All is not quiet on the federal courthouse front.

The Des Moines City Council voted Monday to send a letter to the chief of the General Services Administration objecting to what City Councilwoman Linda Westergaard described as a “box” of a $136 million new federal courthouse that is being planned for the site of the former Riverfront YMCA.

Business leaders and public officials had hoped — after first objecting to the GSA’s selection of the site — for a prettier building, at the least, one that would accommodate public uses beyond the mere meting out of justice and serve as a catalyst for future development in downtown Des Moines.

After following the design path that has been taken for the courthouse, city officials and some business leaders are fretting about the future.

Art Slusark, chief communications officer for Meredith Corp., told the council that his company wants the GSA to rethink the location for the federal courthouse. He asked the council to delay sending a letter regarding the design to give business and civic leaders a chance to communicate with one message.

Apparently, that message will be delivered during a meeting with the GSA that is being hosted April 5 by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Locating the federal courthouse at the old Y site “does not fit the character of what we want to see there,” Slusark said. Meredith, which sparked the rejuvenation of the Western Gateway with a massive renovation of its corporate campus, has weighed in on suitable uses in the past. A few years ago, the company famously protested the location of a Subway restaurant on the north side of Grand Avenue. That location has since been converted to the Krause Gateway Center.

Rumors have been circulating for months that some business leaders were circulating petitions asking the GSA to change its mind.

Mayor Frank Cownie and members of the City Council have taken their concerns to the state’s congressional leadership and have met what amounts to a rock wall of “Sorry, but live with it.”

City leaders have been told “that ship has sailed” regarding efforts to change the location, Councilman Joe Gatto said.

Congressional leaders have told city officials that $10 million — a figure that more than likely includes $6.5 million paid to Hubbell Realty Co. for the site — already has been spent on the project, Gatto said.

At this point, “I don’t think they are going to listen to what we have to say,” Gatto said.

If the location is firmly anchored in the collective GSA mind — remember, the government’s procurement and development arm is acting at the behest of a very select cast of constituents, federal judges — then maybe it will come up with a design that doesn’t abuse some sensibilities.

“We are hopeful a place like this could have some public space,” Cownie said, looking nice at least on three sides that would come into public view. Apparently, the box is just a box.

Councilman Bill Gray said another message is that the project is being “value engineered,” meaning the GSA is looking to cut costs wherever possible.

“I see this thing spiraling down even worse,” he said.

Hoping to stop the project from spiraling too deep, the council gave unanimous approval to sending the letter.