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Huntsville, which last year claimed the title as the largest city in Alabama, continues to see new people moving in every day so that’s why a new and larger federal courthouse is needed to replace the one built 90 years ago, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Monday.
The retiring senator joined present and retired federal, state and local leaders at the site for the new federal courthouse that’s being built between Gallatin Street and Dr. Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard. They officially broke ground for the approximately $100 million, 123,000 square-foot project already under construction and expected to open in the summer of 2024.
Shelby referenced the city’s growth with a story of recently meeting a young couple from New Jersey – an attorney and an engineer – moving to Huntsville. “We’ve been down there,” Shelby said they told him. “We’ve got friends there.”
“They’re coming from everywhere, and you’re going to see more of this,” Shelby said. “So you needed this courthouse.
“You’ve got a lot a lot of federal presence here – one of the big federal presences in the South,” Shelby said, “so you’re going to have something here. But what is this all about? It’s about justice, about courts and the rule of law, addressing grievances and everything that goes with it.”
Shelby has “single-handedly secured funding to replace Alabama’s aging courthouses,” U.S. District Judge Liles Burke said. “He has guided funding for new federal courthouses in Tuscaloosa, Mobile, Anniston and, yes, Huntsville during his tenure.”
Shelby said that U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith, Jr. and the late attorney local Herman “Buck” Watson “worried me to death about this courthouse. They didn’t give up.”
Shelby helped fund buying the land years ago but said it took more than 20 years to secure funding for the building. That land in the heart of downtown would be unaffordable today, he said.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the new courthouse meets a need for downtown, north Alabama and “for the nation.” Battle said, “That is one thing Richard Shelby has brought us time and time again. Where there was a need for the nation – and it had to be a need for this nation – Richard Shelby would step up and Richard Shelby would come in and say, ‘Where in Alabama do you want to put that?’”
Allison Azevedo, deputy commissioner of Public Buildings Services for the federal General Services Administration, said she was excited to be in Huntsville to see the growth she’d heard about. “Congratulations,” Azevedo told local leaders.
Azevedo listed the main features of the 123.000-square-foot federal district courthouse: “Six chambers for the Northern District of Alabama and secure parking for the judges that will work in that facility. Also (offices for) the U.S. Marshall’s Service, U.S. attorneys, U.S. Probation and Pretrial.
“Co-locating these services in this building is going to save money,” Azevedo said. “It’s going to improve operational efficiency for the judiciary. Additionally, it will help meet the court’s long-term space and security needs.”
The new courthouse is rising south of Big Spring Park and north of the Twickenham Square shopping centerl. Design on the building began in 2021, and contractor is Brasfield & Gorrie LLC of Birmingham.
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