The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved a little more than $144 million in funding on Wednesday for the United States General Services Administration (GSA) to construct San Antonio’s new, long-awaited federal courthouse. The amount is more than the expected $135 million.
The John H. Wood Federal Courthouse, originally a pavilion for HemisFair ’68, will be relocated to 214 West Nueva St., the site of the former San Antonio Police Headquarters which was razed after the 2012 opening of the $83.5 million Public Safety Headquarters across Nueva Street.
“The design of our new federal courthouse has been in limbo for over a year so today’s approval means we can get back to work,” stated Mayor Ivy Taylor in a news release. “We are so grateful to our San Antonio delegation for all the work they did to secure such a necessary investment. We look forward to having a safe, modern and efficient federal facility in our downtown.”
As part of a pre-negotiated land swap with the City of San Antonio, the GSA will acquire the vacant lot in exchange for the land that the old courthouse occupied. It is still unknown what the City will do with the property, but Mayor Taylor has said she supports demolishing the rundown, occasionally flea-infested structure to make way for mixed-use development in line with those planned for Hemisfair. Many conservationists want to see the building repurposed in some way that preserves the 1968 World’s Fair relic.
“The transformation of Hemisfair – San Antonio’s ‘central park’ – has been a cornerstone of our downtown redevelopment efforts, and the master plan calls for a family-oriented environment,” stated City Manager Sheryl Sculley. “Moving the courthouse to the western side of downtown opens up new opportunities to re-envision Hemisfair.”
(Read More: Rivard: Hemisfair ’18 Key to Transforming Downtown)
The new 305,000 square foot facility will have eight courtrooms and 83 parking spaces situated along the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.. The modern design will optimize space for the court’s security needs and meet employee health standards.
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) played a key role in the more than five-year effort to secure the funding, and helped facilitate bipartisan support in Congress for the initiative, he said.
“This is a monumental milestone for San Antonio. It not only ensures the safety and security of the hundreds of employees who work at the facility, but also the tens of thousands of families that have already visited the revitalized children’s park (Yanaguana Garden) that opened last year right outside the current Courthouse building,” stated Hurd in a news release on Wednesday. “This is the perfect example of the federal and local government on both sides of the aisle working together to fight for the best interest of San Antonians.”
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, also led efforts to secure funding for the project. Last September, he filed emergency legislation in the House that, despite not passing, raised awareness of the health and safety issues, as well as security deficiencies, at the courthouse.
“The Wood Courthouse has kept the Western District going for nearly 50 years, but it unfortunately does not have the capacity to support it any longer,” Cuellar stated in a news release. “… Having a new, state-of-the-art federal courthouse for this busy federal judicial district will keep the users of the facility safe and will allow for better administration of justice.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was instrumental in getting the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve funding for the courthouse as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill.
“The aging San Antonio federal courthouse falls woefully short of meeting the community’s needs, and a new facility that keeps the judges, staff, and folks who use it every day safe and secure is long overdue,” Cornyn, R-Texas stated in December 2015.
The appropriations bill allocated $948 million for eight new federal courthouses across the country, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio was one of them.
To view the PDF of the committee resolution, click here.
This story was originally published on Wednesday, May 25.
Top image: Conceptual rendering of the $135 million San Antonio Federal Courthouse project. Image courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.