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  #1  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2010, 3:18 PM
Kevinb Kevinb is offline
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Cool Austin | The Republic Tower | 708 Feet | 46 Floors | Approved

http://www.590klbj.com/News/Story.aspx?ID=1327514
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Austin, TX – The Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously voted today to take steps to purchase one of the last remaining vacant city blocks that is outside all Capitol View Corridors. The prime downtown lot, owned by the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA), anchors the south side of Republic Square Park and is bounded by Third, Fourth, San Antonio and Guadalupe Streets.
This acquisition will enable two organizations to move forward with long-standing civic projects. Travis County wants to site a new Civil Courthouse here, replacing and further expanding upon space it now occupies in the historic Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse.

The negotiated final purchase price paid to the Museum for the block is $21,750,000. The County expects to receive an appraisal from an outside independent appraiser valuing the block at around $21,250,000. The County agreed to pay slightly above that value based on the proximity of the land to the county’s downtown campus, the lack of Capitol View corridor issues and most importantly its unique value as the site of the original Civil Courthouse. UGL Equis Corporation, represented by Keith Zimmerman, was selected through a competitive process as the exclusive broker for Travis County’s downtown property acquisitions. Jeff Coddington and Bob Wynn, both partners at Oxford Commercial, represented AMOA in the transaction.

The block changing hands has historic significance. It was part of the original Republic of Texas grant of land for a jail and county courthouse in 1839, and the first Travis County Courthouse was built on that site in 1855. The block was in the original drawing of Austin’s downtown created by Waller and was listed as the “Courthouse and Jail Block”. Today, it is still referenced on plats and Travis Central Appraisal District documents as the “Old Courthouse Block of the Original City”.

Emphasizing the County will not once again put a jail on this site, County Judge Samuel T. Biscoe spoke to the significance of the land acquisition. “The justice system is one of the largest and most important responsibilities that the county has by law. We recommit to our founders’ original vision of a Courthouse on this site. But we also recommit to a modern civil and family courthouse for our citizens. The last renovation occurred in 1964 when the population was one quarter of the population today. The resulting undersized and outdated courthouse creates deplorable conditions and urgent space needs.”
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  #2  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2010, 3:40 PM
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  #3  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2010, 4:28 PM
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I can't imagine the County would build a significantly tall building for these purposes? Now this is an entire city block, so perhaps the county complex will take up only a portion, and reserve the remainder for future development...perhaps leasing it out to a developer?
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  #4  
Old Posted Dec 15, 2010, 11:21 PM
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So, I guess we will never get anymore class a space downtown?
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  #5  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 12:52 AM
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"The courthouse will be close to 500,000 square feet and will house civil and family court functions, county officials said."

http://www.statesman.com/blogs/conte...ntown_lot.html

For comparison purposes, the new federal courthouse will be 211,590 square feet.
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  #6  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 2:15 AM
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Originally Posted by TXAlex View Post
So, I guess we will never get anymore class a space downtown?
The population of potential office workers downtown is, I firmly believe, capped by the amount of people who can feasibly get into downtown during rush hour - and that's not changing at all - hence no change in office workers (basically) for a couple of decades now.

Urban rail in its own lane would help, a little at first and a lot later on. Buses won't (unless you can convince people to ride them, which you can't). Commuter rail won't (because buses are involved). Car sharing won't. Bikes won't (much).
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  #7  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 3:04 AM
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A 500,000 square foot building would pretty much mean it would have to be tall. Probably 300 feet or more. 300 West Sixth which is nearby, and sits on a block the same size, is 445,000 square feet and is 325 feet tall.

By the way, the tallest county courthouse in the US is in Columbus, Ohio. It's 464 feet tall.

I doubt the building would share the block with any other use. Every government building now is so intensely secure that I doubt they'd allow any other use so close to it.
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  #8  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 3:20 AM
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Also, if the building took up the entire block and put the parking below grade, it would probably be around 10 floors tall. The Omni Hotel downtown is 990,000 square feet in 16 floors. It takes up the whole block. The block size of both buildings is about the same. I would imagine this building will be at least 15 to 20 floors tall. Courthouse buildings tend to have high ceilings and lots of space between floors. I've read the standard height is 20 feet from slab to slab. The building could end up being 400 feet tall.
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  #9  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 3:39 AM
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I am very wary of this building. I really hope we do not get stuck with a "big generic turd" in the middle of this area. Please tell me the city will require the county to comply with Great streets or Street retail/restaurant space.

Anyone have info on AMOA's plans?
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  #10  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 6:42 AM
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I also hope it doesn't lead to an influx in bums hanging around it, particularly in Republic Square Park in the way they do at Woolridge Square Park. If that happened, we could kiss goodbye the idea of a lively neighborhood there, and it would probably have negative affects on 2nd Street as well.
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  #11  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 7:49 AM
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http://www.statesman.com/news/local/..._comments_list
Quote:
Travis County plans to buy lot downtown for new courthouse
County to pay $22 million for site; building would handle civil matters.

By Suzannah Gonzales
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Published: 10:34 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

The county plans to buy the block, now a parking lot, south of Republic Square Park for $21.75 million from the Austin Museum of Art . The proposed courthouse would comprise nearly 500,000 square feet.

By comparison, the new, eight-story federal courthouse under construction nearby will have about half the space . Frost Bank Tower on Congress Avenue has 525,000 square feet of office space.

"We're kind of boxed in. We've outgrown the Heman Marion Sweatt building," County Judge Sam Biscoe said, referring to the county's current civil courthouse.

Biscoe said the county had been looking for a large tract of land downtown for more than a year and discussing it for two to three years. He said he envisions that the new courthouse would serve the county for 70 to 80 years and accommodate future expansion.
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  #12  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 8:05 AM
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I don't think putting this space along Airport would do it either. A 500,000 square foot building would have at least double the footprint of a Wal-mart Supercenter. If Central Austin neighborhoods already complained over the Wal-mart at Northcross, I really doubt they'd be cool with a building twice that size, plus a multi-level parking garage. There would most certainly have to be a parking garage just to save space on land. And I doubt any of those neighborhoods would be in favor of a skyscraper as big as the Frost Bank Tower along Airport or Lamar.

My only two concerns/gripes with this is, I'm concerned about the livelihood of the neighborhood around Republic Square Park with the possibility of bums hanging out in the park. And it turning the area into a dead zone over a lack of street level retail. If this monster occupies the entire block, it'll have at least 1,000 linear feet of sidewalk facing space. Roughly 1/5 of a mile.

The other downside is taking a prime block off the property tax rolls.
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"The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have." - US Congressman John Lewis

"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful." - Edward R. Murrow.

"I heard we had the best mortality rate." - President Donald Trump, July 19, 2020 - The US had at least 140,000 deaths as of July 18, 2020, the day before his quote, at which time the US had the highest global Covid death toll.

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  #13  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 1:24 PM
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I share the same concerns as most as to the design of the building because Bexar County has a track record for going for generic. Also, there will be taxpayer pressures to keep the cost (quality) of this thing low.

I also worry about this hulking city block staying virtually dead at night and not adding anything to that area's nightlife.

But I do see a lot of positives. First of all, it's a CIVIL courthouse so only lawsuits and divorces, no criminals. The fears that some have that this will "ghettoize" the block are not valid.

Second, I work at the courthouse(s) in downtown San Antonio. That area around Main Plaza/San Fernando Cathedral is bustling during the day. There's the potential for this new Austin courthouse to feed the (sometimes) struggling new restaurants along 2nd Street and the Warehouse District with plenty of new daytime business they don't currently have.

Third, a true downtown should have a good mix of uses throughout. You can't just have a bunch of condos next to more condos next to more condos. There has to be something for those people in the condos to "do". I'm sure that plenty of civil attorneys would consider buying condos at the W just so they could stumble across the street in the mornings to court and stumble home after drinking at bars downtown without having to drive their cars or even hail cabs.

All in all, I see this project as a plus. Just make it tall and make it pretty.
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  #14  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 3:00 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelB View Post
I am very wary of this building. I really hope we do not get stuck with a "big generic turd" in the middle of this area. Please tell me the city will require the county to comply with Great streets or Street retail/restaurant space.

Anyone have info on AMOA's plans?
The city can't require the county to do anything. Nor can it require the state to do anything.
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  #15  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 4:38 PM
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Originally Posted by M1EK View Post
The city can't require the county to do anything. Nor can it require the state to do anything.
I knew it had no control over the state.... but the county too?!!!!! WOW! That sucks. THX.
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  #16  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 5:24 PM
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Originally Posted by chancla View Post
Just make it tall and make it pretty.
As long as it ends up better than the convention center Hilton, I'm fine.
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  #17  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 5:25 PM
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Originally Posted by M1EK View Post
The city can't require the county to do anything. Nor can it require the state to do anything.
That doesn't mean that they can't bargain/negotiate/beg/plead with them.
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  #18  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 5:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Kevinb View Post
The negotiated final purchase price paid to the Museum for the block is $21,750,000.
I could see this amount affecting the quality of the building in two ways:

1) They are willing to shell out an obnoxiously large amount for prime location and are the willing to continue their spending spree to make the building blend architecturally.

2) After breaking the bank by purchasing the block at more than its value, the county makes the building as cheap as possible.

This will not be starchitecture, but it does have the potential to not be horrible.
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  #19  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 6:37 PM
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Originally Posted by chanca
First of all, it's a CIVIL courthouse so only lawsuits and divorces, no criminals.
Ha, I totally forgot about that. Yes, that's very different from a criminal justice center. So then maybe there is a chance for some shared space with another use. Either that or have it be a more modern version of art-deco, sort of a hint of the old courthouse. I just hope it doesn't try to copy the federal courthouse.

I wish that the building's design could draw from historical Austin architecture. Maybe take a cue from the Capitol or something. I'm not suggesting copying it, I wouldn't like that, but maybe make a few design hints towards the Capitol.

By the way, this is the Harris County Civil Justice Center in Houston. It has 679,994 gross square feet. It is 378 feet tall with 18 floors. It occupies a full block.
http://www.emporis.com/application/?...houston-tx-usa

And this is Houston's criminal justice center. It's the largest county courthouse in the United States with 787,993 square feet. It is 325 feet tall with 21 floors. It also occupies a full block, caddy corner to the civil justice center.
http://www.emporis.com/application/?...houston-tx-usa
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"I heard we had the best mortality rate." - President Donald Trump, July 19, 2020 - The US had at least 140,000 deaths as of July 18, 2020, the day before his quote, at which time the US had the highest global Covid death toll.

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  #20  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2010, 8:36 PM
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Kevin,

I may be wrong but I believe the bums are in wooldridge park because the jail is located nearby... not necessarily the courthouse. HOPEFULLY that is the case.

Most county buildings look communist block architecturally... dissapointing.

Looks like this thing is gonna be 8 stories. Probably between 160 and 200 feet tall. http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/ne...ntown-lot.html
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