U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) discusses plans for the new federal courthouse as other officials look on. Credit: Jackie Wang / San Antonio Report

Citing budget constraints, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said Monday that San Antonio’s new courthouse will not include a training center for federal judges.

The design for the new federal courthouse also will be more than 25 percent smaller than originally planned, with officials saying it will shrink another 5,409 square feet from the reduced square footage announced in August. The federal courthouse, originally designed as a 305,000-square-foot facility, will be 225,127 square feet and will replace the outdated facility located at Hemisfair.

At a press conference Monday, standing on the lot on Nueva Street between South Flores and South Santa Rosa Streets, where the new courthouse will be built, Rodriguez confirmed that the new design eliminates the Adrian Spears Federal Judicial Training Center. Hundreds of judges come to San Antonio every year to be trained, and the administrative office has not decided where the training will take place instead, Rodriguez said.

“Because we had to reduce the square footage from the original design, because of budgetary constraints, we were required to take out some tenant space,” Rodriguez said. “… It’s a personal loss to me and to San Antonio that those judges will not have their training here.”

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) said having judicial training in San Antonio is good for the local economy because it brings people from all over the country to the city.

“I told the judge that we’ll talk with the San Antonio [Congressional] delegation,” he said. “We can’t put it in the building … but we’ll sit down with the delegation and see if we can address that issue.”

Congress will name the new federal courthouse; Cuellar said a decision about carrying over the John H. Wood Jr. name would be discussed at a later date. Wood was a federal judge who was assassinated outside his San Antonio home in 1979.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff pointed out the landmarks surrounding the new courthouse site, such as San Pedro Creek and the police and fire department headquarters. He said as part of the overall plan to expand University of Texas at San Antonio’s presence downtown, the detention facility for federal inmates located behind the new courthouse would be torn down within the next few years.

“That’s not a very good neighbor for a federal courthouse building,” Wolff said. “We’re going to be tearing that down. We hope that in two years the federal prisoners will move to our [Bexar County] jail, freeing up that land for the UTSA endeavors that will happen.”

The detention facility has enough room for 600 beds, U.S. Marshal Susan Pamerleau said. When GEO Group, the private company that operates the Central Texas Detention Facility, finishes renovations at the Bexar County Jail, federal inmates will be relocated there, she added.

John H. Wood, Jr. Federal Courthouse in Hemisfair Park.
John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse in Hemisfair Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) awarded a $117.4 million design-build contract to Alabama construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie in August for construction of the new courthouse. The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure awarded a total $144 million for the project in 2016.

The new building, at 214 W. Nueva St., will house the U.S. District Courts for the Western District of Texas, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Magistrate Courts, and offices for the U.S. Clerk of the Court, U.S. Marshals, U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services, Federal Public Defender, and the General Services Administration, according to GSA Regional Administrator Bobby Babcock.

Construction is scheduled to begin next spring. Cuellar said he expects the building to be finished in Spring 2022.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.