Demolition of the former Bexar County jail is underway in preparation for a new building for the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Business.
The location is one of three parcels included in the university’s downtown campus expansion plans. Discussion of acquiring the three properties downtown began in 2018, with Bexar County Commissioners approving to sell 2 acres to the University of Texas system earlier this year.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said the university will be acquiring the jail property once the demolition is completed and the site cleaned up, paving the way for construction of a 250,000-square-foot building.
“[The building is] going to be an expansion of our College of Business that’s going to have a focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, experiential learning, internships, and close work with the business community downtown and also executive education programs,” Eighmy said.
Located on South Laredo Street, the building being demolished served as Bexar County’s jail from 1962 to 1987, then housed pretrial inmates and was operated by Florida-based GEO Group up until 2019.
Eighmy said the university is still raising funds for the estimated $160 million business school building by requesting tuition revenue bond funding from the state, funding from UT System and the Board of Regents and the university’s capital campaign.
Just to the west, construction is set to begin in December on UTSA’s new School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center, located across San Pedro Creek from the former jail site.
“The fact that it’s starting in just a month and a half [and] is commensurate with the razing of the jail, [it] is just a really positive thing for downtown,” Eighmy said.
Corrina Green, director of real estate and major capital projects for the university, said the $90 million project is expected to be completed in July 2022.
“We’re trying to keep it as open and collaborative for the community as possible. … It’s intended to be very inviting and pull people along the creek and into the building for kids, for adults [and] for everyone to be able to use,” Green said of the new Data Science school.
Suzanne Scott, general manager of the San Antonio River Authority, said the river authority and university are working together to implement features in these plans that integrate with the San Pedro Creek restoration project.
“We will be working with the campus as they develop going forward as to how to make sure that folks at the campus can come down and join the creek-level activities,” Scott said.
Scott estimates the section of the San Pedro Creek project that connects to the university’s new properties will be completed by March 2022.
“This is a culture park and this was really part of what the county’s desire was all along,” Scott said. “We are celebrating the culture of the past, but we’re also creating the culture of the future with these students that will be here and educating them and bringing them down to integrate with this wonderful project through the educational opportunities.”
The third parcel being acquired as part of UTSA’s downtown expansion is across Dolorosa Street from former jail site. Eighmy said all three parcels would be tied to the focus areas of data science, cybersecurity, innovation, entrepreneurship, experiential learning, and executive education programs.
“I’ve been waiting two years for this day to get going on [the projects],” Eighmy said. “Mayor Nirenberg and Judge Wolff have been fabulous in partnering with us about our abilities to acquire these three properties to be able to do the things I’ve been describing. So we were very fortunate to have this wonderful, strategic relationship with the city.”