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Stimulus money approved for federal courthouse

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett announced late Tuesday that $116 million in federal stimulus funds have been allocated to build the new U.S. Federal Courthouse—a project that has been on hold for lack of funding for more than four years.


Doggett supported the measure providing the stimulus funds, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.


“This $116 million means local construction jobs now when we need them most, a significant addition to downtown Austin, and a long overdue improvement benefiting all who rely upon our federal justice system—good reasons for why I voted for the Economic Recovery bill,” Doggett said.


Mayor Will Wynn responded, “This is great news. Not only for the hundreds of construction jobs that it creates, but also the finished product will be an important part of our ongoing effort to create a dense, vibrant, pedestrian-
friendly downtown.”


The site for the new courthouse is 5th and San Antonio Streets in downtown Austin, where Intel had planned an office building and put up a skeleton only to abandon the site when the economy turned sour in 2001. At that point, Austinites just hoped for an alternative to the ugly reminder that things had gone badly there.


In 2003, Doggett convinced the General Services Administration to purchase the property for the new courthouse instead of going after sites already chosen by local museums for their new construction.


Council Member Lee Leffingwell commented, “I think that’s really welcome news,” noting that the city has been waiting many years, “since the last economic downturn, for that eyesore to come down to set the tone for the other things we wanted to do in that part of town.”


Council Member Brewster McCracken agreed, noting that building the courthouse would “accelerate the improvements of Republic Square,” across the street from the courthouse and give Austin a new “architecturally significant building in the same way that City Hall is.” The eight-floor cube was designed by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects and won a rave review several years ago from the New York Times architecture critic.


Doggett has memories of the old federal courthouse at 8th and Lavaca, not all of them fond ones. He added, “The moldy, old courthouse that this new structure will replace was the site of my first job as a young lawyer decades ago. Its replacement is long overdue.”

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