Updated: Apr 24
Brandon Lingle Jan. 25, 2021 Updated: Jan. 25, 2021 8:36 p.m
The University of Texas at San Antonio launched construction of its downtown School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center — a $90 million, 167,000-square-foot facility — with a virtual groundbreaking Monday.
The interdisciplinary building at 506 Dolorosa St., along San Pedro Creek, will “have a tremendous impact on our community, our business economy around data science and cybersecurity (and) on workforce development,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “There’s nothing like bricks and mortar to kick this all off, so I’m deeply, deeply excited.”
The building is slated for completion in July 2022.
The six-story facility will feature classrooms, laboratories, research and innovation space, a café and a public event venue. An expansion of UTSA’s inner-city campus, it could draw up to 6,500 additional students downtown.
The location will allow easier collaboration with downtown businesses, government offices and other organizations.
“At the center of this project is jobs — great jobs,” San Antonio tech entrepreneur Graham Weston. “The people who will be graduating from this school of data science will be qualified to take some of the best paying, most highly sought after jobs in the country.
“And if we produce a few graduates, those graduates will find jobs anywhere in the country,” he said. “If we produce a lot of graduates, companies will want to come here to hire.”
The vision for the center started two years ago, after Weston and others approached Eighmy about selling the university’s downtown campus to another university.
“We felt that the downtown campus had been an orphan for a long time, and that we felt that it’s such an important institution that we wanted to have a university come in and really embrace having a downtown campus,” Weston said.
Eighmy nixed the idea and came back with a proposal for a greater downtown presence for the university.
Weston contributed $15 million for the project and the UT System kicked in$75 million.
The 86,000-square-foot School of Data Science will house the university’s computer science, computer engineering, statistics and data sciences and information systems and cybersecurity departments. It will be home to the Open Cloud Institute.
All told, it will bring together more than 70 faculty members specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence.
Weston contributed $15 million for the project and the UT System kicked in $75 million.
“The school of data science, which by our measure looks to be the first of its kind here in Texas is going to have a deep impact on our economies that are tied to data science,” Eighmy said. USAA, HEB, Amazon, Intel, Dell, Rackspace “are all companies where data is so critical to their business trajectory … and San Antonio presently has a huge flag in the ground about this.”
The 81,000-square-foot National Security Collaboration Center will continue serving as a hub for government, university and industry in the cybersecurity field. It will also house the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
“The fact that this is going to have such an impact on job creation, high-wage job creation, workforce development is so important — it’s the way to keep our young people here in San Antonio,” Eighmy said. “It’s going to be incredibly transformational just from that aspect, and it’s going to help grow this ecosystem.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said, “San Antonio and Bexar County have the largest cybersecurity presence in the nation, outside of Washington, D.C. Communities likes ours that have well-educated young people in cybersecurity and data science are going to have a big edge on other communities.”
Last month, UTSA and Port San Antonio formalized a research, education and workforce development partnership and named UTSA as the port’s main academic partner. The new downtown facility, officials said, will help foster that partnership.
“From the residential life and vibrancy of a 24/7 place of recreation and business, to having some of the most profound emerging economies centered in the heart of our city,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, “the National Security Collaboration Center and the School of Data Science will attract the kind of talent and employers we want to see grow in San Antonio.”