Thursday, July 30, 2009

Federal Court of Appeals Property Tour

I recently toured the U.S. Court of Appeals building and was very impressed with the results of the recent remodel; I tried to take some notes and a few pictures during the tour (notes below):

Also known as the Nakamura Court House, this 70 year old structure recently underwent an extensive $80,000,000 'face-lift' to update its various systems; the GSA also managed to obtain LEED certification (possibly silver) in the process.

Amazingly, the existing structure was first constructed in 1940 for approximately $1.7 million, and the block of land was acquired in the late 1880s for ~$8,200.

One of the many challenges during construction was preserving the historic nature of the structure - various wood panels, cabinetry, trim, furniture, and fixtures were removed, labeled, and stored while structural enhancements occurred. The exterior facade was also preserved and restored.

Another challenge during the project was constructing the 27-stall parking garage below one of Seattle's few parks in the area; a majority of this work involved the removal of earth and old material. They did discover some standing fuel and fuel tanks underground as well... If you compare photographs of the old park to the new park, you can hardly notice that they added the below-grade parking garage.

In terms of occupancy, this 13-story structure currently has 16,000 SF of available space (the courts only occupy 64% of the building). We asked on rent, and interestingly enough, the GSA indeed charges Federal tenants rent - they are seeking approximately $40 PSF for the 16,000 SF left in the building (lower floors). The next question of course was how they determine these rents - basically they lease based off of ROI...currently the threshold is a 6% return on cost. The 6% metric is the fed funds rate plus a pre-determined spread. GSA uses these funds for building maintenance and upkeep.

One of the most interesting aspects of the tour was visiting each of the Judge's Chambers. Essentially these are extravagant offices for each Judge, customized to their liking. A good point was made that each of the Judges spends a majority of their time within the quarters...which is why they are so custom and elaborate. We were not allowed to take any pictures within the Judge's chambers due to security measures.

Just a few other interesting facts about the court house:
  • The new windows can survive a very strong blast
  • Asbestos abatement was conducted during the remodel
  • The site was home to Providence Hospital from 1878 to 1911
  • Current tenants include U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, U.S. Marshals, and the U.S. Tax Court
For more information, you can contact the GSA Property Management Office at 206.224.1500. The building really has a rich and interesting history; I would highly recommend researching more on the internet if you have a chance.