Architects disagree over whether to save Texas courthouse

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — A South Texas county is struggling to decide whether an abandoned, century-old courthouse is worth saving after receiving a bid to tear the building down.

Nueces County Commissioners recently received an offer from the Ed Rachal Foundation to pay $1.5 million in back taxes to demolish its 1914 courthouse, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.

The old Nueces County Courthouse has been described as an eyesore, but questions over what to do with the ramshackle property are complicated by its listing as a historic landmark in Texas. The foundation’s offer is contingent on removing a state restriction that prohibits the building from being demolished before 2027 because of its historic status.

“I’m an advocate for trying to save worthwhile history, but it has to have an economic use,” said Bill McCord, an architect.

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McCord said he can’t justify spending tens of millions of dollars to restore the deteriorating courthouse.

City planners and developers have noted that the land under the courthouse will become more useful and desirable once Corpus Christi’s 60-year-old Harbor Bridge is replaced, McCord said.

The replacement project is behind schedule, and construction officials said it likely won’t be complete by its April 2020 deadline.

The old bridge hems in the abandoned courthouse property and cuts off part of downtown Corpus Christi, McCord said. Removing the structure will make more land available and allow the property to serve as a gateway to downtown, he said.

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“It probably does have more real estate value without the courthouse, but not more cultural value,” said David Richter, an architect in South Texas.

Architect Johnny Cotten said cities throughout Texas have saved their historic courthouses with the help of government aid.

“Little towns have beautiful restored courthouses and you wonder why we can’t do it here,” Cotten said. “No one wants it bad enough, I guess.”


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Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times,