Rendering courtesy of U.S. General Services Administration
New downtown Los Angeles U.S. courthouse draws on appropriations from 2001 through 2005.
Courtesy of U.S. General Services Administration
New building is 550,000 sq ft, compared with earlier plan of more than 1 million sq ft.

After false starts and one full stop over the past 11 years, a new federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles now seems to be on its way to becoming a reality. The General Services Administration has awarded a $317.9-million design-build contract to a team of Clark Construction Group and architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the 550,000-sq-ft project.

In announcing the contract award on Dec. 10, GSA said design work would begin “immediately.” The agency added that construction is tentatively slated to start in the third quarter of 2013, with completion anticipated in 2016.

The Clark-SOM team was selected over three others on GSA’s short list: Hensel Phelps-Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates; McCarthy/Brooks-Scarpa and HMC Architects; and Mortensen-NBBJ Architects.

GSA also released a request for information on Dec. 10 seeking “potential strategies” from developers to renovate the 75-year-old Spring Street Courthouse in Los Angeles for private-sector use and also to build new space in the area for federal agencies.  The deadline for responses to the GSA request is Feb. 11, 2013.

GSA’s acting administrator, Daniel Tangherlini, said, “The agency is taking a new approach to property disposals by working with the private sector to exchange outdated properties for the construction of new sustainable facilities.”

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a vociferous critic of GSA’s real-estate program, said the Spring Street action “is one more step in ridding the federal government of unneeded property.” Denham chairs a House subcommittee that oversees federal buildings authorizations.

GSA has had few major new project launches in the past couple of years because Congress has slashed the agency’s new-construction budget. The program received just $50 million in fiscal 2012 and $82 million in 2011, compared with $894 million in 2010.

But the new L.A. courthouse project will draw on funds Congress approved as far back as 2001 for an earlier, but unbuilt, plan. From 2001 through 2005, Congress had appropriated $399.6 million for a new courthouse, of which GSA has spent about $40 million, for site acquisition and earlier design.

A 2001 plan called for a new 712,000-sq-ft court with an estimated price tag of $266 million. GSA later increased the proposed facility’s size to more than 1 million sq ft. but that expanded plan ran into delays, in part because it was larger than the project Congress had authorized.