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AUSTIN-Ask Charlie Betts where the new federal courthouse should be in downtown Austin and his response is quick: the site of the unfinished Intel Corp. building.

And that’s not just the opinion of Betts, who’s the executive director of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA). It’s the recommendation of a task force organized to lend the alliance’s voice to the site selection process of the federal General Services Administration. That’s what Betts and DAA members will tell the GSA when they meet Friday.

“The Intel site, from the criteria we would apply to it, would be the more desirable of the other two,” Betts tell GlobeSt.com.

That parcel, bordered by Nueces and Fifth streets, is one of three under review for a $62-million, 195,000-sf courthouse. A second site is the lot between Fifth and Sixth streets and Bowie Street and Lamar Boulevard where Whole Foods Markets Inc. plans to build an 80,000-sf grocery store and seven-story corporate headquarters building. The third site is the block bounded by Fifth and Sixth streets and Rio Grande and San Antonio streets, which is occupied by several businesses.

“We want the federal courthouse (in) downtown Austin,” Betts says. “But it’s a little challenging. They have considerations that don’t work in just any place in downtown.” One of those considerations is a required 50-foot setback on each side of a federal courthouse. That requirement came about because of concerns about terrorist attacks. “That’s not generally what we look for, the kind of development we’d like to see downtown,” Betts says.

The DAA task force, he says, sees several positive factors at the Intel site. “The most obvious one is that you get the skeleton down and a rather handsome building in its place,” he says. “No. 2, their top criteria is to have a prominent location. I think overlooking Republic Square Park is a pretty prominent site.”

Intel, the chip maker based in Santa Clara, CA, had planned to fill the 10-story building with chip designers. It stopped construction last year when the tech market tanked and put it up for sale earlier this year. Trammell Crow Co. represents Intel.

Betts added that the task force thought a site on the east side of downtown had merit. The tract, bordered by Seventh, Trinity, Eighth and Neches streets, had been on an earlier GSA list, but was dropped. Betts says putting the courthouse there would be appealing because it might stimulate business activity in the downtown’s northeast quadrant.

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