Bexar County Commissioners Tuesday unanimously voted to sell the land now occupied by the old Bexar County Jail to UTSA for its downtown campus, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Veteran Commissioner Paul Elizondo, who blocked attempts to sell the land after the new County Jail was opened west of downtown in the early 1990s, says now is the time to let it go, because the perfect opportunity for growth is at hand.
"If this was an oil well that was pumping you $3 million a year, would you cap it," Elizondo asked. "Well, the time has come to cap it, because something much better is being proposed for that area."
The old County Jail is now leased to the private GEO Corporation, and it used to house federal prisoners and parole violators. Commissioners Court has already agreed to demolish the old building early next year.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert says he agreed to the sale, because the land will be transformed into classrooms and student housing, which is critical for the west side of downtown.
"The students at UTSA can live near the school and contribute to the environment," he said. "I think that will ease some of the rumblings that I hear, consternation of development."UTSA plans a massive expansion plan downtown, with a new School of Data Science, a National Security Collaboration Center,, and an expansion of the university's School of Business, as well as student housing, and apartments in the remodeled Continental Hotel.
The City Council last week agreed to sell two large parcels of land to UTSA for the development, which is expected to be completed by 2028.
The development will also add to new life on the west side of downtown, along with the construction of the new Federal Courthouse on the site vacated by the demolition of the former Police Headquarters building.
While the north end of downtown has been transformed by the Pearl Development, the east side by Dignowity Hill and the controversial Hays Street Bridge project and the south side by the hipster-friendly South Town and Blue Star areas, the west side, until now, has been lagging in revitalization.