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UTSA Expansion 'Transformational' For Downtown San Antonio

Paul Flahive
Texas Public Radio
UTSA president Taylor Eighmy talks with a local high school student.

When former Rackspace chairman Graham Weston first met with the incoming University of Texas at San Antonio president, Taylor Eighmy, he was on a mission to get him to sell the downtown campus. Speaking Monday at the kickoff for San Antonio Startup Week, the billionaire investor and philanthropist said the campus needs to be with a school that wanted it.

“I felt like the campus downtown was orphaned. It didn’t really have a mission of its own,” he said.

Fortunately, Eighmy wasn’t interested in selling, Weston said. A year later, the campus has a mission. The city sold two parcels of land — about 3.5 acres — and the county prepares to sell more. Far from being disappointed, Weston donated $15 million to the project, the largest personal gift he had ever made.

“I think it could activate the downtown and make it more fun,” Weston said.

Weston has been working to attract young, tech-oriented residents to San Antonio’s downtown for a decade through his nonprofit 80/20 foundation, his real estate company Weston Urban, and his co-working space Geekdom. In Taylor, he said, he had found a partner for this vision.

UTSA will build its National Security Collaboration Center, a new data science program, and “as soon as they find $130 million” most of their college of business will move downtown. A school of entrepreneurship is also in the works, Eighmy said.

Credit Paul Flahive / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Current plans for UTSA's downtown expansion.

“Imagine the opportunity of having 15,000 students just affiliated with those operations,” Eighmy said.

In roughly three years, UTSA is expected to complete the buildings for data science and the NSCC. It also is planning a residence hall built on property near Cattleman Square on a similar timeline, Eighmy said. The entire plan, he added, would be rolled out over the next decade.

“That is actually transformational,” Weston said. “You can’t overstate how big a deal that many students are.”

Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and more housing are in the works. Weston said the impact will be felt across the city as demand to live downtown increases.

“This is the most important thing to happen in 10 years,” he said.

He pointed to the tech district as another bright spot. Weston, who owns several buildings there, and along with Gray Street Partners, another downtown developer, is eager to populate the buildings with technology companies. USAA moved nearly 400 workers downtown earlier this year and will continue to grow its presence over the next six months.

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

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