What That Land UT Bought on Friday for Its Houston Campus Might Have Turned Into Instead

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

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:


Buffalo Lakes Master Plan, WIllowbend Dr. at Buffalo Spdwy., South Main, Houston, 77054

Buffalo Lakes still owns several slivers of the land UT intends to purchase, including the areas directly abutting the intersection of Willowbend and Buffalo Spdwy. (depicted above as 4 slices of a water feature pie arrayed around the junction).

Across Buffalo Spdwy. from the freshly sold land, the Connection at Buffalo Pointe apartment complex (sketched in the northeast corner of the drawn portion of the above plan) have in fact come to be since the drawing was issued several years ago. And just south of the Connection, in the first blue block marked Residential, construction for another complex (the Beacon at Buffalo Pointe) began last fall. Both complexes sit inside the site boundary shown when UT’s intended land acquisition was announced last November:

UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, Houston

Images: Houston Public Media (conceptual campus rendering), Kirksey Architecture (Buffalo Lakes master plan)

South Main Master Plans

11 Comment

  • I wonder what the discussions have been like with Metro to extend the red line. The ROW is already there. No reason this shouldn’t happen.

  • What’s with running the Mo City LRT extension along the far southeast edge of the site? You have (presumably) a ridiculously intensive land use, you have a high-cost fixed guideway transit link, it ought to go right down the center of the parcel.

  • Which of those rhomboid white goobers is the UTMS-BS (UT Medical School-Buffalo Speedway)? School of Health Law? College of Pharmacy? (gotta have one of those). The suspense is just killing me.

  • @Walker, Just curious to where it would extend to? It’s light rail not commuter rail. Hobby would be best served by the purple line (eventually). We all know light rail $ should be spent going west.

  • HeyHeyHouston, there’s some fairly dense apartment development along Southwest Fondren that reaches as far south as 90A. Also, Missouri City also pays to be part of Metro.

    The idea is to extend the Red Line west along Holmes Road and 90A as far as the Westbury Little League fields, then dogleg via Airport Boulevard and Fondren to pick up the apartments, then resume running along 90A to a park and ride around roughly BW8-ish.

    All of METRO’s assume a nonstop run from Fannin South to Westbury, mostly on 65mph trackage. Both the UT and Kirksey plans propose to run it along Bellfort instead, although the Kirksey design does a much better job of integrating the tracks into the site layout.

  • @ PurpleCity: Will it be a ridiculously intensive land use? At this point the UT System is denying that this will be a full-fledged university campus. Instead it is being pitched as a set of facilities that will complement existing UT operations in Houston and provide niche programs that aren’t already being provided locally. That makes a lot of sense from a business perspective (UT is a business, there’s no disputing that) and also from a political angle. What that seems as though it implies is that the daytime population is going to be smaller than a typical university campus but perhaps more affluent, heavily weighted toward graduate-level studies, research, outside-of-TMC administration, and possibly including corporate partners. Then look at the few UT institutions that have been formed AFTER the coming of age of the baby boomers…they never caught up and became major universities. Never had a chance, arguably. The rendering is nice, but this looks like a slow incremental project that UT will exploit whenever it sees an opportunity to profit. Its never going to be a flagship campus, or even a UT-Dallas or UTSA. That’s just not in the cards.

    Will it result in a high volume of trips between the UT facilities and other locations along the light rail network? Maybe. If they try and place support functions that relate to UT operations in the TMC on this site then there could be a lot of back-and-forth trip generation along the Red Line. Or METRO could inexpensively run a shuttle from the campus over to the the existing P&R, boost the LRT ridership numbers (although it would increase the total trip time for users), and declare a success on two fronts. I see that as much more likely, at least in the first ten years or so.

  • Can we sell UT the Astrodome? problem solved….

  • TheNiche, good points. Arguably the best action from METRO’s perspective is to keep the nonstop straight shot from Fannin South to Westbury. UT needn’t run their own shuttle; if they provide a turnaround/layover point for the existing Route 84 bus, they’ll get a 15-minute peak connection to TMC, Rice, and Greenway.

  • Metro has already conducted studies on this route and all of the alternatives include a stop in this area. See their website: https://www.ridemetro.org/Pages/90A-SWRailEvaluation.aspx

  • This project will never happen but it was a nice try to skirt the THECB rules.

  • “Progress etc.,” but I do grieve the loss of acreage on such a huge scale. I live reasonably close to this area, and every time they clear another wooded parcel, the traffic on S. Main/90 A gets louder and louder in my yard.