Scott Ball / Rivard Report
University of Texas at San Antonio President Taylor Eighmy forecasted the future of his school’s downtown campus and its potential to embed itself into the downtown landscape during a conversation with Centro San Antonio members on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Eighmy revealed his vision for the near Westside area, saying he wanted to see more than 10,000 new students, two new schools, and two urban institutes in the next decade.
During his presentation, Eighmy elaborated on his plans, adding that he’s interested in developing a “distributed campus” not confined to UTSA’s current footprint downtown. Referencing the design of schools like Arizona State University and Northeastern University, Eighmy said some of the most successful urban schools are integrated within the downtown landscape, where a person can’t tell what is the city and what is the institute of higher education.
Eighmy didn’t give many details on how a “distributed campus” would be achieved. He said he doesn’t want the freeway or railroad tracks that border UTSA’s downtown campus on either side to be viewed as boundaries. He’s also interested in looking at a wider radius around campus to see how UTSA’s footprint could be expanded.
UTSA spokesman Joe Izbrand said UTSA owns its existing campus and Cattleman Square property, both of which sit west of Interstate 10 and east of the Bexar County jail. He said additional expansion could be done through public-private partnerships.
Eighmy told the group, a nonprofit that manages the downtown improvement district, that UTSA would be in talks with surrounding entities, including VIA Metropolitan Transit and the jail, to collaborate on future growth plans.
Eighmy’s timeline is ambitious. He wants to add a school of data science, which would work with companies in the downtown technology corridor, and a school of entrepreneurship and “technovation” in the next 10 years, in addition to an urban education institute and an urban sciences institute.
The urban education institute could potentially pair with a school district to create a new lab school where teachers in training could work in classrooms with young students to develop the best teaching methods. Eighmy said an urban science institute could add value to San Antonio’s development as a city. Schools such as the University of Chicago, MIT, and NYU all are home to similar institutes.
“All great cities have this, and we don’t quite have this here,” Eighmy said. “We need an institute that studies the metabolism of the city.”
The UTSA president also proposed the addition of a national security collaboration center that would create an ecosystem of both government and private industry national security interests in downtown San Antonio. He proposed research centers, a sensitive compartmentalized information facility, cyber protective operations center, and innovation factory in the potential center.
As programs grow, UTSA’s downtown campus will have to respond to student needs outside the classroom. Eighmy’s proposal includes looking at block scheduling so students who take some classes downtown can stay downtown for a significant part of their day, expanding student activities and support services, adding a shuttle service back to main campus, and improving downtown housing options.
This fall, UTSA will request bids on a residential project at Cattleman’s Square, which is currently a parking lot adjacent to the downtown campus. The planned facility would include underground parking, retail and dining on ground floors, and about 15 floors of residential living space. Until this project is built and opens, students have the option to live at the Tobin Lofts or the Doubletree by Hilton San Antonio.
In 2019, the university plans to initiate a capital campaign in connection to the school’s 50th anniversary to raise money for the developments downtown and at the other campuses in San Antonio.