South Texas’s new courthouse has the Hispanic heritage of the Rio Grande Valley as it prepares to open in late 2021
EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) – The blue colors of the mighty Rio Grande overlap with dark browns depicting the many Mesquite trees of the Rio Grande Valley in the new $ 173 million Hidalgo County courthouse, which is expected to open later this year.
The Border Report was the subject of a media tour Thursday afternoon on what is still a very active construction site. But at least one of the 31 courtrooms is complete, and it is evident that the bones of what will be a 333,000 square foot facility are taking shape. The colors and designs provided throughout the building will be an ode to the Hispanic culture of this region of southern Texas that borders Mexico, its designers said.
“This celebrates our Hispanic heritage, which is very strong here in the Valley,” said architect Laura Warren, whose firm provides interior design. “When the courthouse is finished, it will celebrate or mimic our roots through finishes, like trees.”
It’s not every day that a poor community, like Hidalgo County, gets a massive new building for its residents. This has been in the works since 2013, when then county judge Ramon Garcia began pushing for a new building to replace the current courthouse, which was built around 1954.
The new seven-story facility – which rises directly next to the former Edinburgh County Courthouse – will have three times the space. Its main feature is the increased security it will provide to the public, judges and defendants, all of whom will have separate entrances to access the courtrooms and the facility.
The new Hidalgo County Courthouse, above, is under construction next to the courthouse circa 1954 (below) in Edinburg, Texas. The prison holding area, top right, measures 45,000 square feet and prisoners will enter through a huge sallyport, bottom right. Construction manager Oscar Garza, above, shows off the district clerk’s facilities during a media tour on May 20, 2021 (Border Report Photos / Sandra Sanchez)
The current courthouse has often been criticized for its narrow corridors which force all populations to merge into narrow public spaces. This often led the plaintiffs and the defendants to literally meet and the bailiffs chained the prisoners in front of the victims as they went to a hearing.
The first floor has a massive entrance to Sally’s Harbor for buses and a 45,000 square foot detention facility for prisoners with multiple divided areas and surveillance cameras. It will be “more than half of the prisons in Texas counties,” said John Niesen, project manager for HDR Architectural Inc., which provides architectural, engineering, surveying and other surveying services. design for the project.
The public will enter through a fully glazed facade with an enlarged security check area that leads to a three-story escalator next to the downstairs cafeteria. The district clerk’s office will be on the second floor and the most popular county courts will be located on the third and fourth floors. Originally the fifth floor was to remain an empty shell, but the Texas legislature added two more courts and these will now go to the fifth floor. Less frequented district courts will be located on the sixth and seventh floors, which are only accessible by elevator or stairs.
Construction began in January 2019 and was well underway when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Nonetheless, construction never stopped, its designers said. And it has helped the local economy, as the construction site employs 250 people every day.
County funding for the facility has increased, however. Originally the budget was $ 150 million, but that jumped when the legislature added two more courts. County officials told Border Report that a city of Edinburgh’s $ 30 million pledge was revoked by the city long after the building was constructed.
No new taxes were levied on the project and the county’s floating bonds at relatively low interest rates. Aside from the rising cost of wood, which skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, its designers have said it is on track and about within budget.
The project is currently 75% complete, according to a county website. The new courthouse could open as early as November but at least in January.
Sandra Sanchez can be contacted at [email protected]
Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and the latest news on issues along the U.S.-Mexico border.