UTSA To Completely Transform the West Side of Downtown

While the Alamo Master PLan will completely change the east side of downtown, a major renovation by UTSA will mean big changes to the west side, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

UTSA has taken the first steps by purchasing two large parcels of property on Dolorosa Street, in the heart of downtown, from the city for $7.2 million.  The University plans to approach Bexar County Commissioners about buying the land that the old County Jail now stands on.  The facility is a privately run lockup for federal offenders and is set to be demolished in 2019.

UTSA President Taylor Eighmy says he has big plans for downtown, and plans to use the sites to build the new National Security Collaboration Center and the School of Data Science.

"The School of Data Science will be the first of its kind in Texas and probably nationally," Eighmy said.  "As you know, we have obtained the funding from the (U.T. System Board of) Regents and from a donor."

“The land transfers will accelerate UTSA’s ability to serve as a driver of economic development and social mobility in our city, and together we are shining an even brighter spotlight on San Antonio for national cybersecurity leadership.”

Former Mayor Henry Cisneros, who is also a former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, praised the UTSA move as the key to the development of a financially successful city, because facilities like the one that UTSA plans to stand up downtown are similar to the power that manufacturing centers had in the 20th Century.

"The new economy is professional services, new media, medical centers, international, and very importantly, higher education," he said.

Mayor Nirenberg said the UTSA expensionm downtown will be a game changer when it comes to building San Antonio into a city of the future.

“UTSA’s expansion will accelerate San Antonio’s ongoing central city resurgence and provide a transformative boost that enhances economic opportunity for generations to come," he said.

San Antonio, largely due to efforts already underway at UTSA, along with the 24th Air Force Cyber Command, and the cutting edge work of companies like Jungle Disk and USAA, is now second only to Washington DC when it comes to employment in cyber security.

Lorenzo Gomez, the former Rackspace executive who founded the tech incubator Geekdom, said the School of Data Science will open up a whole new world, especially for west side kids like himself, who will realize that they have a future in tech.

"I have no doubt that when the School of Data  Science is at full strength, firms like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook will be fighting to hire these graduates, even before they cross the graduation stage."

Eighmy says there are also plans to build a major new residence hall at Cattleman's square north of the existing UTSA downtown campus, to build the university's school of business downtown, and will transform the former Continental Hotel on West Commerce Street into housing for faculty and other urban professionals. 

The project will involve the renovation of the existing hotel and construction of a new building on the hotel’s former parking lot. 

GRAPHIC: UTSA

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