Construction on Downtown's $400 million Federal Courthouse has moved at a leisurely pace since work commenced in August 2013. Now, with the arrival of a tower crane at 1st Street and Broadway, the long awaited Civic Center mega-project is finally going vertical. Scheduled to open in 2016, the project comprises 600,000 square feet of floor area, calling for 24 courtrooms and 32 judge's chambers. Designed by SOM, the 10-story mid-rise is commonly referred to as "the Cube," due to its stout, boxy profile. The courthouse, first proposed in 2001, navigated a long series of obstacles on the way to its groundbreaking ceremony last year. Originally envisioned as a 17-story, 41-room facility, the project stalled out in 2006 amidst skyrocketing costs and chronic delays. After the proposal was revived in 2011, it was met with further opposition from Republican members of California's Congressional delegation, who pushed for the Federal Government to sell the 3.6 acre property to a private developer. However, the GSA and local Congressional representatives held firm, allowing for the long stalled Courthouse to finally inch toward reality.
On the opposite side of the intersection, changes are also underway at another blighted Civic Center parcel. Demolition officially started earlier this week at the northeast corner of 1st and Broadway, future site of a new public park. Known as the "Graffiti Pit," the approximately 2-acre lot was once the site of a state office building, demolished following the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. In subsequent decades, the property has remained an eyesore in the shadow of City Hall, periodically occupied by homeless encampments and even a feral cat colony. Although an architect for the project has yet to be selected, the Downtown News reports that a series of community meetings will occur this summer to help shape the park's design. The project will likely coordinate with neighboring Grand Park, which found its capacity strained last December as 25,000 people descended on Downtown for New Years Eve 2014.