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The federal government wants ideas on how to reuse a prime spot on Niagara Square.

The government closed the Michael J. Dillon Courthouse after opening the Robert H. Jackson Courthouse across the square in November 2011.

Now the property manager wants development ideas for the empty Art Deco-style building at 68 Court St.

The U.S. General Services Administration prefers a trade – not cash – for the old courthouse. The agency will look to trade the building for construction services at other facilities it controls.

Renovating the courthouse for other tenants would cost the federal government too much, according to a GSA release.

The agency’s request for information seeks ideas from the private real estate community. The request will be posted at www.fedbizopps.gov for 45 days.

“The government can then use the submissions to make informed decisions and possibly create a deal structure that will put this property to new use while also letting the government leverage the building for necessary improvements to other government buildings,” according to GSA.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer has advocated a reuse of the building.

“The decision to seek ideas for a potential sale of the Dillon Courthouse is a great next step toward making sure this gorgeous building does not fall into a state of disrepair, and instead becomes a magnet for local jobs,” Schumer said.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said the GSA’s announcement that it wouldn’t use the building for another federal tenant did not come as a surprise.

He called GSA’s request for redevelopment ideas “another opportunity for Western New York to control its own destiny by bringing new life to this historic building in Buffalo.”

Higgins called on GSA in September 2012 to move other federal agencies into the building. Other agencies were leasing space from private landlords. They could have been in the government-owned courthouse instead, he said.

The courthouse, built in 1936 and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, has seven stories, a mezzanine and a penthouse.

email: jterreri@buffnews.com