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Harris County Jury Assembly Room And Transportation Plaza

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http://www.pspaec.com/

The new Jury Assembly Room and Transportation Plaza project will be the centerpiece for the recently consolidated Harris County Courts complex. Four 250-seat jury assembly rooms will feed civil, criminal, juvenile and family courts. The unique organization of the facility preserves the site as a public park. It also organizes the program inside a secure perimeter as the entry pavilion will be a security check point. Once inside, the assembly space is connected via tunnel to the courts on neighboring blocks. After hours, the space will be available to the public for approved activities. The site also plays a key role in the greater urban design strategies of downtown Houston, linking historic green squares, bus routes, bike routes and the expanding green necklace of bayou park space.

Completion: 2009

Anyone know the status of this?

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So they gave up on the original design with the star-shaped fountain in the center. It's an improvement over the surface parking, but I would rather the facility were on the corner than in the middle of the green space. It looks a bit lost the way it is laid out.

Just by reading the language in the blurb you can tell that reporting for jury duty there will be an unpleasant process, what with the "organized program in a secure perimeter" and all.

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So they gave up on the original design with the star-shaped fountain in the center.

Thank God!!!!

Just by reading the language in the blurb you can tell that reporting for jury duty there will be an unpleasant process, what with the "organized program in a secure perimeter" and all.

Compared to what it is today? Not even close.

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Starting at 5a.m., one of the biggest surface lots in the area will disappear so construction can start on a new underground jury assembly room.

The new assembly room will increase security, provide more room capacity and give potential jurors underground access to the courts.

***

Construction will take 18 to 24 months.

A park will be constructed above the new jury assembly room.

Khou

Edited by UpuPUp!
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Very neat. Of course, I'm in favor of pretty much anything that isn't surface parking. And as someone who was called for jury duty in Harris County six times, I can say the current facility can use some improvement.

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Very neat. Of course, I'm in favor of pretty much anything that isn't surface parking. And as someone who was called for jury duty in Harris County six times, I can say the current facility can use some improvement.

Considering the part of town, I wonder exactly what the plaza is going to be like. Would be nice if they allow street vendors there. Would be a much better option than people going to that damned convenience store on commerce.

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So they gave up on the original design with the star-shaped fountain in the center. It's an improvement over the surface parking, but I would rather the facility were on the corner than in the middle of the green space. It looks a bit lost the way it is laid out.

Just by reading the language in the blurb you can tell that reporting for jury duty there will be an unpleasant process, what with the "organized program in a secure perimeter" and all.

As the Editor mentioned, you should have tried jury duty in the old assembly room. You report underground, just like the new assembly room, but in another building. Once you are assigned to a court, you go back upstairs and outside to go to your court. You are following the court's deputy, so you better not fall behind. Once at the courthouse, you must go through security with everyone else. Depending on the time, this can cause HUGE jams at the metal detectors as upwards of 60 potential jurors per court try to get through security.

The new assembly room is also underground. Only the lobby and staircase and elevators are in that ground level building. I am sure they will also have metal detectors in that lobby. What is so great about this setup is that previous courthouse construction installed tunnels to this block. Once a juror goes through security in the lobby, he or she is free to go to any courthouse through the tunnels without going through security again. This is great for the jurors and fantastic for the poor schmucks who get caught behind them now at the metal detectors.

There is also a tunnel to the county parking garage 2 blocks to the east. During inclement weather, a juror can leave his umbrella in the car and take the tunnel to the assembly room, then take the tunnel to court, and even take the tunnel to one of the 4 underground cafeterias in the county complex.

The jury assembly room is the hub of the courthouse complex. It is one block from all 5 courthouses, and will make jury duty easier on both the jurors and the judges, bailiffs, attorneys and court participants. Maybe now the jurors won't show up for duty as angry, and people can have a shot at a decent trial. :D

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Very neat. Of course, I'm in favor of pretty much anything that isn't surface parking.

More trees downtown, and 1 parking lot eliminated. I'd prefer a building or tower, but this is the next best thing.

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Very neat. Of course, I'm in favor of pretty much anything that isn't surface parking. And as someone who was called for jury duty in Harris County six times, I can say the current facility can use some improvement.

I dunno, it seemed fine to me. Show up, giant amphitheater to sit in and wait, tunnel access to the other courts you get farmed out to...

Edit: The jury assembly room I reported to was on ground level.

Edited by kylejack

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Considering the part of town, I wonder exactly what the plaza is going to be like. Would be nice if they allow street vendors there. Would be a much better option than people going to that damned convenience store on commerce.

Well... considering that part of town... just dont hang out there after sundown, let me tell ya.

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Well... considering that part of town... just dont hang out there after sundown, let me tell ya.

Umm....and why WOULD anyone hang out after sundown, unless you're a cop.

The place is a ghost town at 6pm, unless it's a game day over at MMP.

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I dunno, it seemed fine to me. Show up, giant amphitheater to sit in and wait, tunnel access to the other courts you get farmed out to...

Edit: The jury assembly room I reported to was on ground level.

Hmmm...wonder which jury assembly you showed up to. The current one is in the basement of Congress Plaza Building. And, while it is technically possible to take the tunnels to the courts, it is a circuitous route that entails walking south one block before walking north to get to the courthouses, as well as many twists and turns. What is a 2 block walk on the street becomes 4 blocks underground. The new assembly room will be roughly 1/2 block block to all 4 courthouses. Additionally, moving the jury assembly will allow the building to be sold or repurposed, and will provide vastly upgraded facilities for jurors and staff. The work areas for the staff are in poor shape. And, there is still the problem of swamping the security checkpoints with jurors. This is a daily problem that can only be addressed by having another checkpoint for the jurors. There are over 40 district courts and over 20 county courts. The jury panel for a district court is often 60 people, for county courts, 24 people. It doesn't take too many of these courts asking for jury panels at the same time (say, on a Monday morning) to cause gridlock in the lobby of the courthouse.

But, I admit, a juror who only gets called to serve once every several years can handle the current setup. This is more for the staff and courts to work more efficiently, and to complete a comprehensive courthouse complex that serves 4 million residents than to save a juror 3 blocks of walking.

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I think I reported to 1019 Congress, Google Maps streetview seems to confirm. Then they put us in a big amphitheater, just to the right about 50 feet inside the doors. As jury pools were assembled for each court, groups of 30 or so would be pulled from this mass pool and taken downstairs to other staging rooms and then to courts. I never got pulled for a pool so they cut me loose.

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Just the thought of spending another day in the Harris county jury room makes me so glad I live in Fort Bend county now. 

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Man, they need to clean that part of town up hardcore. Everytime I go by there its like walking through a jailhouse since pretty much its all ex cons waiting around the courthouse. I would hate to be a woman and walk by there because all of those criminals whenever I see a lady walk by go, hey baby and are all staring at them and Im sure its not a very pleasant experience for any woman going by there.

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Just the thought of spending another day in the Harris county jury room makes me so glad I live in Fort Bend county now. 

Fort Bend county also has courts and there are also jury trials that will require members of the public to serve jury duty.

I would prefer jury duty in downtown Houston to jury duty in Richmond any day.

Edited by nate
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Man, they need to clean that part of town up hardcore. Everytime I go by there its like walking through a jailhouse since pretty much its all ex cons waiting around the courthouse. I would hate to be a woman and walk by there because all of those criminals whenever I see a lady walk by go, hey baby and are all staring at them and Im sure its not a very pleasant experience for any woman going by there.

Clean up that part of town? LOL. Its the courthouses! There is going to be people accused of crimes around there by its very nature. Sorry fellas, no criminals allowed in the courthouse, you're just going to have to jump your bond!

Edited by kylejack
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Clean up that part of town? LOL. Its the courthouses! There is going to be people accused of crimes around there by its very nature. Sorry fellas, no criminals allowed in the courthouse, you're just going to have to jump your bond!

lol, you know what i mean, of course there are going to be criminals but that entire part of town is just a slum. They could densify it and clean it up. Most cities you go you dont just see a bunch of criminals hanging around in the cbd and bail bonds located on every corner in an area that supposed to be the pride and joy of a city, its cbd.

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Fort Bend county also has courts and there are also jury trials that will require members of the public to serve jury duty.

I would prefer jury duty in downtown Houston to jury duty in Richmond any day.

You wouldn't say that had you experienced both venues like I have. Not only have I been to numerous Harris County jury duty summons in the past, I have even participated on a jury there. Of course it's been a few years. Maybe these days a trip to Harris county courts are like a day trip to Disney World, full of fun and entertainment. I doubt it though. 

Edited by LunaticFringe

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Man, they need to clean that part of town up hardcore. Everytime I go by there its like walking through a jailhouse since pretty much its all ex cons waiting around the courthouse. I would hate to be a woman and walk by there because all of those criminals whenever I see a lady walk by go, hey baby and are all staring at them and Im sure its not a very pleasant experience for any woman going by there.

This is more than just a little overwrought. Every street in the area has been rebuilt, including new pavers or concrete sidewalks, they built two new courthouses at a cost of over $200 million, they've renovated two more at over $100 million, they are removing the surface lot for the assembly room, and have plans to replace a 5th courthouse. Both jails across the bayou are new and kept clean. Many of the old buildings have been renovated. They built a 12 story parking garage with landscaping. All told, they are spending or have spent upwards of $1 Billion on the courthouse square area, and you claim they need to "clean that part of town up hardcore"? Having spent 12 years hanging out in and around those very courthouses and jails, I cannot ever remember catcalls at the women, which include prosecutors, judges, police officers and probation officers. If that type of behavior were occurring, these ladies would more than know how to deal with it. Not to mention that 3 different police agencies have their headquarters within that area, so the place is crawling with cops, deputies and jailers.

So, other than removing the people who offend you're delicate sensibilities, how would you "densify it and clean it up"? Be specific. Exactly which new courthouses would you demolish in order to densify and clean up this area?

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You wouldn't say that had you experienced both venues like I have. Not only have I been to numerous Harris County jury duty summons in the past, I have even participated on a jury there. Of course it's been a few years. Maybe these days a trip to Harris county courts are like a day trip to Disney World, full of fun and entertainment. I doubt it though. 

I've been to both as well. One is a trip to the CBD of the 4th largest city in the country, with all the traffic, people and excitement that this entails. The other is a trip to a sleepy burg, seemingly trapped in time. Some people prefer the bustling city, some the sleepy burg. I wouldn't call one better than the other, merely different.

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Umm....and why WOULD anyone hang out after sundown, unless you're a cop.

The place is a ghost town at 6pm, unless it's a game day over at MMP.

I dont know. What if you have night court?

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I dont know. What if you have night court?

I don't think they have juries at night court, just arraignments.

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That parking lot was huge!! Thanks for the pic. :)

I'm sure the whining as people realized it was closed was huge as well.

Man, I'd like to see the floorplans for this thing.

As usual, thanks for the photos!

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It wasnt any different in size from the surrounding lots. Its just that its a wide angle lens and makes things in the foreground seem larger than they really are. Anyways, when is this supposed to be completed?

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It wasnt any different in size from the surrounding lots. Its just that its a wide angle lens and makes things in the foreground seem larger than they really are. Anyways, when is this supposed to be completed?

Late 2010 or Ealry 2011.

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They did a good job of reorienting the entrance to the county court to face the park. The main entrance used to be on San Jacinto.

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Construction on the park from yesterday

3818409672_661995a86d_o.jpg

Looking good. Now we need to work on that row of parking lots on the left hand side.

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They've unearthed what appears to be the basement of a building at the corner of Caroline and Franklin. Anybody know what building used to be at that corner?

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They've unearthed what appears to be the basement of a building at the corner of Caroline and Franklin. Anybody know what building used to be at that corner?

My trusty 'Downtowner' map from 1940 shows 'Inside Parking' at that corner.

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They did a good job of reorienting the entrance to the county court to face the park. The main entrance used to be on San Jacinto.

What is that building? The Harris County District Courts map does not identify it and I cannot recall.

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What is that building? The Harris County District Courts map does not identify it and I cannot recall.

Sorry, my mistake. I was referring to the former court building. At some point it became the Juvenile Justice Center.

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Construction on the park from yesterday

3818409672_661995a86d_o.jpg

Wow, first picture i've seen with both construction projects.(MainPlace, and Hess/Disco Tower.)

This is an awesome picture.

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My trusty 'Downtowner' map from 1940 shows 'Inside Parking' at that corner.

Inside parking? Like a parking garage? How odd.

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Inside parking? Like a parking garage? How odd.

It's hard to say if it was a parking garage or not. It was small, at most a sixth of the block. There was a garage next door.

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Architech - PageSoutherlandPage

HarrisCo_JuryRoom_SLIDE_01.jpg

Seems like they could have oriented the building to run parallel to Congress so it didn't jut SO far into the park. Kind of kills that space.

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Seems like they could have oriented the building to run parallel to Congress so it didn't jut SO far into the park. Kind of kills that space.

I disagree, while I would have liked a smaller surface footprint, the way it's oriented gives quite a bit of greenspace that is available to people coming from the criminal and civil courthouses.

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Hopefully this park increases property values a little bit around that area, although I doubt it will.

Considering every property surrounding the park is owned by the County, I agree that it probably will not raise property values, nor would it matter in any way whatsoever, as the County is not interested in selling its courthouses.

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Considering every property surrounding the park is owned by the County, I agree that it probably will not raise property values, nor would it matter in any way whatsoever, as the County is not interested in selling its courthouses.

Agreed.

I just hope they allow some better quality street vendors to be there.

The hotdog stand that I got my eats was disappointing to say the least.

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I disagree, while I would have liked a smaller surface footprint, the way it's oriented gives quite a bit of greenspace that is available to people coming from the criminal and civil courthouses.

You don't think it would look a little less awkward if, say, it ran along the street in that open space between the trees, rather than jutting straight out into the middle of the green lawn?

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You don't think it would look a little less awkward if, say, it ran along the street in that open space between the trees, rather than jutting straight out into the middle of the green lawn?

It doesn't look odd to me. I think they wanted the greenspace to be viewed by those walking along the Congress side instead of a solid wall for most of that block.

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I walked by on the weekend and it was well under way. Not much else to say about it right now...

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