Remarks for Robin Carnahan, GSA Administrator, San Antonio Court Dedication April 20, 2022
Thank you Senator Cornyn, Congressman Cuellar, Mayor Nirenberg, Chief Judge Garcia, Judges Pulliam, Rodriguez and Wolff, and all of the members of the bar and other distinguished guests here today.
It’s an honor to be here on behalf of Biden Administration and all of the team at the US General Services Administration who helped bring this project to life.
As you may know, one of GSAs many roles is to serve as the federal government’s landlord - where we oversee 370 million square feet in over 8,000 buildings across the country, including more than 300 courthouses.
As a lawyer myself, I appreciate the important role the courthouse plays both as physical anchors and gathering places in our communities but also as the sacred spaces that house our judicial branch and ensure fairness and justice for our people.
In building and modernizing our public assets, we’re always focused on “Wowing” our customers and the public by creating outstanding experiences. Based on what we’ve heard today, it sounds like the team achieved that WOW experience by helping deliver this new landmark building and courthouse for San Antonio.
Let me back up and briefly say a bit about how we got here.
The previous federal court building, the John H. Wood Jr. Courthouse, was originally designed for the 1968 World’s Fair and later turned into a courthouse. It was functional but couldn’t meet the operational and security needs of a modern court.
It became clear to many folks in this room that improving that facility couldn’t wait any longer and in 2015 Congress passed a funding bill and then-President Obama signed it into law - and the GSA team got to work.
Folks like GSA Project Managers Raul Moreno and Kaliegh Ford, Contracting Officer Lisa Byrd, and many others hired a great team of architects, designers and contractors, many of whom were based right here in San Antonio.
Can everyone who’s been part of this project team stand up? You all deserve much gratitude for your dedication and I hope you take great pride in your work.
This team worked together, with the courts and the community, to define a long term vision for this project - one that would meet the needs of the Courts while also building a cultural connection to this community and supporting revitalization in another part of the city. They set out to create a space that would be both a source of pride for this community, and at the same time, embody openness and light - to reflect the fact that justice and democracy are in action here every day.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to notice how that vision has been brought to life…
- The metal and stone - much of it locally sourced- come together in harmony to reflect a modern take on the traditional Texas courthouse.
- Skylights and windows are everywhere, creating not just a healthier work environment, but also reflecting our judicial system’s commitment to transparency in its pursuit of fairness and justice.
- And the fantastic commissioned works of art, from Laredo-born Thomas Glassford, are part of GSA’s Art in Architecture program which for nearly 50 years has been investing in a legacy of public art throughout the country. If you haven’t had the chance, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to really look at these pieces. In the Dueling Pendants sculpture you’ll notice echoes of the scales of justice, while in his Riparian Nexus mural you can imagine the inspiration he drew on from San Antonio’s historic waterways and roadways.
It’s also worth noting that this project reflects GSAs commitment to being smart about how we invest public money by building with sustainability and resilience in mind.
Behind the striking architectural design lies a high performance building that is on track to achieve LEED Gold certification with features that include, electrical systems that will help save money by using 30% less energy and landscaping that not only pays tribute to the state’s agrarian past, by using native plants that naturally filter stormwater, this site is also helping restore San Pedro Creek as a community resource.
This building is just one example of the kind of smart infrastructure investments Texan’s can expect to see more of in the years ahead. Because the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that passed last year, is set to bring more than $30 billion to Texas for everything from highways… to bridge repairs… to public transit and airports… to electric vehicle charging stations… to water infrastructure… to broadband and more.
GSA itself will be investing in upgrades two busy Texas land ports of entry in Brownsville and El Paso. Improving these LPOEs is smart for so many reasons including better protecting our borders, facilitating trade, and supporting good paying American jobs.
These once in a generation infrastructure investments will help Texas and every state in the country strengthen their economies and build stable resilient communities to leave to our children.
So let’s celebrate today…and then let’s get back to work delivering outstanding service to the public we serve, here in Texas and across the nation.
Thank you and congratulations again San Antonio on the opening of another extraordinary cultural landmark in your beautiful city.