Travis County Courthouse Endorsement

Following a vote of our members, AURA is proud to announce our support of the Travis County Courthouse Bond Proposition.  The new Courthouse will replace aging infrastructure; the Courthouse will be centrally-located and transit accessible.  

AURA member and co-founder Julio Gonzalez Altamirano says “This is a great deal. For a few bucks a month, we solve our Courtroom space needs for a century. If you want to save money, this is the time to build the basics – loan rates are unlikely to stay low forever. Building now is the fiscally sensible choice.”

AURA board member Susan Somers adds  ““Everyone agrees on the need. We can either build modern, compact, and near transit…or we can build a facility that contributes to sprawl. AURA chose the former.”

The Courthouse is necessary.  The current facility is old, aging, and doesn’t provide the necessary physical resources to operate a modern courthouse.  It lacks the space to separate opponents in lawsuits or civil matters – including victims of domestic violence from their abusers.  It has been planned for years, and last-minute attacks haven’t shown any reason to delay the inevitable building of additional court capacity.  

The Courthouse will be transit-accessible.  Located just south of Republic Square on Guadalupe – one of the best transit corridors in Austin, the site will make it easy for Austinites to arrive on public transit.  

Travis County’s Courthouse needs to be downtown.  In Texas, County Courthouses are downtown, and Travis County should be no different.  Being downtown allows visitors to be part of a vibrant downtown – with all the benefits of a compact and connected space.  It allows nearby access for County workers, and eliminates a significantly underutilized parking lot.  In addition, a dense private development on the parcel will benefit the project and the future of Austin.

Some opponents have suggested moving the courthouse out of downtown.  Others express concern about using a parcel that is unencumbered by Capitol View Corridors.  Capitol View Corridors limit the height in some parts of the city so that the State Capitol can be seen from a number of angles.  There are ways to mitigate this problem. One approach is state legislative action. A second approach is for the Austin City Council to expand the number of blocks in downtown or near downtown entitled for central business district-style development.  

AURA encourages Travis County to make the courthouse an integrated, and integral, addition to the fabric of Downtown Austin. This includes sticking with the commitment to have ground floor retail that keeps the block active and vibrant and committing the new private development being built with downtown in mind – not just the needs of the Courthouse.  “The County is going tall with the building to get the best of both worlds on their parcel: much-needed new Courtroom space near transit on one half and dense private development on the other,” adds says AURA member and co-founder Julio Gonzalez Altamirano.

Travis County shouldn’t wait to move forward on the Courthouse, though.  “To win games, you can’t just punt. At some point, you’ve got to get into the end zone,” says Julio Gonzalez Altamirano.

Susan Somers adds “We’ve heard much about the costs but we can’t forget about the value created by the project. Low borrowing costs make this a great time to build basic court infrastructure that even opponents acknowledge we need. And highrise in the central business district next to a transit hub is the best approach to meet the need.”

Travis County voters should vote to approve our new Courthouse on November 3rd.