Austin's new federal courthouse opens for business

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist KENNETH NULL

kvue.com

Posted on December 4, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 5 at 2:08 PM

AUSTIN -- It took more than three years and $123 million, but finally this week with little fanfare, Austin's new federal courthouse opened its doors.

It sits on the site of the old Intel Shell building, which was imploded in 2007.

Workers are still putting the finishing touches on the new, eight-story building's outside and the inside.

Longtime U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks is still getting used to everything the new building has to offer.

“Austin has one of the heaviest civil criminal dockets in the U.S.,” Judge Sparks said. “The only good thing that I have contributed to this is I insisted they have limestone because this was originally going to be steel and windows only.”

With soaring open spaces and white floors and walls, those who work there say the facility is something to be proud of.

The courthouse features eight courtrooms and chambers for 10 judges. Long windows fill the rooms with natural light.

“This is the courthouse of the future. The entire building is run by computer -- the lights, the temperature, everything,” Judge Sparks said. “We have screens that will come out of the walls for video witnessing.”

In the old courthouse, those coming in for sentencing mingled with the public. Not anymore.

“They have their own elevators, they have their own cell blocks up on the second floor,” the Judge said.

When you enter the courthouse, the first thing that catches your eye is a massive piece of artwork done by a German artist. The distinctive piece cost an estimated $1 million.

The federal courthouse project was paid for by the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act and finished on budget.

Some employees are still moving from the old federal courthouse on 8th Street to the new one.

No word what's going to happen to the old courthouse. That's up to the federal government.

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