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San Antonio

Builder Selected For San Antonio Courthouse

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Paul Flahive
/
Texas Public Radio
The John H Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse was originally built as the 1968 World's Fair Pavilion.

The federal government has selected a builder for San Antonio’s new federal courthouse. The deal to replace the John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse was more than 20 years in the making.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated that this project would take as long as it has,” said Judge Xavier Rodriguez, who took over the replacement effort in 2003 when he joined the federal bench.

The U.S. General Services Administration awarded the $117 million contract to Brasfield & GORRIE LLC.

A ceremonial groundbreaking on the west downtown location will be held in December. The project is expected to be completed by December 2021.

“Today is a great day. I am very pleased. This has been a long haul for everybody,” Rodriguez said.

Formerly the home of the 1968 World’s Fair Pavilion, the place was built to be a temporary movie theater, not a courthouse, he said.

The courthouse has many problems that he has spoken about in the past and has been documented by local media, including the heating and air conditioning system failing, fleas infesting the courthouse from feral cats living below the building and mold.

The water has also had unhealthy lead levels, something that Rodriguez still worries about.

“I’ve given up. I have Ozarka truck in water that we pay for at my personal expense for my employees,” he said.

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Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Judge Xavier Rodriguez

Security issues range from lacking a secure sally port for prisoner delivery to narrow corridors and elevator banks that must be shared by jury, judge, prosecutor and prisoners. The building scored a 25 out of 100 points for security in a 2006 survey by the U.S. Marshalls, Rodriguez said in a 2015 interview with TPR.

In his 15 years working on the issue, Rodriguez has argued with bureaucrats and elected officials and has seen false starts and abrupt reversals.

In 2004, a new courthouse received seed money, but it wasn’t enough. The project languished until 2008 when U.S. General Services Administration approved a 305,000 square foot design, but Congress didn’t allocate funds.

Congress passed an unprecedented funding package of nearly $950 million for eight federal courthouses, including San Antonio, in 2016. But the more than $100 million allocated for the building would not be enough to cover the proposed project.

Lake | Flato, and Munoz & Company redesigned the project, shrinking it about 80,000 square feet and with less parking.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive