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Idea#98

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Replace the County Courthouse with a Park

It must have been a 60's thing but the beautiful classic courthouse was bulldozed and replaed by one of the ugliest structures of our time. People giving directions to the Courthouse often say, "Look for the big black box." Outside, it is falling to disrepair with "do not enter" signs, broken fixtures, locked black doors, and a depressing interior. Move the County offices which could free up more storefronts for commercial enterprises one sees in other historic districts. Meanwhile, the City Hall continues to fall apart and is an embarrasment to those of us who take pride in this city.

Submitted by darrylgoldman 1 year ago

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(latest 20 votes)

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  1. The idea was posted
    1 year ago

Comments (13)

  1. I disagree -- I think having the courthouse downtown is the best place for the public center of government.

    I do agree the building is an ugly monstrosity that needs a lot of work. Almost anything would look better than what's there now.

    1 year ago
  2. I agree with both of you. Replace the current court house building with a park or commercial/nice downtown stuff.

    But build a new courthouse AND a new city hall STILL DOWN TOWN, so the lawyers and government employees don't move out (they're the only ones keeping the downtown restaurants open as it is).

    Put these new buildings at the Coca-Cola site across from VBC on Clinton. Boom! New city center! Closer to the Parkway, more accessable. Just what everyone wants.

    1 year ago
    1. I agree with Paige on these ideas:

      "But build a new courthouse AND a new city hall.... .

      "...New city center! Closer to the Parkway, more accessable. Just what everyone wants."

      9 months ago
  3. I know that NO ONE wants a new ball park at at the Coca-Cola site across from VBC on Clinton, which is the proposal that was most recently in the newspaper. Access to the parkway might work for the workday crowd, but not for ball game sized crowds. If attendance at the ball games is not what the team would like it has nothing to do with access. Maybe Huntsville is just not that interested in baseball. But sinking public monies especially in the form of debt, that will never have the promised return will be a crime. Stadiums have overwhelmingly proven to be losing propositions for municipalities in this country and serve only to enrich a few already rich special interests.

    1 year ago
  4. The Marketplace on the Square proposal from Sam & Greg Hathorn of Sam & Greg's Pizzeria/Gelateria provides a pragmatic and affordable approach to bringing traditional green space back to the courthouse grounds. The idea is to permanently convert the north and south side roads into pedestrian spaces, complete with perhaps, fountains, gazebos and grass space for live music/performances, tables/chairs with free wi-fii to be used by the public and guests of the surrounding restaurants, and maybe even a children's fountain on either the north or south side. This idea creates the traditional government promenade or piazza around our own center of government, much like you see in classic European cities.

    This would create a safer environment because it would stop the congestion caused by the automobile traffic endlessly circling the courthouse, vying for the handful of parallel parking spaces that exist on the north and south sides. Better to re-institute slotted parking east and west of the courthouse on the two major thoroughfares which lead in and out of town center - Washington and Jefferson Streets. This would add approximately 50 parking spaces, and still leave room for a 10+ foot sidewalk on east and west side. Picture it - a safe pedestrian area that extends from the merchants on the south side, all the way around the courthouse to the merchants on the north side. Wouldn't that be a great and pedestrian-friendly use of space? Almost two football fields of pedestrian right-of-way on the interior Courthouse Square! I think it would be an urban-renewal concept that other local governments would come to see and model. If you haven't seen the entire concept, check it out at: www.marketplaceonthesquare.com

    Cheers!

    Greg

    1 year ago
  5. darrylgoldman Idea Submitter

    I like the ideas you have and what a great job of presentation! This all makes the most practical sense. My only reason for voting "disagree" is it concedes a future with the "elephant in the room"--an architectural disaster of a courthouse much too large for its space. OK, if it was a fitting size for the space, we could just try to ignore it and work around it. However, it dominates the square and everything that happens in the square will be characterized by what several visitors called, "The Ugliest Courthouse" they had ever seen. Another 10-thousand yards of concrete only added to the coldness. Just look at the improvement of the monthly arts show once they moved off the square to more friendly environs. How do we ignore the overwhelming and dominating monstrosity enough to put your great plan into effective use? OK, so I'm biased but your plan without the "big black box" would be so outstanding. We can dream. Thanks for your creative ideas.

    1 year ago
  6. While replacing the courthouse may not be financially possible, at least have running water in the restrooms to wash hands even if all that is available is cold water. The courthouse has NEVER had hot water. This is unsanitary and a health issue. Any private building in the courthouse or city hall's condition would be condemned for lack of hot water, faulty elevators, lack of access for the disabled, safety concerns from building materials falling off, (see the fencing and plywood covered entry and metal straps holding the marble onto city hall).

    10 months ago
  7. How many have not invested here because our public buildings are in such disrepair? Does the shabby physical state of the courthouse and city hall reflect our community as the progressive, intellectual, economic powerhouse that it is? Do visitors want to invest in our community when they have to go down a floor to find a men's room in the courthouse and then find no water to wash their hands? When six months later comments are still made about the appearance of city hall where plywood is painted grey to replace the marble slabs that have fallen off? Economic Development is not just about giving tax breaks and incentives to locate to an area. It is also instilling confidence that the community prides itself on the many wonderful attributes it has and reflects it in its public buildings and spaces.

    10 months ago
  8. darrylgoldman Idea Submitter

    Completely agree. It's a disgrace to see these buildings crumble without repair. They are both a poor reflection on the city. The courthouse was a horrible mistake that must be corrected someday, but, at least, patch-up City Hall. How can we speak of reinventing downtown when the government buildings look more like Detroit than a "happening" town?

    10 months ago
  9. I like Sam and Greg's idea as well. AND...I like some of the ideas presented at the Creative Cities event at the Merrimac Theater last Wednesday night....which got me thinking...a dangerous thing according to my friends.

    While we are in progress of turning the north and south side streets of the courthouse into a market place, I think we could "spruce up" the courthouse a bit. Make the courthouse into a big piece of art. As a nod toward our beautiful botanical garden, wouldn't our courthouse look unique with a bunch of oversized butterflies crawling up the side? I think it would look like a big stick with butterflies on it. Let's face it, the courthouse is butt ugly anyway. So, why not add some kitsch to it and make it incredibly unique rather then just ugly.

    10 months ago
  10. I'm assuming my opinion is going to be very unpopular but here goes: I,too, wish the original courthouse had never been demolished. I have lived in historic homes downtown for the past 20+ years and cherish historic architecture. That being said, I think the 'big, ugly courthouse' of today has merit. It's post-modern groovy architecture is reminiscent of the time in Huntsville's history when our city really began to grow and prosper in the space age of the early 60's, in fact, that is what sets us apart from most cities. I believe the 'new' courthouse has historical value itself; I can even appreciate the fettucini-esque interior staircase! I think it would be great to draw on these characteristics with updated contemporary design with understated elegance. There are some beautifully striking contemporary design elements available today that could bring our courthouse into the 21st century while honoring its past. Feedback please...:)

    9 months ago
    1. honorourhistory, nicely said. It is so tempting to write ugly things about this building. I agree with you, the design does have merit. On a recent visit there to the first floor, the interior has elegance and I could go on about that.

      It is the height of the courthouse that I find so grossly out of place. Can't we get it topped off to a couple of floors, or wherever the beautiful staircase goes?

      It is beyond disconcerting to have to wander around the exterior to find the entrance. It is appalling to have to hunt for the ADA ramp.

      Yet, those ground floor offices are such a convenience.

      I would love for all the rest of the courthouse to move next to the Parkway where everyone could see it. Perhaps it could even be beautiful everywhere, not just parts of it. And accessible by bike and cars and pedestrians.

      Paige's idea for a City Center at the Parkway sounds wonderful.

      9 months ago
  11. I disagree. If you take the time to really study the courthouse you'll find it's a great example of brutalist architecture. The stairs on the inside and the amazing tile work placed on the wall following the stairs is absolutely beautiful.

    The "new" courthouse might not look like what you like but it's become a part of our downtown and razing it would be a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.

    Use the existing building as a community center with shops and such but to suggest pulling it down, IMHO, would be a shame.

    Heck... If you want to tear something down. Try the old "Hale Furniture Store". It truly does have structural issues and is a horrible way to greet people driving into the city.

    8 months ago