Tis the season for courthouse news
It's been a year of big news for the federal courthouse project in Harrisburg.
No, construction hasn't begun on the 243,000-square-foot courthouse complex, which has been in the works for more than a decade.
And last week, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) announced that the long-awaited courthouse project has been moved to the No. 1 priority for the judiciary in fiscal year 2018.
Congress must still appropriate the funds, a process that will not begin until at least next year, but the city is now one step closer to seeing the project come out of the ground.
City developers have long said the courthouse at Sixth and Reily streets will be a major driver of other development along the Sixth and Seventh street corridors.
"We're hopeful that the new courthouse will generate additional economic activity throughout Midtown," said David Butcher, president of WCI Partners LP, an active developer in that neighborhood for about a decade.
However, specific projects have yet to surface, although Midtown has seen growing interest in recent years from developers that have undertaken a variety of residential and commercial projects.
WCI, for example, has a state-supported redevelopment project underway in the 900 block of North Third Street that will include a mix of new apartments and commercial suites.
"Hopefully it will spur additional projects nearby," Butcher said.
H. Ralph Vartan, CEO of Vartan Group Inc., developer of the mixed-use 1500 Condominium across the street from the courthouse site, has said he expects the courthouse will be a landmark project that will permanently anchor Midtown.
Vartan is the owner of a neighboring tract where a Pennsylvania State Archives building is currently underway.
His company also controls many of the undeveloped tracts around Midtown and downtown. Build-to-suit marketing signs have long occupied many of those sites.
"We shall see, I suppose," Vartan said of the courthouse's new No. 1 priority status and whether that changes anything. "If being at the top of the priority speeds up construction, then yes it will accelerate other projects for sure."
Next year could be an even bigger year, especially if construction money comes through for the courthouse.