U OF H LAW TAKING ON EMINENT DOMAIN CLASS TO PREP FOR FUTURE AREA LAND GRABS An upcoming course at the University of Houston Law Center will focus entirely on eminent domain, in the wake of a similar course now wrapping up its inaugural semester at UT Austin. The law firm Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge, whose partners are teaching both classes, says it believes these to be the first 2 law classes in the nation to focus exclusively on “the law of taking”; the courses have been added with the expectation that continued population growth in Houston and more than half a dozen other major Texas cities will continue to fuel future infrastructure capacity-boosting projects — including new pipelines, highways, and transmission corridors potentially criss-crossing now-private property. [PRNewswire] Photo of University of Houston Law Center: Douglas R.
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
TEXAS A&M WEIGHS HOUSTON EXPANSION AS UT COLLECTS LAND FOR ITS PLANNED CAMPUS Following the University of Texas’s recent start on buying up that land in southwest Houston for a proposed campus of yet-ambiguous-purpose, Texas A&M is now sizing up the city as well, writes Benjamin Wermund of the Houston Chronicle. A&M president Michael Young suggested that those watching the university’s plans for the Houston area “stay tuned” as the school weighs strategy. UT’s November announcement that it would buy around 300 acres at W. Belfort Ave. and Buffalo Spdwy. triggered responses from University of Houston supporters including Texas senator John Whitemire. Whitmire’s December letter to UT chancellor Bill McRaven cited fears that a new UT Houston campus would pull resources and top-tier faculty away from U of H, in part due to the structure of the state’s Permanent University Fund allocations (which go only to UT and A&M campuses). Young, however, suggested that backlash over UT’s ongoing purchases south of Reliant was premature (as, perhaps, was UT’s broadcasting of its plans): “I guess I’m a little confused about the spat at the moment, because I don’t know that UT has really said what they’re going to do,” Young told the Chronicle. “So far it’s a land deal, and I must say an amusing one, because I didn’t know you announced you were going to buy property before you actually bought it.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Conceptual rendering of UT Houston campus: Houston Public Media
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
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY WOULD HOUSTON WANT TO REJECT A NEW UNIVERSITY? “Well, oil prices are down, the city is going broke and there are op-eds suggesting that the political end of the oil industry is what the future holds in store. I absolutely do not trust UH to ideologically lead the city out of this mess. It’s as simple as that, and I can’t be the only person who thinks that. Anyway, almost every large city has more than one public university system, and it’s somewhat extortionist to insist that everything be channeled through UH simply because that’s what UH prefers. UH has failed to keep pace with the ambitions and upward mobility of its home city, and doubling down on its inadequacies by adopting a defensive stance is exactly the wrong move.” [anon22, commenting on The Best Views of the New UT Houston Campus Are Available Now from the Fairway on the 5th Hole, Above a Trash Heap] Illustration: Lulu
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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Welcome to the neighborhood