A major development is coming to downtown Mobile that has been years in the making. Sen. Richard Shelby announced Jan. 14 that Mobile would finally have a new federal courthouse.

The deal that results in a multimillion project in downtown Mobile was crafted on Jan. 13 when the Senate and House Appropriations Committee leaders reached an agreement and filed the Fiscal Year 2014 Government Funding Bill. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Shelby served as the top Republican negotiator on the Senate side.

“These funds will provide Mobile with a new courthouse that meets modern security standards and facilitates efficient processing of cases,” Shelby said in a press release. ”The construction and operation of this facility will also generate huge economic activity in the heart of Mobile. I am pleased that this was included in the legislation.”

Perhaps most important to Mobilians is the bill provides $69.5 million to construct a new federal courthouse in Mobile and to renovate the existing courthouse. That will be done by combining the $69.5 million with the $49 million that is remaining from previously appropriated courthouse funding for Mobile. The total project cost will be $118.5 million.

In a September 2013 feasibility study by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for Mobile proposed constructing a 138,000-square-foot facility with three district courtrooms and three magistrate courtrooms at a cost of $85.9 million.

The project’s remaining $32.6 million would be used to modernize the existing courthouse and accommodate the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and U.S. Probation, which are currently housed in leased space.

The total design and construction work is expected to take five and a half years.

According to a release by Shelby’s office, the new building is needed because “the John A. Campbell Courthouse was built from 1932-1934.  The existing building lacks the physical space to accommodate the full program and operational needs of the Court and is unable to support criminal proceedings adequately.  The building’s tenants are crowded in non-contiguous space, and it lacks restricted circulation, requiring the public, jurors, attorneys, prisoners and judges to use the same corridors.  Additionally, due to space constraints, U.S. Bankruptcy Court and U.S. Probation are housed in privately owned lease space at a cost of $1 million annually.”

In addition to the new courthouse, the report accompanying the legislation directs the Corps of Engineers to studying the widening and deepening of Mobile harbor.  This is a necessary, preliminary step under the Corps’ regulations before the work can be undertaken.

“Mobile can be one of the top five ports in the country,” Shelby said. “Its economic potential is limitless. I am pleased that this legislation provides for the next critical step in that direction.”