Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Courthouse Site Proposed Group Urges Area West of Hemming Plaza near City Hall

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Courthouse Site Proposed Group Urges Area West of Hemming Plaza near City Hall

Article excerpt

Recognizing a goal of moving government off the St. Johns River, a group studying sites for a new county courthouse endorsed a plan yesterday to locate the facility near City Hall.

The recommendation -- reached after months of study -- is likely to become Mayor John Delaney's choice for one of the centerpiece projects of his Better Jacksonville Plan.

Delaney said recently he favored the site west of Hemming Plaza. The only other step is approval by a courthouse committee headed by Delaney chief administrator Sam Mousa, who said yesterday he also likes the recommended site.

"I would anticipate the committee approving it," said Mousa, who plans to convene the committee within two weeks.

The courthouse committee appointed a subcommittee this year to study possible locations; that group made the recommendation yesterday. The group considered locating the new courthouse near City Hall, building it two blocks north of the existing facility or renovating the current courthouse.

The site of the new courthouse has been a bone of contention between committee members and a group of attorneys, who advocated renovating the existing courthouse because of its proximity to their offices.

Several of the lawyers voiced concerns yesterday as the subcommittee spent the day considering options.

Marshall Davis, whose office is located across from the courthouse, said the city should consider the investment by law firms in the area.

"For many years, this stretch of Bay Street was a vast wasteland, occupied only by lawyers and court reporters," Davis said. "I think that should be a consideration."

What weighed more heavily, however, were the advantages of replacing a 42-year-old courthouse with a state-of-the-art facility near other government buildings, including a new federal courthouse under construction west of Hemming Plaza.

Delaney included $190 million for a new courthouse in his $2.2 billion works plan because of cramped conditions, outdated systems, poor access and sparse parking at the existing facility.

The courthouse now sits between the soon-to-be-completed 966-room Adam's Mark Hotel and Berkman Plaza, which when finished will feature 200 units of luxury residential housing. …

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