The Texas Historical Commission has been the guardian of the old Nueces County Courthouse for the past few years, but it turns out the organization is open to the idea of turning the historic structure into luxury apartments.
Nueces County Commissioners voted to put the 1914 building up for sale last week, and the Texas Historical Commission is courting an even more drastic transformation for the 1914 structure according to a detailed study.
Ever since the courthouse was abandoned in 1977, the county and private investors have struggled to find a use for it.
"For years is everybody talked about restoration, but nobody every came up with a great ideal about what you do with it once you restore it," said County Commissioner Mike Pusley.
Now is the time to change that, according to a 37-page study released earlier this year from the Texas Historical Commission.
"What it basically demonstrates is that you could utilize the building for something other than a courthouse, and make a profit out of it," Commissioner Pusley said.
The Historical Commission suggests the building be transformed into a 62-unit luxury apartment complex.
They say the new push for downtown revitalization means there will be a huge demand for more housing in the next five years. The upcoming removal of the old Harbor Bridge will also make the building's location prime real estate.
Finally, new tax incentives for historic rehabilitation make funds available for the developer. The study says although the building would cost an estimated $53.5 million dollars to renovate, an investor could pay as little as $4.4 million.
"It could be one of those really, really cool places to live," said Jim Kunau, President of the S.E.A. District, where the old courthouse is located.
Kunau loves the idea of transforming an area icon.
"What happens in communities that bring residential in, it becomes vibrant," he said. "As much fun and activity as we have here, after certain periods of the day this is kind of a dead location. And by having residents that not just work here, but they live and they commute and they move back and forth, and then with all the entertainment, we just think it's the best thing in the world."
A potential buyer is not locked into turning the structure into a housing development.
"It's one option," Commissioner Pusley said. "We're not going to put a stipulation on this deal that says, you have to do this with this building. If they want to come in and turn it into a restaurant, that's there prerogative."
Kunau still hopes to see some form of development.
"The old courthouse is a beautiful building that is in desperate need of something, and we think that this is a really great opportunity," he said.
The Downtown Management District also supports the idea of luxury apartments. However, the project will only become a reality if the county can find a private investor to buy.
Once the courthouse officially goes on the market, it will only be up for sale for 30 days. County Commissioners want to fast-track the sale, and Commissioner Pusley says they do not want the venture to drag on for years.
A minimum asking price will be set at the next Commissioners Court meeting on October 19th.
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