Monday, January 15, 2007

New Federal Courthouse Will Begin Going Up Soon

Source: Las Cruces Sun-News
Publication date: January 4, 2007

By Steve Ramirez, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.

Jan. 4--LAS CRUCES -- Ceremonies to break ground on a new five-story federal courthouse in Las Cruces are planned for Feb. 21 but it will be months before full-scale construction of the building begins.

At a Wednesday luncheon of the Rotary Club of Las Cruces, representatives of White Construction Co. of Austin, Texas, and Carter and Burgess Inc., a Fort Worth, Texas, architectural firm, said the new building is about to become a reality.

Chip Pierpont, project manager for the General Services Administration, said his agency is expected to issue a notice to proceed on Jan. 15 to White Construction, who is the contractor for the $81 million project.

But Bill Farnum, vice president of White Construction Co., said Las Crucens shouldn't expect to immediately see large construction equipment.

"Most likely, you will not see any heavy construction until late summer, early fall," Farnum said. "We understand that parking lot (where the new federal building will be located) is pretty important to you. Until we're ready let's leave it completely intact." The new federal building will be built on land owned by the city that was sold earlier this year to the federal government for $400,000. The parcel is located just south of City Hall and is bordered by Campo Street to the east, Church Street to the west, Griggs Avenue to the south and Organ Avenue to the north.

It became a public parking lot in the 1970s, and has been used by employees and people who have had business at City Hall, the Harold Runnels Federal Building and, more recently, Magistrate Court.

When construction starts, the lot will be closed and those who regularly use it for parking will have to find another lot. But Pierpont said the GSA and city are working together to implement a downtown shuttle system that will transport people to and from parking areas.

"With the help of the city we've committed to formulating a shuttle service," Pierpont said. "It will be free, and worth noting is that it should not be more than a five-minute wait to catch a shuttle.

"We're trying to be very proactive in mitigating any potential parking problems and hopefully getting people to come downtown." Bryan Flough, lead architect for Carter and Burgess, said the new federal building will consist of two five-story towers that will be connected by glass bridges. It will also include a basement with an underground parking garage.

"Because of increased costs in construction and materials several changes have been made from the original design," Flough said. "It has been changed from a steel to concrete building. The height of the building has also dropped 14 to 16 feet from the original design." Farnum said the rising cost of steel and uncertainties about getting enough of it were the primary factors why the change to concrete were made. Flough added concrete will work well.

"You have a more stable building with concrete instead of steel," he said.

Mayor Bill Mattiace, who attended Wednesday's luncheon, said he knew it would be several months before construction started, but was unaware of a date for groundbreaking.

"No, I didn't know until they said that," Mattiace said. "It's going to be a nice project and a very nice addition, very complementary, to our city." City officials are tentatively planning a Jan. 17 ceremony to break ground on a new three-story, 120,000-square-foot City Hall building to be built just south of Branigan Memorial Library.

White Construction Co. will have 1,095 days -- or three years -- to complete the project. Farnum said major subcontractors have already been selected for the project, but local laborers will be needed.

"We will have a job fair and have people come in," Farnum said. "I don't know exactly how many people will be needed. We'll have to wait until the contractors get in here and start the work. But we would still like to use local labor and local people because it makes good sense." Farnum added he doesn't foresee problems with meeting a three-year deadline to finish construction.

"We've never finished a job late and we've always finished on budget," he said.

--Size: 230,000 square feet

--Price: $81 million

--Groundbreaking: Feb. 21

--Time: Will take three years to build

--Features: Eight courtrooms, underground parking garage

--Contractor: White Construction Co. of Austin, Texas

--Architect: Carter and Burgess Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas


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Copyright (c) 2007, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.

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