Headlines: Calculating Lower Westheimer’s Hip Factor; Westbury Gardens’ Walkable Kitsch

    Photo of Lovett Hall, Rice University: Shu-Wei Hsu via Flickr [license]

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    • It’s so nice to know Rice University is now protected under our wonderful historical preservation laws. Well until someone decides it would be perfect for million dollar townhomes and buys the board which agrees to sell it. Or buys a mayor to send out the fire chief to condemn it.

    • Now that Rice is an official landmark, I’m salivating to tear it down and put townhouses in.

    • I guess that joke was so obvious that two of us thought of it at the same time…

    • Rice has been busy for a long time buying up houses south of University to tear down. Not to build townhouses, though – as a landlocked university, that’s where future office and lab space is going.

    • I heard an unconfirmed story that at one time (1970s?) Rice seriously considered selling its campus for redevelopment and moving to cheap land north of Houston. Apparently it looked like a good enough deal to be worth the trouble to someone. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.

    • Y’all its not Montrose anymore, it’s Lower Westheimer. Forbes says so.

    • It’s true, and was apparently taken reasonably seriously at the time. From the Rice Thresher in February 1973: http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth245155/m1/1/zoom/

    • heyzeus: Rice has been doing this literally for decades. (Does anyone remember the Tidelands? Purchased by Rice back in the early 80s, initially used for graduate housing and only opened as a laboratory (the Biosciences Research Collaborative) in 2009.

    • I don’t understand why they need to buy houses on the other side of University when they still have a lot of land on the actual campus that hasn’t been developed yet.

    • Can’t find anything in HCAD to indicate that Rice U. has bought property on Univ. Blvd., unless false names are being employed, or the properties have willed to Rice. (Tidelands excepted). Such a plan would be very, very expensive and take many decades to affect. Not Univ. Blvd.? Then I wonder where.

    • Southgate, the neighborhood due South of Rice University, is deed restricted. Plus, Rice has a ton of land on which to build and they can always go up. Sounds like an urban myth to me…

    • @John: When I was a campus tour guide, a visitor once commented to me on how beautiful the campus was because of the amount of trees and green open spaces. The place where we were standing recently had a building erected over it.

      The more construction can happen away from the main campus, the better. I believe most of the administrative staff were already relocated to the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza a couple of years ago.

      The next construction projects slated for the campus are a new tennis stadium and a big fancy building for the (lucrative, I imagine) Continuing Studies school.

    • Rice only owns (as of now) the two duplexes at 1965 and 1969 University and then three lots between Stockton and Lanier (iirc) – cleverly addressed as “0 University Blvd.”

    • And, if I recall correctly, a fair amount of land between Greenbriar and the Village, including a good bit of Chaucer Street and at least at one time, the area where the Village Arcade is now.

    • Rice should keep the center esplanade (older area) open, but all remaining areas outside of the inner quadrangle should be open game to actually building a nice urban university.

      There is reason that undergrads have to go to UofH to take higher level courses in order to graduate…Rice has had the problem of not wanting to grow which means academic programs are at each other throats to stay alive and can’t offer all the classes students need. Rice could actually challenge other private urban schools like Tulane and Loyola in New Orleans (and plenty other in the U.S.) and actually densify their campus. And considering most trees are along the streets, they wouldn’t be cut down anyway to add more capacity to the campus.

      A couple of 10-story dorms and classroom buildings would be nice while retaining the historic core. Remove some of the surface level parking with parking garages which would free up space for taller buildings.

    • “Rice has had the problem of not wanting to grow which means academic programs are at each other throats to stay alive and can’t offer all the classes students need.”

      Um, Rice has been on an all-out building spree for the past 20 years or so. I can’t recall a moment when I haven’t seen construction equipment somewhere around compus, infilling wherever possible. (We’ve paid for any number of vacation homes for Leo Linbeck III, I suspect.) Since 2002, there have been three new colleges (i.e., dorms) built on campus, and many new academic buildings. Almost all the intermural playing fields that were there when I was there as an undergrad are buildings.

    • @Brian: Not sure about properties on University itself, but check on Dryden closer to Main St. They’ve been buying there since the 90s.

      @kjb434: “There is reason that undergrads have to go to UofH to take higher level courses in order to graduate…” This is a joke, right? I’m a Rice alum and UH grad school alum. Rice doesn’t send undergrads to UH to take higher level courses required for them to graduate. That’s just fundamentally incorrect.

      As far as building on every piece of land not within the quad, it’s part of Rice’s mission to specifically not do that. The green spaces that include things like trees and IM fields are a big source of pride for the school and part of its rankings for quality of student life. You’ll see Rice tear up the massive football stadium parking lot and build more garages some day, but never the “urban campus, zero green space” idea.

    • There is plenty of room on the west side of the campus where they don’t have to cut down any trees. They should build parking garages and get rid of all that surface parking that they have. There are also empty fields that could be developed. They also need to go more vertical instead of building sprawling four story buildings.

    • The campus is arguably past the point where green spaces and buildings coexist peacefully. From what I understand, the parking garages will realistically happen in the near future, meaning they wouldn’t be paving over the intramural fields (and hopefully not building more stuff on them, or in between the existing buildings).

      Rice doesn’t “outsource” classes or anything of that sort, but because so many high-level courses are offered only once per year, graduating on time can sometimes be challenging without getting credits at schools that offer more sections throughout the year. It depends on your major and your particular circumstances.

    • Robert, I know they have been expanding and growing in the last two years, it took them 90 years to realize this is what they should have done all along.

      Heyzeus, go talk to some of the engineering students (particularly civil) who graduated a couple of years back (before the expansion started) had to go to UoH to get a couple of classes. I worked with several Rice grads that had to deal with this in different majors. It’s probably less of problem now since they have more students and more professors/teachers.

      I’m still a proponent of value education. To me UoH and many other lower cost public universities provide equal or better education than private or high cost public universities. If only primary and secondary education worked the same.

    • @anon: I’ve heard both Montrose and Lower Westheimer used over the years.

    • Rice needs to seriously consider putting up parking garages. SMU, another landlocked urban campus (in Dallas) has been building 5 level garages over the last decade with Georgian brick fascias to match the rest of the campus.

    • It will probably eventually be underground parking with lawns and playing fields above. That’s the most expensive option but there is real sensitivity on campus about not further reducing the number of trees and amount of green space.

    • From what I understand, the endowment that funded Rice specifically set out the greenspace and building requirements that you see in place today. I could easily be mistaken; this could be one of those urban legends the tour guides love to tell. Theoretically if those requirements were broken, poof would go the endowment. This is why the 14 story dorm has seven official floors.

      As for the extra land that Rice has bought up, they initially bought land when it was quite cheap, so there may be alot of time going into considering whether to develop it, sell it, or expand the campus onto it. I don’t know if the ‘new’ land gets to forgo the endowment requirements or not.