Long-awaited new federal courthouse won't come soon

Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:05pm

Nashville’s federal-courthouse wait will continue to drag on.

Despite ranking No. 2 on a national priority list, funding for Nashville’s long-anticipated new $173.5 million federal courthouse remains unavailable in the immediate future, U.S. Jim Cooper indicated Thursday.

At a roundtable discussion with reporters Thursday morning, Cooper said for years others “jumped the line” and leapfrogged Nashville for highly coveted federal courthouse dollars, explaining why a project conceived years ago still isn’t a reality. Cooper, a Blue Dog Democrat, is a staunch opponent of using earmarks to land projects.

The federal government deemed the existing Estes Kefauver Federal Courthouse on Broadway inadequate in 1992. The new courthouse is slated to go along Church Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

The recent establishment of the U.S. House’s Courthouse Caucus has helped eliminate some of the political maneuvering and “line jumping” for new courthouses, Cooper said. Now the issue is a struggling economy –– and a lack of federal dollars.

“We’re second in the national priority list,” Cooper told reporters inside his downtown Nashville office, two blocks from where the city’s new federal courthouse is envisioned to go. “As long as another courthouse doesn’t burn down or get destroyed by an earthquake, I think we’ll stay there.

“So as soon as the budget improves, we’ll be there ready for a new courthouse,” he said.

The U.S. Judicial Conference’s five-year plan for ready-to-build courthouses lists Nashville second overall. Mobile, Ala., which has plans for a $140.3 million federal courthouse, is the only city sitting ahead of Nashville.

“For years, we’ve been trending toward the top, but somebody else would jump in ahead of us –– usually someone who serves on the [U.S. House] Appropriations Committee,” Cooper said. “They’re the most famous line jumpers.”

The Mobile and Nashville courthouses were originally slated to receive dollars during the ongoing fiscal year, but funding was never authorized.

Given the delay, Cooper discussed a “property wrinkle” that could potentially change design plans.

Cooper said property owners of the Berger Building, a historic property from which a toy museum once operated, have indicated a willingness to sell the building after previously refusing to do so.

Under current design plans, the new federal courthouse would surround the Berger Building, which sits across the street from The Standard on Rosa Parks Boulevard. Cooper said the close proximity of the building to the future courthouse raises security concerns.

“Do you want a non-controlled property in one of the most secured spaces in America?” Cooper said. “Part of the reason for the new courthouse is that the Estes Kefauver building is too close to the street and is too vulnerable.

“I’ve asked the question, and I think it’s a legitimate question: Given the delay, would this alter the plan, the footprint of the courthouse if you don’t have to have security around this in holding?” Cooper said.

Cooper said he “respects and loves” historic properties, but pointed out the new courthouse presents a unique situation.

“In general, I love historic properties, but if the government’s going to come and make a huge investment here, shouldn’t we at least focus on this issue and ask this security question?” Cooper said.

8 Comments on this post:

By: shinestx on 1/12/12 at 8:15

And Nashville keeps sending the Demwit Jim "Stupor" to Congress. This is the same Stupor Cooper who doesn't vote for earmarks, but did vote for the $1 trillion budget-busting Obamacare. Nashville, you don't deserve a shiney new courthouse.

By: shinestx on 1/12/12 at 8:24

I see the Berger Building was mentioned here. The Berger is an attractive building which sure beats the no-mans-land that would be required with the windowless wall of a new courthouse along 8th Ave. And no one has mentioned the old Sears Building at the corner of Church, which truly is one of downtown's last art-deco buildings. Plus, the old parking garage has some historical interest as it is the second parking structure ever built in Nashville (1937). Just wondering if anyone has even looked into the development of that whole block as a residential-entertainment complex (Tony Giarratana, where are you when downtown needs a historical building saved? You could even redeem yourself for destroying the old deco gem, Sudekum Building.

So instead of seeing something interesting being developed on this block, we will wait another decade or two (at least until Stupor Cooper is long-gone), and maybe you'll get something there. And why doesn't anyone in the media ask Stupor why the land adjacent to the Kefauver building isn't good enough for the new Courthouse... it's presently mostly vacant and there is a parking garage on part of it. The feds would not have to acquire the property in that case... and the new CH would be adjacent to the existing Kefauver, which the government intends to continue using.

Geez, so much common sense, but dont' look to the feds for it.

By: spooky24 on 1/13/12 at 5:28

I remember my old courthouse days. To me, it was inadequate in 1982, and it has always seemed a security problem. Perhaps some here remember-not sure of the year 80 something-that there were about 5 3 foot tall marijuana growing one summer in those old ugly planters.
"adjacent to the Kefauver building isn't good enough for the new Courthouse" interesting thought I guess that is a little too logical for the Feds

sp.

By: pswindle on 1/13/12 at 10:22

All the GOP can do is call a democrat ugly names. This is getting too old to even read. Jim Cooper is one of the smartest and fair men in Congress. Can't you see where this state is heading with GOP control. Remember the old saying, "Baby you ain't seen nothing yet." I have never seen so many incompetent GOP leaders. When sthe money is available, we will get a new Courthouse. With Bush's two wars, drugs for seniors unpaid for and the tax breaks for the wealthy, we don't have any money.

By: airvols on 1/13/12 at 11:52

Time for Cooper to go, he can't even deliver a courthouse for Nashville. He keeps talking about other cities jumping Nashville. Mr Cooper it's your responsibility to see that doesn't happen. We have a Democratic President and you still can't get it done. I am a die hard Democratic supporter, but if we need to elect a Republican to get this done, by all means count my vote. Jim stop making excuses and get this delivered!

By: justice2003 on 1/13/12 at 12:55

Did you know that? I filed a federal lawsuit in the Federal building which i was Denied an appointment to councel.What good is there to focus on a federal courthouse when its not doing its Job concerning international Official Misconduct pertaining to Highlly government officials tied to Ex governer Phil Brenison and the president of the united states.

By: govskeptic on 1/16/12 at 9:08

With the number of spelling and other errors as frequent as just read.
it is no wonder the petition was dismissed! Only Boston can get a
Federal Courthouse that looks like it was built by a Sultan of Oil!

By: Moonglow1 on 1/17/12 at 12:15

Moonglow1: Nashville does not appreciate any help from the federal government so their you go. You complain, but want, want, want. Well now, you are not able to get, get, get.