County Commission Votes to Approve Courthouse Design
At their meeting on March 25th, 2008, the Board of County Commissioners voted to approve the compromise design for the new County Courthouse. The vote was unanimous.
The revised design was the product of many hours of dedicated volunteer work on the part of OSFA, along with the project's architects and county staff.
Why Not Just Build the Courthouse? A Response to the Journal North Editorial
There are a few clarifications and corrections that need to be made to the editorial of January 30, “Just Build Courthouse.”
You lump the Old Santa Fe Association with all “opponents” of the proposed county courthouse. Actually, we don’t oppose the new courthouse. We are dismayed by the 52’ height of the proposed plan, which is excessive for the historic downtown area and in violation of city law. This excess needed to be visually demonstrated. Hence the “cherry picker” we stationed on a parking lot off Sandoval Street.
If several people you interviewed didn’t notice the crane looming overhead, it’s because one of the benefits – and drawbacks – of a crane is its structural thinness. If we had been able to show the massing of the proposed building as well, the effect would have been overwhelming.
It is true that there are buildings in Santa Fe either as tall or taller than the proposed new courthouse. And other than the state Capitol, each one was built prior to 1957, the date of Santa Fe’s Historic Ordinance whose 50th anniversary we celebrated last October with “Posole on the Plaza.” No one, least of all the Old Santa Fe Association, believes our downtown could or should be reduced to one story, as you imply. But we have asked that the county consider building one level below ground, just as was done with the Roundhouse, which would reduce the overall height of the courthouse by about 12 feet - down to a more realistic and appropriate 40 feet – which would still exceed the height ordinance, but would not reduce the necessary size and resulting function of the building.
You indicated that some local groups have been ungrateful when the county has made efforts to take the city zoning and design guidelines into account. Actually, OSFA as well as local architects have both publicly and privately thanked the county for its willingness to work with the community. We have not taken advantage of the county’s good nature. We have not “niggled” over stylistic details. We simply want a building that both the county and the city can be proud of. We want a building that looks like it belongs in the historic area it will occupy. We want a building that will at least minimally conform to the Historic Ordinance.
It is probably true that there are some people who want the courthouse to move south of town. That is not true of the Old Santa Fe Association. We very much want the courthouse and its judges, staff and lawyers and other “ordinary Santa Feans” who have reason to be there to remain a part of our downtown area, for exactly the reasons you mentioned: They contribute real people, with real jobs, who bring life to our downtown. It is this real-life activity that contradicts the lifeless “Disney-fication” you quite rightly rail against.
Finally, you wrote that the county and the courts do not need city approval to build the courthouse. That is incorrect. Legally, they do. The issue is whether the city or a private party wishes to enter into litigation in the unlikely event the county chooses to proceed with a building that runs counter to our codes. That is not OSFA’s greatest wish. We asked for, and promptly received, a specific date for the community to continue to work with the county architect. We look forward to the results of this cooperation.
So, we disagree. The county should not go ahead and “just build the courthouse.” It should continue – at least for a bit longer - to work with the community the way it has been working, which is with respect for our city and with optimism for an outcome we can all embrace.
52 foot crane to demonstrate the height of proposed courthouse
The Old Santa Fe Association placed a construction crane on Sandoval Street 52 feet high - the height of the proposed County Courthouse.
“Our intent was to make our community aware of the visual impact of this project on the neighborhood” according to Marilyn Bane, president of OSFA. “We are delighted that the courthouse will remain a vital part of our downtown, and we appreciate the need for larger and more suitable space for the overcrowded and overburdened First Judicial District Court” said Bane. “We just want it to be as compatible with Santa Fe’s historic downtown district as it can possibly be.”
Bane continued, “The County maintains it does not have to comply with Santa Fe City codes, including our Historic Ordinance. State statute speaks to the contrary. This is an important issue. Our city code would allow an approximate 21-foot height, not one over twice as high.”
OSFA is encouraging the County to continue a dialogue with the community on the plans. “We have had previous discussions with the County architects that have resulted in positive design changes”, said Rad Acton, president of the Canyon Neighborhood Association and secretary of the OSFA board. “We feel there could be even more fruitful and productive results if the County would be amenable to further design discussions.”