Thursday, September 22

Where Will the New Courthouse by Built?

Today's Tribune announced that a new Federal courthouse will be built in Great Falls.

Where will it be built? I have heard quite a few rumors that it is slated for the land being developed near the fairgrounds on the West bank of the Missouri. If the courthouse is built there, it will gut the downtown development around Central Avenue that our city has been working toward for decades.

Such placement would be a mistake. The courthouse should be built downtown.

If land cannot be found between 2nd Ave South and 2nd Ave N, such a project could be placed on the lower South side near Central Avenue, in this area. Machinery Row has a number of empty buildings and brownfields that could accomodate a courthouse. Building the courthouse there would dovetail with the Central Avenue redevelopment and would help revitalize the lower South side.


The Raving Norseman said...

I'm not saying your own concern is misplaced, but how concerned should federal planners be with one portion of one locality's economic development?

Treasure State Jew said...


I think that this case creates a juxtoposition of interests.

By building this new courthouse, the federal government will be injecting itself into this one locality's growth planning. In effect, federal tax dollars will be used to either reinforce or undo what local tax dollars have been working towards for decades.

Take the example of the recent Central Avenue streetscape development. I don't know if any federal funds were used for that project, but local tax dollars certainly were part of the pot.

Moving the courthouse, and the hundreds of legal jobs that go with it, will either reinforce the importance of Central Avenue (which, I believe, has been a city priority) or will make it largely irrelevant.

Take it another way; should federal planners disregard the growth plans of a locality where they are going to make an investment, or should they work with that locality?

Land is a lot cheaper over by Bootlegger Trail -- why not build the courthouse there? So what if there are insufficient facilities (water, sewer, etc.) in the area?

Whenever the Federal or State government makes an investment in an community like this, they should work with that community.

The Raving Norseman said...

It's possible that I'm just being pedantic, but my question was sparked by your use of the word "mistake." The federal government's job is to build a facility that meets the federal government's needs. Absolutely, they should work with the locality --but I'm not sure it would be a "mistake" if they determined after careful study that a location other than the one that the city chooses for them would work better for them.

For the record, I also support putting it downtown, because that, to me, makes the most sense when I try to see it from the federal government's point of view; I was just questioning how concerned they should be with Great Falls' vision of economic development.

Treasure State Jew said...

Hey, I would be the first one to argue that the meaning of the words we write are of extreme importance. I don't think you are being pedantic.

I probably should attempt greater clarity; when I say that placing the courthouse on the West end of town would be a mistake, I do not mean that it would necessarily be a mistake by the GSA offical making the decision.

I mean that it would be a mistake for our town. I am concerned that some of our city planners are pushing for such a location to make a centerpiece for the West Bank development for which they have been advocating.

For the past several months, there has been a lot of activity there. The-powers-that-be have been kicking out more industrial businesses to make room for ... something. Now, I think we have a better idea about what "something" really is.

All of this is happening without a great deal of debate or transparency. No one has asked me to vote if we need or want a second downtown on the West bank of the Missouri.

Now, moving the federal courthouse Westward will make such a move a done deal. In doing so, the federal government will have injected itself into what should be a local decision. That is at least part of my point.