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Travis County Judge Announce GSA Gifting Deed to Federal Courthouse

12/29/2016 11:17:00 am | Viewed: 1398

Texas Construction News from Virtual Builders Exchange


The former U.S. federal courthouse on Eighth Street was give to Travis County by the General Services Administration.


Posted: 12-29-2016, 12:00 p.m.

by Adolfo Pesquera

Austin (Travis Co.)Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt announced today that the U.S. General Services Administration has gifted the historic federal courthouse to the county.

As reported by Virtual Builders Exchange in May, the county submitted an application to put itself in consideration for the U.S. courthouse at 200 W. Eighth Street. The county's hopes for acquiring the vacant historic building became its Plan B after voters in November 2015 rejected a $287 million bond proposition for a much needed new 14-story courthouse.

Travis County Commissioners Court wants to move the Civil and Family Courts into the federal building, after a renovation.

With U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett and other dignitaries by her side, Eckhardt spoke from a podium on the steps to the entrance of the old courthouse during a late morning announcement.

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with the federal government on the preservation of this historic public building by maintaining it as a courthouse," Eckhardt said.

"Although this gift from our federal partners does not solve our overall court capacity issues longterm, it is a great reliever of our current overcrowding at another historic public building, the nearby Heman Marion Sweatt (Travis County) Courthouse, which is right up the road," she said.

"Both buildings will continue to bear witness to our civic history in the core of our county seat, because justice is at the center of our community. I have a few people to thank, chief among them, of course, is Congressman Doggett ... (who) worked so doggedly to make sure that this dream came true," Eckhardt said.

An application from a homeless advocacy group, Front Steps, preceded the county application. Front Steps wanted to convert the building into a shelter. However, on Dec. 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services denied the organization's plan. That decision left the county as the preferred future owner to the declared excess property.

The four-story federal building is 80 years old and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Conditions tied to the transfer of ownership include a preservation plan with cost estimates for its restoration and maintenance.

When the Commissioners Court authorized submission of its application, it also directed staff to retain Gensler to update a prior study. At one time, the GSA planned to relocated a U.S. Bankruptcy Court into the building. Although, that plan was never implemented, Gensler provided the GSA a report that it the building's renovation for the Bankruptcy Court move.

The Commissioners Court will most likely ramp up to process for a restoration and remodel in 2017. Because of its legacy, this may require review by the Texas Historical Commission.



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Adolfo Pesquera

Adolfo Pesquera is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.