Old Nueces County Courthouse Saved for Now
A bid to tear down the old Nueces County Courthouse was rejected by Nueces County commissioners in a meeting March 13. The Ed Rachal Foundation offered to pay $1.5 million in back taxes to several local taxing entities and pay for the demolition as the price to purchase the property.
County Judge Barbara Canales hopes the vote will spark new interest in restoring the deteriorating building, which served as the Nueces County Courthouse at 1100 N. Mesquite St. from 1914 to 1977. It has been vacant since the courthouse moved to its current location at 901 Leopard St.
“My prediction is if we actually act on this, we might be able to get on the road to having other people talk to us about new opportunities,” Canales said at the meeting. “It is my sincere hope that we save this courthouse.”
Last year, county commissioners rejected a proposal to turn the old courthouse into a luxury boutique hotel. After celebrating a signed agreement, then-county Judge Loyd Neal opted out when the company had trouble getting a loan and did not pay the back taxes in a timely manner. He also noted that someone else was interested in the property.
That someone turned out to be the Ed Rachal Foundation, which has been on a buying spree across the city. Purchases in the last year include the Ada Wilson “castle” house on Ocean Drive, the Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital, Frost Bank Tower, Hacienda Records, and the Beverly Building next door. Hacienda Records was demolished earlier this year.
Another obstacle stood in the way of the foundation’s desire to clear the property, which will become prime real estate when the new Harbor Bridge is completed. The Texas Historical Commission granted the county $1.5 million to stabilize unsafe areas around the building in 2006. In exchange, the county agreed to seek restoration. As an official historic landmark, the courthouse is protected until 2027, when the covenant expires. Several requests to the commission to lift the restriction have been denied.
“It will be a miracle if (the Ed Rachal Foundation) can get that covenant off,” Commissioner Carolyn Vaughn said.
Canales said she would “do everything in my power” to save the courthouse, which sits at the entrance to the city’s Sports, Entertainment, and Arts District.
“But I am not a magician,” she said. “We will do what we think that we can do to provide the tools to the county.”
According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Historical Commission agreed March 13 to work with the county to find state historic preservation tax credits and other incentives to possibly restore the building. Commissioners are continuing their search for a buyer.
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