HOUSTON – The University of Texas, in a transformative deal, is acquiring 332 acres about one mile south of Loop 610 for a major campus with dozens of new buildings – more than 1 million square feet, perhaps much more.
“This will be a game changer in a very positive way for Houston, for the UT System and the entire state of Texas,” UT System Chancellor William McRaven told the Board of Regents last week.
McRaven presented a preliminary conceptual plan for the UT site showing more than two dozen structures for the property, which is now vacant land. The site is bisected by Buffalo Speedway and is south of West Bellfort Avenue, within walking distance of the Astrodome and only 3.5 miles from the Texas Medical Center.
The UT deal opens up great swaths of south Houston for major development and investment. Realty News Report, on a number of occasions, has noted the opportunity that lies in the vast amount of vacant land that is available south of Loop 610 and north of Beltway 8.
The terminus of the METRO light rail line is south of 610. An earlier development plan called for extending the METRO rail to the west to connect with the UT tract, which could provide the university with a light rail connection to the Medical Center and downtown.
McRaven, a retired Navy admiral who commanded the Special Operations team that killed Osama Bin Laden, said he is completing the land acquisition soon.
“At the beginning of the new year, I will convene a task force of civic leaders, legislators, academic and health presidents, faculty, students, regents and other constituents to begin planning for the development of this property,” McRaven told the board of regents.
“This will not be a University of Texas at Houston, rather it will be an ‘intellectual hub’ for UT – an opportunity for all of our campuses to take advantage of the Houston professionals in the fields of medicine, energy, engineering, business, aerospace, health care and the arts,” he said.
At 332 acres, the UT campus is a bit smaller than the 385 acres acquired by Exxon Mobil for its new, excessively lauded campus north of Houston. And UT, as a governmental organization, will move much slower than a private sector company.
But the business innovation and incubation potential at the UT facility, with the Medical Center synergy, means UT’s move has just ignited the close-in south side of Houston. The potential for south side growth is immense.