AP NEWS

UH System buys land for Katy campus

November 21, 2016 GMT

The University of Houston System has closed on a deal to purchase 46 acres for a new campus that is expected to open in the fall of 2019 on the northeast corner of Interstate 10 and Texas 99.

The UH System bought the land from Houston-based Parkside Capital for an estimated $14 million at a site that will eventually be surrounded by retail and living space. The deal, which has been in the works for years, officially marks the beginning of a larger UH presence in Katy as the system attempts to increasingly influence suburban areas in Houston.

“The impact of the university on a community is of course broad and economic,” said Richard Phillips, associate provost for outreach and community engagement at UH. “It creates jobs, so you’ve got that kind of an impact and the social impact of adding thousands of student.”

The land will initially house an 80,000-square-foot building that is scheduled to be constructed beginning in August 2017 before other campus buildings are added. The campus is expected to house about 2,000 students at first but will eventually include 8,000 to 10,000 students.

The new campus will replace a 36,000-square-foot UH System location at Cinco Ranch, which opened in 1998 and served about 1,500 students per year before closing this year. The university is in the process of selling the site, and its students are attending a 43,000-square-foot temporary location north of I-10 and 99 until the new campus opens.

In 2015, the Texas Legislature approved $46.8 million for UH’s purchase of the new campus’ land, as well as construction costs for its first building. The system’s board of regents approved the land purchase in May.

The new campus will serve both UH students and UH-Victoria students. It will include a range of classes in business, education, the sciences and other courses. Tuition costs will range depending on if a student is a UH main-campus student or a UH-Victoria student, with tuition costs per semester for in-state students being about $5,000 for UH-Victoria and roughly $7,000 for UH’s main campus.

Parkside Capital is also in the process of selling land to various developers that will build a 300-unit apartment complex just north of the campus, as well as 150,000 square feet of retail space directly south of the campus. There’s also space for restaurants, hotels and offices.

Construction for the retail space could start sometime next year after the land is sold followed by the building of the apartment complex, according to John Moody, chief executive officer of Parkside Capital.

He said the university and its surrounding features, which will be called University Center, will be “where the student enhancements occur.”

The UH system has an option to purchase about 15 more acres for other campus developments, Phillips said, but it is unknown when that purchase might happen.

UH made the commitment to the Katy area because of its fast-growth and because it is trying to establish a wider footprint in Houston’s suburban areas, Phillips also said.

According to the Katy Area Economic Development Council, which helped recruit the campus to Katy, the population of the area is expected to increase from 317,000 residents to 550,000 within the next 20 years.

UH also pulled its Sugar Land teaching center under its flagship, and it has also begun to teach some engineering courses at the Houston Community College Katy Campus.

“I think the biggest benefit is that students have an opportunity of having a quality education without leaving their community,” Phillips said.

“A lot of communities suffer from the brain drain of students moving to other universities. The percentage of students that will remain in Katy (because of the university) will have an impact, and it will also be a cost savings to parents.”