A little bit of tune-changing looks to have happened with respect to the University of Texas’s Houston data science campus idea in the month or 2 since UT formally canned the plans to pursue it. At yesterday’s State of the City luncheon, where Mayor Turner asked a bunch of major regional universities to work together on making a data science research center happen after all, Lindsey Ellis reports that University of Houston board of regents chair and Landry’s CEO Tilman Fertitta also made some comments in support of the project. Fertitta (who back in March immediately issued a victorious press release when UT announced it would sell off the 300 acres of land it’d purchased) told the audience that UH would be “excited to sit down and collaborate” with other Houston and Texas universities on a campus, Lindsey Ellis reports for the Chronicle.
The difference now (versus last spring when UH snubbed an invitation to join that task force working up potential uses for the land)? Fertitta says UT wouldn’t be able to single-handedly “come in and dictate” with respect to the final project; he also suggests that perhaps UT might like to donate the purchased property to whatever group of local universities might end up in charge.
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UT Houston Rematch
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BOOTSTRAPPING INNOVATION WHILE GIVING UT THE BOOT “It’s absolutely surreal to see these extraordinarily non-innovative approaches to becoming an innovation hub. Does anyone really think ‘being innovative’ is a status that one can inherit, or subcontract out, or buy like a product? . . . Also, I can’t help but wonder how much of this push for innovation was based on an expectation of that UT grad-student center being built. It would seem Houston’s last chance to be an actual center for innovation walked out the door along with that project.” [justaswell, commenting on Houston’s Innovation Problem; Sneak Peek at The Carter Penthouses] Conceptual rendering of cancelled UT Houston campus: UT System
All that booing over the last year and a half from Houston’s most expansive university system and its legislative friends looks to have paid off: UT has cancelled its plans for a new research campus south of the Astrodome, citing fears that continuing to press for the project could throw a wet blanket on projects at its other campuses. The school’s press office announced the pivot this afternoon, adding that UT’s real estate office will look into how to sell the 307 acres they’ve spent the last year collecting, though it might take some time to put together a sale that makes sense.
UH Board of Regents chairman and reality real estate TV star Tilman Fertitta said today that the sustained backlash to UT’s land buy was really a team effort, assisted by elected officials, administrators, and other folks aiming to prevent what Fertitta calls an unnecessary duplication of state resources. UT had previously announced that the campus wouldn’t have been a 4-year university; chancellor Bill McRaven suggested this afternoon that plans for the land might have shaped up to include a big data science center with a focus on health care, energy, and education, and that the ideas from the task force put together to plan for the land could be put to use elsewhere instead.
Conceptual rendering of UT Houston campus: Houston Public Media
Higher Ed Shutout
UT WRITES BACK TO UH PEN PALS, LAWMAKERS ON HOUSTON CAMPUS PLANS University of Texas Chancellor Bill McRaven sent a letter yesterday afternoon to a list of higher-ups in Texas higher education and in the state legislature. McRaven’s letter comes in response to a February letter signed by 35 former University of Houston regents and addressed to the same crowd; that letter followed UT’s January purchase of 100 acres near the intersection of Willowbend Dr. and Buffalo Spdwy. for a planned Houston campus. Yesterday’s letter from McRaven repeated past assertions that the still-ambiguously-purposed land would not become another university, and that UT is not trying to hinder UH’s development as a research institution, adding that “it takes two or more to collaborate.” McRaven also writes that UT is including the state higher-ed coordinating board on its task force to determine what to do with the new space, and asks if those opposing the expansion are “really convinced that Houston, the fourth largest and most international city in the U.S., has all it needs in terms of intellectual and innovative horsepower for the decades ahead?” [UT System via Dallas Morning News; previously on Swamplot] Conceptual rendering of proposed UT campus: UT System
The deal is sealed on the University of Texas’s purchase of a 100-acre hunk of land south of South Main St. as of last Friday. The sale marks the first concrete move toward UT’s planned Houston campus, though closings on the parcel patchwork comprising the rest of the 300-ish ac. likely won’t wrap up until early 2017, according to a press release from the school’s Office of Public Affairs.
The sold land is a forested tract northwest of the wiggly intersection of Willowbend Dr. and Buffalo Spdwy.; the property is split along a northwest-southeast diagonal by a linear drainage feature which makes an appearance in those preliminary campus designs (shown from the north in the image above).
That land was owned previously by Buffalo Lakes Ltd., an entity associated with UT grad John Kirksey of Kirksey Architecture. A plan for a Buffalo Lakes master-planned community (see below) was drawn up more than 4 years ago by Kirksey for the same space:
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South Main Master Plans
Some zoomy conceptual renderings of the University of Texas’s coming Houston campus, centered on the largely undeveloped intersection of Buffalo Spdwy. and Willowbend Blvd., made their debut at last month’s Board of Regents meeting, where the intended purchase of land for the project was announced. Buffalo Spdwy. gently winds through the drawings of the new campus to a track and several baseball diamonds along Holmes Rd. (which runs horizontally across the top of the image above).
Although the images are only “concepts”, the pictures do provide a sense of how the campus might unfold: For example, that linear water feature shown at the center of the campus aligns with an existing drainage ditch on the property, and the 3 long, low structures in the foreground are good candidates for parking garages, which will be needed regardless of the new institution’s yet-to-be-decided purpose.
Existing residential communities and industrial parks are here rendered as sparsely-treed fields — the boundary of the land slated for purchase by UT currently houses several apartment complexes on the north side and the Orkin Industrial Surplus facility to the south.
But another conceptual rendering (this one looking northwest across Holmes Rd. towards the distant Williams Tower) shows the campus in place amongst some of its eclectic neighbors:
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