The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Posts Tagged ‘federal courthouse’

Get set for proof of some federal spending: foundation work on new federal courthouse is about to start

In federal courthouse, GSA on June 23, 2009 at 8:58 am

The dignitaries cut the ribbon at the construction site of the new federal courthouse here in late April, and work there stopped shortly thereafter.

But Jim Snedegar, project manager for the U.S. General Services Administration, said in a return e-mail — at 10:05 p.m. Monday — that the start of foundation work on the $140-plus-million-dollar building is “imminent.”

Snedegar said a pause in work at the site is the result of a faster-than-expected finish of site preparation and the need to spend time finalizing construction bids.

“It is a monumental task to facilitate construction of a new courthouse,” he said.

The courthouse project flashed to the fore on Monday when Congressman Dave Loebsack’s office issued a press release saying that the GSA had awarded the Cedar Rapids courthouse project $15 million.

In fact, Congress appropriated money for the project in 2008. Apparently, Congressman and senators are notified of a next round of work on a project and so can issue press releases along the way.

Snedegar said the project is moving forward as planned and has not been waiting on any new announcements from Washington, D.C.

The courthouse is being built between the Cedar River and Second Street SE and Seventh and Eighth avenues SE. It will face toward downtown.

Ryan Cos. US Inc., with a regional office in Cedar Rapids, is the project’s construction manager.

Excavator at the ready to tear apart First Street SE for new federal courthouse; official groundbreaking ceremony set for April 25

In federal courthouse, GSA on March 23, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Make sure you get one last quick look at First Street SE. It is set to change forever and in a historic way this week.

According to U.S. General Services Administration project manager Jim Snedegar, local contractor Ryan Cos. US Inc. is mobilizing forces this week to start preliminary site work for the new $140-plus-million federal courthouse.

That work will include the removal of First Street SE between Seventh and Eighth avenues SE.

An excavator is positioned at the site for the digging to begin.

The new courthouse will go up between the Cedar River and Second Street SE and between Seventh and Eighth avenues SE. It will sit perpendicular to the river and face downtown. And those driving First Street SE toward it will be driving at the middle of the new building.

Long-in-coming, the courthouse landed a special $182-million congressional appropriation in early fall to finally clear the way for construction. Flood damage to the existing courthouse at 101 First St. SE helped make the case for getting started on the new one. The eight-story building is expected to open in the fall of 2012.

A second crew has been at the construction site for the last week or so continuing subsurface explorations in advance of construction, the GSA’s Snedegar said.

The city really is getting a new federal courthouse. The official groundbreaking ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 25.

Landscape artist Easker a part of new courthouse, but he also created city flag — in 1962

In federal courthouse, Fred Easker on February 12, 2009 at 11:07 am

Fred Easker paints pretty landscapes of Eastern Iowa with a sufficient gift that the federal government has hired him to paint a landscape for the new federal courthouse. SEE for yourself at

Easker, 64, of Cedar Rapids, is featured on the Thursday front page of The Gazette, which is something of a work of art in itself. It is, really.  SEE

What Easker failed to reveal in an interview for The Gazette story is something Robert M.L. Johnson – who served as Cedar Rapids mayor from 1962 through 1967 — phoned about Thursday morning.

Johnson reports that as mayor he held a contest to create a Cedar Rapids flag. And Fred Easker, then a Jefferson High School student, won.

“Oh yeh,” Johnson said, assuring that the flag was and is a thing of beauty. “It told the story of Cedar Rapids. Factories. The river running right through the middle of it.”

Johnson said he always flew three flags outside of City Hall: the American flag, the state flag and the city flag created by Easker.

Over time, other mayors were less enamored with the city flag, he said.

Johnson said he’s also proud that he initiated the charcoal portraits of the city’s mayors that now hang outside the council chambers in the empty, flood-damaged City Hall. He also held a contest for a city song.

He said the city band always used to play the song at the end of their concerts, but then he said that gave way over the years.

Johnson said he asked the band why it stopped playing the song, and he said
he was told, “The minute we start to play it people start to leave.”

Easker on Thursday chuckled about winning the flag contest as a senior at Jefferson High School. Back then, he had to plead with a school counselor to let him take an art course, he said.

At the same time, Easker said winning the contest steered him into art and away from a history major in college.

He laughed again Thursday recalling a news story back in 2004 that ranked 150 city flags across the country. Cedar Rapids’ ranked 142nd.

“I was a senior in high school with no art training,” Easker said. 

He said he asked recent Mayor Lee Clancey to consider a new contest to create a new flag. But the existing one apparently is just fine. SEE 

Downtown state of mind set for a boost: Construction sort of starts on new federal courthouse

In City Hall on February 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm

It was the oddest sight this week: an end loader scooping snow off the vacant lot between First and Second streets SE and Seventh and Eighth avenues SE.

Turns out, construction has kind of started on the long-awaited federal courthouse.

Jim Snedegar, project manager at the U.S. General Services Administration in Kansas City, Mo., reports that a contractor was removing the snow so that a ground-penetrating radar study of the site could be conducted.

The study, Snedegar says, will give the GSA a three-dimensional model of everything below the ground down to about 10 feet. The GSA wants to know if there are pipes, old foundations, abandoned utility lines or whatever else below ground as it prepares to do grading and then foundation work for the new courthouse, he says.

Grading at the site won’t begin until the snow is gone, Snedegar says. Grading, he assures, will be underway in the spring.

Late last month, the City Council agreed to transfer the city-owned site to the GSA in exchange for the existing federal courthouse once the new one is open.

The new courthouse will straddle First Street SE and face the downtown. It will require First Street SE to end at Seventh Avenue SE, not at Eighth Avenue SE where it ends now. And look for that change to First Street SE soon.

The courthouse project had languished for years on the federal government’s courthouse priority list.

June’s flood damaged the existing federal courthouse in the 100 block of First Street SE, which helped make the case for funding the construction of a new courthouse. The project then received a $182-million federal earmark at the end of September.

Snedegar says the new courthouse will take three years to build. Scheduled opening is now the fall of 2012, he says.

The design concept for Cedar Rapids’ new courthouse — which is the work of Williams Rawn Associates, Architects of Boston and OPN Architects of Cedar Rapids — has been by and large in place since 2004 and awaiting construction money.

The design features a front-arcing face with a glass wall 300 feet wide and 100 feet high on the right front and a stainless-steel surface with windows on the left front. The five courtrooms are on the right and offices on the left, with judges’ chambers on the eighth story.

Ryan Cos. US Inc., with a regional office in Cedar Rapids, is construction manager of the project.