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Proposed-New-County-Courthouse

Featured: An illustration of the proposed $150 million Hidalgo County Courthouse which would be built in downtown Edinburg, and, weather permitting, be completed by October 2018.

Graphics Courtesy ERO ARCHITECTS

The City of Edinburg would contribute a total of $30 million towards the construction of a $150 million, six-story Hidalgo County Courthouse, which would reshape and revitalize the city’s historic downtown, under an initial agreement authorized by the Mayor and Edinburg City Council on Monday, February 8, 2016, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members. Richard García and Agustín García, Jr. are not related. If all goes as planned, work could begin on the new courthouse before the end of this year, with a completion date of October 2018, weather permitting. The existing courthouse would continue to function while the new facility is being built. The $30 million city contribution would not result in any city property tax rate increase or take funding away from other major city projects, Mayor García said following the joint work session, which began at 2 p.m. at Edinburg City Hall. “After hearing from our financial advisors, I feel very comfortable that we’re in a sound financial situation, where we can contribute to this worthy project, without raising taxes and without it affecting the other projects we have going on around town,” he told the Edinburg Cable Network. The mayor added that Edinburg hasn’t raised city property taxes in 21 years and he doesn’t plan to start raising them now. In addition to Mayor García, Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr., Councilmember Richard Molina, and Councilmember David Torres participated in the event. Councilmember J.R. Betancourt was excused on important business. Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, Precinct 1 County Commissioner A.C. Cuellar of Weslaco, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Joseph Palacios of Edinburg represented the commissioners court. Precinct 2 County Commissioner Eduardo “Eddie” Cantú of Pharr and Precinct 3 County Commissioner Joe Flores of Mission were excused on important business. Mayor Richard García and Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García are not related. Final details for the courthouse project, as well as the formal signing of an interlocal agreement setting out the financial contribution by Edinburg, are both scheduled for a joint session on Tuesday, March 8, of the Edinburg City Council and the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court. During the Monday, February 8 joint work session, the city and county leaders reviewed the architectural and financing details provided, respectively, by Eli Ochoa, PE, AIA, who is Partner and Architect with ERO Architects of McAllen, and Noé Hinojosa, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer for Estrada • Hinojosa Investment Bankers of Dallas, which is the city’s financial consultant. “This is a historic moment in our county’s history,” the county judge said in his opening remarks during the joint work session. “We are here today to discuss the possibility of entering into an agreement with the City of Edinburg to properly fund an adequate courthouse to provide safety and security for our constituents, our residents of Hidalgo County.” Edinburg city officials are optimistic that the new courthouse complex is on the right track. Mayor Pro Tem Jasso said key issues relating to the planned courthouse complex have been resolved for him. “From the time we began this, I am really happy with the outcome, with what we have today,” said Jasso. “Eli (Ochoa) has addressed many of our concerns, such as the facade of the building, the landscaping. I am really looking to moving forward.” Councilmember Molina, who also serves on the Edinburg Planning and Zoning Commission, predicted the new courthouse complex will have a beneficial impact that will help businesses located along East University Drive and beyond. “We have been trying to help the east side of Edinburg, and when people see this mammoth building all the way from the expressway (Interstate Highway 69C), it’s going to catch people’s attention,” said Molina. “We are going to have all kinds of businesses go up in the area.”

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Edinburg prepared to contribute $30 million towards construction of $150 million county courthouse complex for downtown revitalization

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

The City of Edinburg would contribute a total of $30 million towards the construction of a $150 million, six-story Hidalgo County Courthouse, which would reshape and revitalize the city’s historic downtown, under an initial agreement authorized by the Mayor and Edinburg City Council on Monday, February 8, 2016, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council.

The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members.

Richard García and Agustín García, Jr. are not related.

If all goes as planned, work could begin on the new courthouse before the end of this year, with a completion date of October 2018, weather permitting. The existing courthouse would continue to function while the new facility is being built.

That $30 million city contribution would not result in any city property tax rate increase or take funding away from other major city projects, Mayor García said following the joint work session, which began at 2 p.m. at Edinburg City Hall.

“After hearing from our financial advisors, I feel very comfortable that we’re in a sound financial situation, where we can contribute to this worthy project, without raising taxes and without it affecting the other projects we have going on around town,” he told the Edinburg Cable Network.

The mayor added that Edinburg hasn’t raised city property taxes in 21 years and he doesn’t plan to start raising them now.

In addition to Mayor García, Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr., Councilmember Richard Molina, and Councilmember David Torres participated in the event. Councilmember J.R. Betancourt was excused on important business.

Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, Precinct 1 County Commissioner A.C. Cuellar of Weslaco, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Joseph Palacios of Edinburg represented the commissioners court. Precinct 2 County Commissioner Eduardo “Eddie” Cantú of Pharr and Precinct 3 County Commissioner Joe Flores of Mission were excused on important business.

Mayor Richard García and Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García are not related.

Final details for the courthouse project, as well as the formal signing of an interlocal agreement setting out the financial contribution by Edinburg, are both scheduled for a joint session on Tuesday, March 8, of the Edinburg City Council and the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court.

During the Monday, February 8 joint work session, the city and county leaders reviewed the architectural and financing details provided, respectively, by Eli Ochoa, PE, AIA, who is Partner and Architect with ERO Architects of McAllen, and Noé Hinojosa, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer for Estrada • Hinojosa Investment Bankers of Dallas, which is the city’s financial consultant.

“This is a historic moment in our county’s history,” the county judge said in his opening remarks during the joint work session. “We are here today to discuss the possibility of entering into an agreement with the City of Edinburg to properly fund an adequate courthouse to provide safety and security for our constituents, our residents of Hidalgo County.”

Edinburg city officials are optimistic that the new courthouse complex is on the right track.

Mayor Pro Tem Jasso said key issues relating to the planned courthouse complex had been resolved for him.

“From the time we began this, I am really happy with the outcome, with what we have today,” said Jasso. “Eli (Ochoa) has addressed many of our concerns, such as the facade of the building, the landscaping. I am really looking to moving forward.”

Councilmember Molina, who also serves on the Edinburg Planning and Zoning Commission, predicted the new courthouse complex will have a beneficial impact that will help businesses located along East University Drive and beyond.

“We have been trying to help the east side of Edinburg, and when people see this mammoth building all the way from the expressway (Interstate Highway 69C), it’s going to catch people’s attention,” said Molina. “We are going to have all kinds of businesses go up in the area.”

The new courthouse complex is designed around the goals of the Downtown Master Plan of the City of Edinburg, a vision approved by the city leadership and the EEDC Board of Directors in 2010 to promote business development, cultural activities, transportation, and tourism for that portion of the city.

“The idea is to develop a downtown where people just don’t park, go on to the courthouse, then leave,” said Ochoa. “The idea is to have people walk through downtown to be able to get to the courthouse, thereby creating more of a vibrancy for retail and commercial development, and really help the downtown area of Edinburg.”

Both the mayor and county judge emphasized that the financing of the new courthouse won’t be a burden on property taxpayers.

“We have some major projects going on, we are booming, no question,” said Mayor García. “But going back to the $30 million (city contribution to the courthouse), so the public knows we just didn’t pick that figure out of the air (and) we can afford without increasing our tax rate in any way affecting our general fund. The $30 million is what was affordable to the City of Edinburg.”

The county judge said the same protections are in place for county property taxpayers.

“By the same token, on behalf of the county, we find ourselves in this stage of our county history, by restructuring our debt service, and taking into consideration some factors that are coming up in our immediate future, we, too, can tell the public that the dollars we are talking about are well within our budget, that we will not be needing to increase our county tax rate, in order to meet the debt service on the new courthouse,” said County Judge García.

Commissioner Palacios thanked the city leadership for their participation in the courthouse project.

“It’s been a good marriage. Where we’re at right now, there is a great return on investment on the design. ERO has done an impeccable job,” said Palacios. “I know the work has just begun, though. We are barely going to enter into the design development phase of the project, but we appreciate the contribution, the help, the partnership.”

ERO Architects, on its web page which features its many other major projects, provides the following description of the planned courthouse complex:

“The new facility will remain on the same existing property and provide increased governmental services in an accessible, highly-secure, 21st century judicial facility. The six-story courthouse features a glass facade on the north providing an abundance of natural light and views while maintaining energy efficiency. The design and floor plans incorporate critical security measures by the separation of defendants-in-custody from the public and staff to ensure safety. The lower two floors provide high volume court services such as the county clerk, district clerk, jury assembly and grand jury rooms. The courtrooms are provided in a six-courtroom per floor set located on the upper floors.”

ERO Architects is also responsible for developing a comprehensive history of the courthouses of Hidalgo County. That information is available online at:

http://agenda.hidalgocounty.us/docs/2013/CC/20130319_2011/37714_AI%2037714%20-%20Historical%20Plan.pdf

The executive summary of that report, titled Historic Hidalgo County Courthouse, and published in May 2012, follows:

When the historic courthouse opened in 1954, it was the pride of the county. A grand building in the latest architectural style, 70,000 square feet in area, it held all the branches of county government under one roof. By 1977 though, the county population had increased by fifty percent, and many departments had been moved to annex sites.

The courthouse was in need of repairs, and planning for expansion and improvements began. In 1980, the building was enlarged substantially to 93,000 square feet and seven courtrooms were added. As the courthouse passed the 50-year mark in 2004, the county population had increased over four-fold, and more remodeling was done to insert new courtrooms into the crowded building. The county’s growth has continued, with a population now almost five times that of 1950.

Many legal, administrative and general government functions once located in the historic courthouse are now in off-site facilities, but the infill construction and sometimes unsympathetic modifications remain.

The current long-range master planning effort for the Hidalgo County Courthouse is an opportunity to set new preservation goals for the historic courthouse, and make it the pride of the county once again.

This study of the Historic Hidalgo County Courthouse is a component of the Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan, prepared by ERO Architects for Hidalgo County. The study is an abbreviated historic structures report and preservation master plan, and includes information on the history of the courthouse, an overview of existing conditions and broad recommendations for preservation treatment of the building.

The study is intended to identify opportunities for preservation and restoration of significant elements and spaces remaining in the Historic Hidalgo County Courthouse. The information will inform the planning team, as recommendations for the future use and preservation of the historic courthouse are formulated.

Partial construction drawings for the original 1954 construction phase and subsequent major additions and renovations, completed in 1980 and 2006, were provided by Travis County (through ERO Architects) for use in this study. The construction specifications were not located, and the drawings of earlier courthouses were also not located, and may not exist.

Historic photographs of the original construction work, the completed building exterior and interior, and later additions and renovations were located in the Museum of South Texas History photo archives.

Photographs of earlier county courthouses were located in the holdings of the Texas Department of Transportation photo archives, the University of Texas-Pan American Library, the Museum of South Texas History and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

The office staff of the Hidalgo County Clerk provided frequent access to Commissioners Court minutes for information relating to the development and maintenance of the courthouse. The minutes were searched for references to the courthouse, including the site, construction, furniture, furnishings, maintenance, alterations and improvements. (A synopsis of the relevant minutes is included in the appendix.)

Additional research was conducted at the Museum of South Texas History, University of Texas-Pan American Library, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Texas State Law Library and the Texas State Library and Archives, to locate reference materials about the building, the county courts system and contemporaneous descriptions of significant events.

Hidalgo County (through ERO Architects) provided copies of previous reports and studies of the courthouse, commissioned by the county, for review. Finally, a general sense of the condition, occupancy and use of the building was gathered during the course of two day-long site visits, to assist in preparing the broad preservation recommendations.

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For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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