Taking Muni Court to Court?

MetCenter files lawsuit against city for scuttled Municipal Court move-in plan

Photo by Jana Birchum

For decades, the city has been ready to move the Austin Municipal Court away from its decrepit quarters on East Seventh Street and ... somewhere, anywhere else. After purchasing the old Home Depot on I-35 and St. Johns Avenue with 2006 bond funds as a new home for the court, the city abandoned that plan and moved on to a joint venture with Travis County to combine Muni Court with the new civil and family courthouse (now slated for Guadalupe and 18th), then abandoned that plan and settled on a location in southeast Austin's MetCenter complex, near the airport and home to the city's share of evacuees from Hurricane Harvey. But last month, without fanfare, the city signaled it had abandoned that plan and had identified another, cheaper location on Metropolis Drive, near MetCenter but with a different landlord. This was apparently news to MetCenter, which on Tuesday fired off a lawsuit against the city alleging breach of contract, fraud, and deception and seeking $500,000 in actual damages and unspecified punitive damages. No lease between MetCenter and the city had been signed, and Council authorized negotiations with the other landlord (CCI-Burleson) back in October, but MetCenter says it spent the $500,000 it now wants repaid on design work that the city then used to negotiate a better deal with the folks down the street, while at the same time costing MetCenter the chance to place another willing tenant in the space it was holding. The city declined comment on Tuesday, having not seen the lawsuit, but added that it is prepared to face the MetCenter owners at trial.

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