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San Antonio

City Council Approves $38M Facelift For City Hall

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Ryan Loyd
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TPR News
San Antonio City Hall

Renovations to San Antonio’s historic City Hall begin this summer. The City Council approved the $38 million project Thursday. However, not all council members supported it.

The renovation plan passed by a vote of 8-3. Council members Clayton Perry, John Courage and Greg Brockhouse dissented, saying it should have had more public input before a council vote.

San Antonio’s City Hall was built in 1889 and last saw major work 1927, when a fourth floor was added. The new renovations are scheduled to begin in August and end in January 2020, including upgrades to the plumbing, electrical systems, and the repair and replacement of cracked and aged exterior and interior walls.

“It is one of the oldest continuously operating public faculties in the nation,” said Mike Frisby, the city’s transportation and capital improvements director. “The full restoration is the approach that I know the San Antonio Conservation Society is looking for versus a piecemeal approach.”

The plans also call for reconfiguring the fourth floor, where City Council offices are housed, and adding ramp access to the front doors in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Credit City of San Antonio
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The project calls for ramps leading to to City Hall

“We’re trying to make City Hall more accessible, more welcoming and it follows our values as a city, our core principles are that of being inclusive and compassionate,” District 1 Councilman Robert Trevino said.

District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry said many of his constituents voiced opposition to the project and asked why it was not included in the city’s $850 million bond package that voters approved in 2017.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley said 70 to 80 percent of bond projects included are for streets, sidewalks and drainage.

“It was not included and was not recommended for the bond project for the voters’ consideration,” she added.

Perry attempted to delay the vote until May 2022 — the date of the next five year bond program. It was seconded by Greg Brockhouse but it ultimately failed, 9-2.

“I’m not against renovating this old building and preserving our history, I’m saying that we did not go through the process and we still have a capability to go through that process in actually waiting for this next bond,” Perry said.  

Courage, of District 9, said there was not enough talk with citizens.

“I just felt for a project of this magnitude we should have done more to educate the public on why there was such a high price tag,” he said. “Ultimately I didn't think there was enough public input."

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Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Many city departments and offices will move into the original Frost Bank Tower, on left. The city purchased the building in agreement that led to the building of the new Frost Tower currently being built nearby.

This is not a building that belongs to the city council, said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, adding that the council does have a responsibility to restore and protect the historic building.

“When you talk to people around this community about City Hall, they want to be reminded that is the place that belongs to them,” he said.

 

The mayor, council members and staff will vacate the building in July and move into nearby Plaza de Armas, and the mayor and city manager will move into a nearby annex.

 

The renovations fit into plans to move 24 city departments into the current Frost Bank Tower, which is being replaced with a new building a block away from City Hall. Construction of the new tower is expected to be completed next year.

 

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org and Twitter at @Joeycules