effect on downtown, officials said.

The current courthouse underwent a $4 million renovation in 1996 that involved putting nickel-plated toilet paper holders in judge's chambers as well as mahogany paneling.

Five years later, $4 million was spent to add a courtroom as well as renovate magistrate court chambers. GSA officials justified the expenses at the time by saying a new courthouse wouldn't be ready until 2009.

The estimated cost of a new courthouse in 2001 was $55 million. The last official cost estimate was $135 million in 2007.

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