Concern over federal courthouse upgrades in downtown Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Tomochichi Federal Courthouse in downtown Savannah needs more space and the new design of an annex building has local architects shielding their eyes.

Oddly enough, a federal plan for a new annex building to replace these two buildings could disagree with the National Parks Service recommendation with our historic district. All because it would eliminate President Street.

"We need to do this right this time. Look what happened in the 1980s. They tore down two beautiful buildings and put up the bathroom buildings and now they are going to tear those down because they are inadequate," said architect Scott Barnard.

The Tomochichi Federal Courthouse needs more space just like they needed 30 years ago. The General Services Administration proposed a rendering to replace the current annex buildings that sit behind Tomochichi.

"And in this area, we are in downtown Savannah. If you look at the existing buildings ironically geez we've rather just keep the old buildings than go with this new design," SCAD Architectural History Dean Robin Williams said.

GSA's plan would take out President Street and disrupt the Oglethorpe Plan.

"It's a great opportunity no question we can remove the bathroom tile buildings, something we've regretted for three decades, but if we do that and we harm Oglethorpe's plan then we've done nothing maybe we've done something worse," Savannah Historic Foundation President and CEO, Daniel Carey.

This comes after a recent assessment report by the National Parks' Service recommending the Savannah Historic Landmark District continue to be on threatened priority one status.

"Rather like a symphony the way all of these parts come together. If you were to take away some of the instruments in a symphony, you would diminish the sound of the symphony. To remove a part of the plan would have that effect."

Several stakeholders in the community are coming up with other options. One concept is to build a three-story building in one of the annexed lots. The other concept is much bolder.

"The existing courthouse is U shaped if you fill in the interior of that U on two floors it equals the programmatic space they are looking for the annex. that would allow a very simple solution and again very cost efficient."

However, GSA does not have to accept these concepts. They are not required to seek approval from any local agencies on this project as a private developer would.

They say the next steps should be a meeting in April where they will re-sit at the table together and come with modifications.

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