A new federal courthouse recently opened in Austin, taking up an entire city block between Fourth and Fifth Streets. The narrow windows and stone facade on this eight-story building look dramatic from the outside and I’ve read that the inside is filled with lots of natural light. The latest security features appear to be built in, including a sheltered entrance, traffic barriers, and high concrete walls.
The site was surrounded by high fences during the three-plus years of construction. When the fences were removed, it was surprising to learn that the cross street, San Antonio is now permanently closed to traffic. Instead, a wide plaza connects the courthouse’s front steps with nearby Republic Square Park.
This section of town will look quite different in the near future. The City of Austin is planning to redo the park, adding an outdoor stage, restrooms and concessions. Another courthouse, this one for Travis County, is slated for the block just south of the park, which is currently a parking lot. And a new Hotel ZaZa is planned for on the east side of the park, and received initial city council approval last week.