Construction Set to Begin on New San Antonio Federal Courthouse

posted by Jim Forsyth - 

After working for more thqan 15 years, local and federal officials announced today that a $145 million federal courthouse building will be constructed on Nueva Street, on land formerly occupied by the old San Antonio Police Headquarters, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The current John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse was built as the Confluence Theater, part of the U.S.A. exhibition at Hemisfair 1968, and U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez says it is completely outdated for today's needs.  He points out that defendants sometimes have to ride in the same elevators as jurors and visitors, a completely unacceptable situation.  

The security is also completely inadequate following the federal courthouse attack in Oklahoma City in 1995.

U.S. Rep Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) says the Western Federal Judicial District of Texas, which sprawls over an area larger than all but ten states, also includes the largest section of the Texas Mexico border of any jurisdiction.

"One of things we do in Congress is we send more Border Patrol, more Border Patrol to the border, and when you have more Border Patrol you have more cases," he said.

The three story, roughly 120,000 square foot courthouse building will be open by late 2021 or early 2022.

U.S. Rep Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) says the project will continue the renaissance of the west side of downtown.

"UTSA downtown campus footprint is expanding right across the street," he said.

The old Bexar County Jail, which is now a federal prisoners detention center, will also be demolished, with the federal prisoners moved to the Bexar County Jail Annex, which will be taken over by the private company GEO.

Hurd says the move also opens up the possibility of new and inventive uses for the federal complex at Hemisfair Park, which is part of a renovation effort.

Judge Rodriguez says Congress will decide before the new buliding is completed whether it will continue to bear the name of U.S. District Judge John Wood Jr.

Judge Wood became the first sitting federal court judge ever to be murdered when he was gunned down in front of his Alamo Heights condo in 1979.  The killer was Charles Harrelson, the father of actor Woody Harrelson, who was a contract hit man who at the time was working for the infamous El Paso based Chagra crime family.

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