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Construction Begins On UTSA's New School Of Data Science

Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Earth Movers and Road Rollers prepare the site Monday for construction.

After two years of planning, construction began last month on the site of the University of Texas San Antonio’s new School of Data Science. The $90 million downtown facility that will also host the National Security Collaboration Center — a hub for research and for-profit cyber security companies.

Taylor Eighmy
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy shovels dirt to kick off the construction of the new facility in Mid December

Just a stone’s throw from City Hall, the building is intended to breathe new life into UTSA’s efforts in the city center. The university expects it to drive enrollment growth over the next seven years (six if you consider it won’t open until fall 2022). In that time they anticipate growing by 10,000 students.

“The projected enrollments for all of the departments that are affiliated with the school of data science, and with our plans to expand our College of Business downtown should be accounting for much of that enrollment growth,” said Taylor Eighmy, UTSA president at a virtual ground breaking held Monday.

The actual ground-breaking ceremony was held in mid-December.

The school intends to train students for in-demand data analysis jobs. Professions associated with "Big Data" or evaluating massive datasets are growing much faster than other job categories according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The fact that this is going to have such an impact on job creation, — high-wage creation, jobs — workforce development is so important," said Eighmy.

The construction is good news for developer and project booster Graham Weston. Weston gave $15 million to the University for the downtown expansion. His company Weston Urban has for years pushed downtown revitalization, and attempted to get more people into the urban core.

“10,000 students that's as big as Baylor. That's almost as big as TCU. So this, it's not just going to be a small department downtown, it's going to be like a whole university downtown,” said Weston, who spoke on the virtual ground breaking.

It’s exactly what Weston had hoped for when he approached Eighmy about selling UTSA’s current downtown campus several years ago. Weston felt the property was underutilized and should go to a school that will use it. Eighmy — new to the job at UTSA — had other ideas, and the two have been collaborating since.

The developer — most recognizably responsible for the new Frost Tower — owns the nearby Continental Hotel property and has said intends to invest $40 million. Weston Urban owns several nearby properties as well.

The 167,000-square-foot facility will be split between classroom space and the offices of at least 70 faculty members along with the National Security Collaboration Center. The NSCC is intended to give the university and city a leg up in the field of cyber security. It offers space for labs and research to projects in the cyber security field for for-profit and government organizations.

The new data science school and NSCC will sit just across the new San Pedro Creek improvements from another building being erected for UTSA. The Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Careers Building is expected to be built on the site that used to be a private detention center and before that the Bexar County Jail. About one-third of the former facility remains, a husk of steel and cement waiting to be demolished.

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