NEW COURTHOUSE JUST A YEAR AWAYBY SUSAN BURGESS
More than 20 years after city officials first expressed hopes that a new federal courthouse would grace downtown Fort Pierce, the soon-to-be-named Alto Lee Adams Sr. U.S. Courthouse is due to open in January of next year.
A bill to name the courthouse after Adams, a Florida Supreme Court chief justice, local rancher and attorney, was introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., and was passed in December. Next, it heads to the Senate for approval.
Adams was chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1949-1951. He began practicing law in 1924 in Fort Pierce, started Adams Ranch in western St. Lucie County in 1937, and served on the court from 1940 to 1951, and from 1967 to 1968. Born in 1899, he died in 1988. His family still owns and operates the ranch.
The new courthouse is under construction on the southwest corner of U.S. 1 at Orange Avenue, across the street from the historic Arcade Building. City Hall is on the northeast corner of the same intersection. The existing federal courthouse is at 300 S. Sixth St.
“The courthouse is going to mean a huge economic boost for the city,” Fort Pierce Mayor Bob Benton says. “I anticipate it will be over $100 million. It will do for us what the county courthouse has done for the downtown area, and attract more businesses on the west side of U.S. 1.”
The new courthouse, when complete, will house 15 agencies, including a federal clerk of courts office, courtrooms, bankruptcy court, the U.S. Marshals Service, federal probation services, and General Services Administration offices. Between 100 and 150 employees will work there.
“They have parking spaces around the federal courthouse for some of the people who will work there,” Benton says. “We have space in the public parking garage for others, including visitors to the building, to park for free.”
Downtown shops and restaurants on the east side of U.S. 1 should benefit from federal employees who walk across the street during lunch hour and after work, the mayor says.
The venerable Pot Belli Deli in the historic Arcade Building across Orange Avenue from the new building can also expect busier lunch and breakfast hours.
East of U.S. 1, Gerrie Biegner, whose S&S Takeout on Depot Drive opened in the spring of 2010, says she and her husband chose their location by the railroad tracks partly because of the new courthouse.
“We wanted a place that you could walk to from both courthouses,” she says. “People don’t have that much time at lunch, and we wanted to be close.”
Benton says the courthouse, first endorsed and promoted by former mayor William Dannahower and then by his successor, Mayor Eddie Enns, was a long time in coming.
“We had 10 commissioners between the time this started and when they broke ground — three city managers, several senators and several congressmen,” he says. “About a year from now, the dream will come to fruition and the federal courthouse will finally be open. I think I can speak for all the commission when I say we all look forward to that day.”
Alto Lee Adams Sr. U.S. Courthouse101 S. U.S. 1
at Orange Avenue
Size: 123,400 square feet
Cost: $42-$50 million
Groundbreaking: Feb. 2009
Completion: January 2012
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