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Opinions & Editorials Volver a "Opinions & Editorials"

Op Ed: A building with heart in the heart of San Antonio

By Amy Robinson | 13 de julio de 2012

The rededication of the Hipolito F. Garcia Building & United States Courthouse is a sign of everything great about San Antonio.

San Antonio.- Walking past marble pillars and overhanging chandeliers, you cannot help but gape in awe at the Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and United States Courthouse.

Your eyes rest on the vibrant and stunning mural adorning the entry lobby entitled “San Antonio’s Importance in Texas History.”

Just from first impressions, it is undeniable that this building represents San Antonio’s prominence, culture, and history.

That’s why the city has taken all of the necessary steps to restore the historic building to its former glory. Last Friday marked the rededication ceremony for the Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse. The program for the event highlighted the building’s significance: “The seventy-five year old Beaux Arts style Federal Building and United States Courthouse is an important landmark in our city and a symbol of the continued federal presence in downtown San Antonio.”

In other words, the courthouse is San Antonio’s heart. Appropriately, the building is situated in the center of downtown, across from the Alamo. According to Leif M. Clark, the United States Bankruptcy Judge, whenever San Antonio has a celebration (which is fairly often) anyone in the courthouse hears it, making it truly a building for the people, amongst the people.

The marble building, which houses Bankruptcy Courts, executive agencies, and the U.S. Post Office, was originally named the United States Post Office and Courthouse. But in 2006, the Courthouse was renamed and dedicated to honor the late Hipolito F. Garcia, the first Mexican-American appointed to the federal bench in the Western District of Texas.

“Don’t name a building after me!” That was what Congressman Charles Gonzalez claimed the humble Garcia would say if he were still here today. Yet despite this theoretical demand, dozens of people gathered last week to once again pay tribute to the honorable Garcia and all that he stood for.

Historic and energy-efficient don’t generally go hand in hand, but restoring the courthouse had the dual-purpose of preservation and modernization. Superficial changes such as the building façade, the leather covered doors, and the original wooden gates in the courtrooms sought to stay true to the Courthouse’s origins.

In addition to staying true to the courthouse’s history, renovations also achieved 40 percent in overall energy savings. Changes include new heating and AC systems, solar panels, low-flush toilets and the installation of a green roof irrigated by collected rain water.

According to Nancy Avellar, the President of the San Antonio Conservation Society, the Courthouse is expected to receive the highest level of green certification. In a city with excess heat and a shortage of water, raising the bar for energy efficiency is essential.

 “We invested in ourselves. We invested in our future,” said Congressman Gonzalez.

An investment it was as the project cost a total of $56.6 million. Fred Biery, the Chief U.S. District Judge, took the time on Friday to thank President Obama and Congress for making this renovation possible.

This federal funding appropriately resembles the courthouse’s origins. Built in 1937, the federal building was part of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA sought to provide jobs to the unemployed during the Great Depression. Other notable WPA initiatives include San Antonio’s iconic Riverwalk.

The most recent renovations were implemented under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an act very similar to the WPA as it seeks to provide jobs during hard economic times. Avellar acknowledged these parallels.

“Today we are watching history repeat itself,” Avellar stated.

All in all, the rededication of the Hipolito F. Garcia Building & United States Courthouse is a sign of everything great about San Antonio. It symbolizes the great man it was named after; it symbolizes San Antonio’s prominence within Texas; it symbolizes a respect for the past and a commitment to the future; it symbolizes the city’s enduring principles of justice. But most important, it symbolizes the people and community it serves to protect.

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