"The last time that we held [a civil court] opening like this was back in 1931 ... And I think Austin has changed a little bit since then," Travis County Judge Andy Brown said. "You can see that we need a little bit more room to do what we do, and to serve the people in our community better."
The facility, located on 1700 Guadalupe St., Austin, will house 25 courtrooms and the county’s law library. It also has a cafeteria, dozens of conference rooms, secure victim waiting areas, public waiting spaces, an outdoor plaza and an underground garage.
The new facility includes a child drop-off center and a nursing room.
Construction on the 448,000-square-foot project started in August 2018, though the county began looking into creating a new courthouse more than a decade ago.
In 2018, the Travis County Commissioners Court, including then-Judge Sarah Eckhardt, approved $328.5 million in certificates of obligation to pay for the project after voters rejected a 2015 bond that would have funded the project. Certificates of obligation allow government entities to issue large amounts of debt without voter approval.
Eckhardt, who is now a state senator, described the funding method as a public-private partnership that was instrumental to the creation of the building.
"We tried to move this forward in a traditional procurement method, and we could not make it work. We tried to define a great site and bond for it. But the community just did not understand fully what we were trying to do. It didn't change the fact that we desperately needed this space," Eckhardt said. "But with the building of this incredible structure through a historic public private partnership, we were able to expedite this construction and deliver you this beautiful, functional place of dignity to resolve our disputes peacefully. And it will last for generations."
Staff will begin moving into the building in January, and jury trials will begin in February. The Heman Marion Sweatt building, which previously held the civil court rooms, will likely continue to be used by the county in some capacity, following renovations.