30 September 2007

Save Civic Center

Michael Paglia at Westword states the obvious:

The committee made the decision because of the undeniable overcrowding in the courts and because of the perceived shortcomings of the Colorado History Museum portion of the CHS headquarters. Then, for no good reason, the committee said the block should be used to construct a proper courthouse while the CHS should look elsewhere for a site.

So, the CHS began scouting for alternative sites. But before I discuss the spots being considered, I need to say that the best place for it is right where it is. It's the Supreme Court that should look elsewhere. After all, the CHS actually attracts the public at large and has a crossover audience with the library and the art museum, while the courts only attract people involved in cases there.

Sadly, that won't happen, and more than a half-dozen alternate sites have been considered for the CHS, with only three still in contention: a parking lot at Colfax and Lincoln, a dark horse that I won't even discuss; the former Denver permit center, which I will address in a moment; and the park, which is currently the front-runner.

Paglia is right. There is no compelling reason whatsoever for the appellate courts or administrative offices of the Colorado court system to continue to hold onto the prime real estate they have today. The state capital has few day to day dealings with it, by design, as a result of the separation of powers. Any place within bike messenger distance of 17th Street will do, and quite frankly, a more remote location might even convince the appellate courts to adopt the e-filing system that most of the state's trial courts use, something it should have done years ago. There is no reason for a state as physically large as Colorado to do otherwise in the only state courts that routinely do business with attorneys all over the state.

Leave the Colorado History Museum where it is (with a new and improved building), move the state's appellate courts elsewhere, and leave Civic Center alone.

Everybody close to the issue knows why Civic Center is the repeated target of assaults on its integrity. It is a gathering place for Denver's vagrants and outcasts. But, the solution to those problems is not to build new buildings there. The solutions are to deal with homelessness (which on other fronts the Hickenlooper administration has done a passable job of trying to do) and to inhabit the park.


Anonymous said...

The proposal for the new Colorado Center of Justice on the block bounded by 14th & 13th Avenues and Lincoln and Broadway, calls for much, much more than a new courthouse for the appellate courts and the SCAO. The new justice center would also house the entire AG's office and the State (and perhaps Denver ) Offices of the Public Defender. So it's a much more complex and comprehensive plan for that block than you acknowledge. The appellate courts are only a small part of it. Both the AG's and the PD's office (especially the AG's office) have regular interaction with the State Capitol, as well as other state departments located in that vicinity. And of course both the AG's office and the PD's office have interaction with the Denver District and County Courts (in the nearby City and County Building).

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Civic Center is fundamentally a tourist hub.

The AG's office has no more need to be right next to the state capitol than the law firms of 17th Street, who manage just fine from a mile away. Nobody is suggesting that they should be exiled to Fort Collins or something. They e-file, e-mail and use phones like the rest of us. Very little that the AG's office does must be done in person. Unlike a DA's office that mostly deals in physical evidence and lots of witnesses to physical events, the AG's office deals mostly with contracts, regulations, appeals and white collar crime mostly easily communicated via pdf. Also, to the extent that the AG's office in practice serves many state agencies, a decentralized office pattern may make more sense than a single big office building, so that each subclient can be better served.

The state PD is fine where ever the Court of Appeals is located.

The Denver PD needs to be close to the new Justice Center, not the old court house or the state capital.

But, tourists are walking. The History Museum should be where it is, wedged between major tourist attractions like the capitol, like DAM, like Civic Center park, like the Library, like Byers-Evans.