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.
UT initially announced that it was planning to purchase the land near Pierce Junction back in November of 2015, but threw its hands up and cancelled the plans following months of complaints from University of Houston’s leaders, alumni, and elected sympathizers about secrecy and encroachment on UH’s turf. The announcement that UT would sell the land came a few days before the task force developing plans for the property finally released its report on what UT might actually do with the space.
Since then, at least a few of the folks in the legislature who initially chewed out UT for surprising everybody with the purchase have started to come around; senator Paul Bettencourt, for example, is now quoted by Ellis as saying “it’s in the taxpayer’s best interest to listen to any and all rational proposals.” Representative Jack Whitmire, however, tells Ellis that the hypothetical future data science center could be built in the Medical Center, or on a number of existing university campuses, and that UT should still sell the land (marked in yellow below):
- Turner, Fertitta endorse data center plan, call for collaboration [Houston Chronicle]
- Tilman Fertitta: UT land deal in Houston ‘arrogance’ [Houston Chronicle]
- Previously on Swamplot: UT’s Houston Campus Plans Crushed By Cougar Defensive Line, UH Fans; McRaven: New UT Houston Campus Not a ‘Dump’; Just a Contaminated S. Main Industrial Site Like Any Other; UT Writes Back to UH Pen Pals, Lawmakers on Houston Campus Plans; Texas A&M Weighs Houston Expansion As UT Collects Land for Its Planned Campus; What That Land UT Bought on Friday for Its Houston Campus Might Have Turned Into Instead; The Best Views of the New UT Houston Campus Are Available Now from the Fairway on the 5th Hole, Above a Trash Heap; What You’ll Find In and Around UT’s New Houston Campus
Conceptual renderings of UT Houston campus: UT System