Contract awarded to build fed court in Cape

Saturday, March 8, 2003

Construction of a new $49.3 million federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau could get under way this fall now that a design-build contractor has been hired, the federal General Services Administration said Friday.

If all goes as planned, the new courthouse should be finished by January 2006, officials said. The building will be constructed at the corner of Independence and Frederick streets just west of city hall.

It will have three courtrooms and house the 97 employees of the federal court and other related government agencies.

Federal funding is in place. "We are good to go. We are very excited," said Brad Scott, GSA regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo.

The GSA, the agency in charge of building and maintaining federal buildings, announced the hiring of PCL Construction Services of Denver. PCL will work with its project partner, Fentress Bradburn Architects Ltd. of Denver.

The contractor already has been paid $75,000 for preliminary design work as were the other two finalists in the design competition. The contractor now will be paid another $25,000 to complete the design work.

A construction contract won't be finalized until the design work has been completed, the GSA said.

Scott said the design-build concept will move the project along faster, eliminating the design and construction changes that can occur and drive up costs when decisions are spread among architects, engineers and construction contractors.

"This reduces the occurrence of disputes among the project team that waste time and money," he said.

Fitting into Cape

Scott promised that the new courthouse at 555 Independence St. will fit into the community architecturally.

"Cape Girardeau is a very historical, traditional community and it wants a courthouse that looks like a courthouse," he said.

The final design for the 154,000-square-foot building should be completed by mid-summer, Scott said.

A GSA committee, including U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Sr. and John Mehner, president of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, helped choose the design-build contractor and will review the final design. The rest of the approximately dozen members on the committee work for the GSA.

Scott said he wants to make sure this design meets with public approval and has the support of Missouri's congressional delegation.

"We are not going to get into the situation we were last time," he said.

The project, which has been in planning stages for nearly a decade, was beset by design problems in recent years. The GSA in 2001 canceled its contract with a Chicago architectural firm for design of the new courthouse after having already spent $500,000.

The design featured an atrium and skylight that would be left open in the summer. The atrium wouldn't have been air conditioned. U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, shot down the plan, saying she wouldn't vote to spend money on a federal courthouse here that didn't have air conditioning.

Mehner, who served on the selection committee, said the design-build team was chosen from three finalists.

"This particular team had an awful lot of experience working together," he said.

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