Travis County has entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with Travis County Courthouse Development Partners, LLC to deliver a site and a completed courts building to meet Travis County’s growing civil and family courts needs. The site and building will be delivered through a build-to-suit real estate transaction.

  • The traditional County process for building new facilities includes the following:
    • The County acquires land.
    • The County contracts out the design and construction of a new building on its land.
  • During 2016, a thorough, county-wide site search process was conducted in consultation with a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) but did not identify a viable site available for fee-simple purchase that could accommodate a project of this scope and meet the needs of Travis County residents.
  • During the site search, Travis County recognized the potential to save time and money by moving to a Build-to-Suit real estate process.
  • Using this process, the private sector partner provides suitable land and constructs the building all in one step.
  • The site is located between 17th and 18th Streets, bounded between Guadalupe and San Antonio Streets in Austin’s civic district.
  • The site at the edge of downtown in the less costly Civic District, but in close proximity to related County offices and legal services.
  • The location ensures great access to residents from all parts of the county, whether coming by car or by bus (15 bus routes, of which four are high frequency and six are express: 1, 3, 18, 19, 20, 105, 663, 801, 803, 980, 981, 982, 985, 987, and 990).

The development will be led by Hunt Development Group and co-developed with Chameleon Companies. Project design and construction will include Hensel Phelps, Gensler, and CGL Companies. Team members have worked together on several similar projects including the Lindsey Flanigan Courthouse in Denver and US Courthouse in Honolulu. Individually, these firms have participated in many other court projects in the US and abroad.

  • Civil and Family Courts handle a wide range of cases including divorces, child custody disputes, and child protection.
  • These Courts also include state courts that handle all child support cases.
  • In addition, these Courts hear major cases such as those related to elections, the state funding system for public education, business lawsuits, personal injury lawsuits, and all cases regarding title to land.
  • Travis County has a non-discretionary, legal obligation to provide for its justice system. The current situation is dire and a potential failure to provide for the justice system’s needs is not an option.
  • The current Heman Marion Sweatt (HMS) Courthouse opened in 1931 and was designed to house just 4 courtrooms. Over time, it has been reconfigured to fit 19 courtrooms in the cramped, aging, problematic building.
  • Travis County’s current courthouse is not providing compassionate justice for domestic violence victims, parents who are divorcing, or children who need to be protected. The overcrowding of 19 courtrooms in a building originally designed for 4 courtrooms makes a trip to the courthouse a high-stress event, when people are already anxious due to the nature of their cases.
  • A bond package to build a new courts building was sent to the voters and narrowly failed in a November 2015 election, but the need for a new courts building has not gone away.
  • In December 2016, Travis County obtained from the federal government the historic federal courthouse at 8th & Lavaca, through a no-cost grant. The building is being renovated to house the overcrowded Probate Courts and supporting offices that are currently co-located in the HMS Courthouse.
  • The renovation of the new Probate Courts facility is underway, with move-in expected in 2021.
  • Once complete, this facility will provide only 4 of the 29 total Civil & Family courtrooms that will be needed by the planning horizon of 2035.
  • This historic building, whose exterior can’t be modified, is roughly just one-third the size of the current HMS Courthouse and will not provide enough growth space for all the courtrooms the County needs in the future.
  • The original plan to add capacity to the current County courts system included the design and construction of a new courts facility with an estimated budget of $291.6 Million on land the County purchased for $21.8 Million in 2010 at 308 Guadalupe Street for a total of $313.4 Million.
  • While planning the new courts facility, we have carefully analyzed space needs and circulation to identify ways to reduce the overall size of the facility and increase efficiency.
  • Based on the program refinements and efficiencies the County has developed, as well as our use of the Build-to-Suit model, initial cost estimates suggest the total cost will be at or below land and construction costs associated with the 2015 program even after accounting for construction cost escalation.
  • Because we are still in negotiations, we cannot discuss costs further.
  • The County will not know the final estimated cost and associated savings until the Build-to-Suit real estate transaction with the preferred seller is fully negotiated, which will take several months. We anticipate knowing the final cost of the project by early 2019.
  • The goal is to maintain the tax impact to the average homestead at or near the impact estimated for the proposed 2015 Civil and Family Courts Facility project even after accounting for construction cost escalation.
  • No. A Build-to-Suit real estate transaction does not allow for the timing and uncertainties associated with a bond election.
  • When the voters rejected the proposed project in 2015 because of its cost and location, the Commissioners Court listened to their concerns, realizing that the downtown property was more highly prized by private developers than initially thought.
  • The Commissioners Court responded by leveraging the value of the property at 308 Guadalupe through a
  • competitive bid by ground leasing it to the private sector and bringing in $430 million over 99 years in lease payments (or approximately $72 million in net present value). This revenue to the County will help offset costs and reduce the impact on taxpayers.
  • The County’s fiscal stability makes this an opportune time to move forward with this long overdue project.
  • By developing a specialized court facility for the County, the seller will need certainty that the County will repay costs they incur on our behalf.
  • The County advertised its interest in opportunities throughout the City of Austin through its broker and advisors from December 2017 through the RFP process. Respondents offered sites both within and outside of downtown.
  • The selected development team provided superior deal terms and experience.
  • The large space needed for the courts facility (432,000 square feet) is difficult to fit outside the downtown area. Height restrictions outside of the downtown mean a shorter building would be required, which would need a larger land footprint, driving up costs and requiring more supporting infrastructure.
  • Sites identified in the 2016 site search and 2018 RFP process showed that there were no cost savings associated with locations further away from downtown.

Yes. Our development program includes significant parking for both staff and visitors to the building. We also anticipate significant parking becoming available in the near future as part of the Capitol Complex Master Plan Project.

It is still early in the process, but we hope to be able to occupy the new courts facility by 2023.

Press Inquiries:

Hector Nieto, PIO, Travis County
PIO@traviscountytx.gov
(512) 854-8740

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Mailing Address

Travis County Planning & Budget Office
Attn: Civil & Family Courts Facility Project Team
P. O. Box 1748
Austin, TX 78767