After nearly a decade of debate, construction has finally begun on San Antonio's brand new federal courthouse, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The new $140 million plus, 225,000 square foot complex will include the security, amenities, and features needed to house one of the busiest federal court jurisdictions in the country, at a time when everything from illegal immigration to gang activity to an increased focus on white collar crime has pushed up the case load.
The current federal courthouse was never meant for that purpose at all. It was built as part of the U.S. exhibition for Hemisfair '68, serving as the Confluence Theater. After Hemisfair closed, it became the district's federal courthouse, replacing a late 19th Century structure just north of the Alamo which remains a federal facility. The building was named in honor of U.S. District Judge John H. Wood, after he was murdered by Charles Harrelson, a drug gang hit man and the father of actor Woody Harrelson, back in 1979.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg says the new building, which is going in on the site of the former Police Headquarters building on Nueva St, will continue to compliment the fast growing west edge of downtown.
"The new federal courthouse is a spark for transformational change, that will enhance this area as a center of government, education, arts, and culture," Nirenberg said.
The new building, which will be completed in 2022, will be part of a true renaissance of the west edge of downtown, which was long ignored by tourists and locals alike. It will join the huge downtown expansion of UTSA, the new San Pedro Park waterway, the upgraded Alameda Theater, and hundreds of new residential apartments and condos which will dot the area.
"When the GSA first met with Mayor Hardberger, nobody knew that the western edge of downtown would blossom so completely, and how his new courthouse would fit perfectly on this site," Nirenberg said.
PHOTO: OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN HENRY CUELLAR