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City Continues Pursuit of New Federal Courthouse

The federal courthouse in San Antonio was built as part of the development of Hemisfair Park for the 1968 World’s Fair. Hemisfair is currently being redeveloped into a massive new downtown area for cultural education, events and recreation and the federal courthouse structure, still sporting its `60s architectural inspirations, is literally falling apart.

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As noted in an article in the San Antonio Express-News, there are plenty of structural, safety and public health concerns in the building. Four federal district judges told the Express-News of problems ranging from an absence of separate elevators or air circulation system for prisoners.   According to the judges, the court’s phone switchboard and its servers containing sealed court files are cooled by two home air-conditioning units, the result of the original air-conditioners being put out of order long ago.  Additionally, samples show that elevated lead and bacteria levels in the drinking water there, and asbestos in older HVAC pipes. Thermostats have not worked in years, and broken water pipes have destroyed case files.  As a result, city leaders such as District 9 City Councilman Joe Krier are leading the charge for a new federal courthouse. San Antonio officials and other stakeholders have developed varying plans to keep redeveloping the downtown area as a place for everyone to work, live and play.  Such officials say that the existing federal courthouse building simply is not in keeping with a vision that sees San Antonio’s center core as a vibrant place.

Rendering of Proposed Federal Courthouse, Courtesy Lake|Flato
Rendering of Proposed Federal Courthouse, Courtesy Lake|Flato

Krier said he will lead a delegation of local officials to meet with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in Washington, D.C., to press the case for the necessary funding. Krier chairs the council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which oversees state and federal relations.  “Federal funding couldn’t come soon enough,” Krier said in a news release. “I am confident that Sen. Cornyn shares our sense of urgency.”

Rendering of Proposed Federal Courthouse, Courtesy Lake|Flato
Rendering of Proposed Federal Courthouse, Courtesy Lake|Flato

As a result of a 2010 land swap orchestrated by the city, the site of the former police department headquarters is available for a new federal courthouse — at Nueva and Santa Rosa streets. In return, the city could take control of the existing courthouse, removing an obstacle to the redevelopment of Hemisfair Park.  City planners envision the new Hemisfair as a series of urban parks embraced by a vibrant and walkable neighborhood. It will consist of three developments: Tower Park (around the Tower of the Americas), Civic Park, and Yanaguana Garden, a children’s play area that opened to the public in early October.

Rendering of Proposed Federal Courthouse, Courtesy Lake|Flato
Rendering of Proposed Federal Courthouse, Courtesy Lake|Flato

“The need for a new federal courthouse is beyond question, and the city has a strong desire to make sure this happens, Krier said. “I look forward to working with Sen. Cornyn to secure the funding from Congress for a new courthouse.”

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