University seeks funds for possible construction, expansion - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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University seeks funds for possible construction, expansion

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Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 10:00 am

It did not take long for Juliet V. Garcia, president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, to request permanent university funds for possible construction projects for the school’s campus.

Garcia is expecting an answer to her request when the UT System Board of Regents meets this month, she said. But, for now she will have to wait to see if they approved her request of $98 million for general purpose classrooms and a science building.

Already, money from the PUF has been used to pay Texas Southmost College for buildings and land swaps. And now, another $6 million of PUF could go to the city of Brownsville if it does gift the university land, which could include Lincoln Park, located on University Drive.

The action by Brownsville city commissioners in February, according to Assistant City Manager Jeff Johnston, authorized that some property could potentially go to the university as an incentive for it to stay at its site.

Though that action has been taken, nothing has been set in stone, Johnston said.

“At present, from the city’s standpoint, that is still an option that is on the table — so it is a possibility,” Johnston said. “We will coordinate with them if and when they are ready to discuss.”

Though the land is considered a gift to the school, Garcia said the payment of $6 million is to relocate the park.

Johnston said there are a number of locations that could become the park’s new home, but the city is taking care to make sure it’s still within walking distance from those residents that use it.

“It is a number ($6 million) that has appeared and popped up before in terms of the cost it would take to relocate,” Johnston said.

“We do want to make sure that accessibility to parks remains in place for everybody.”

Lincoln Park was initially located just east of International Boulevard but was moved to University Drive in 2002 to make way for the expansion of Expressway 77/83 to Veterans International Bridge.

According to Garcia, administrators are working on a facilities master plan for the university that should be finished in late November.

If the request for funds is approved, Garcia said construction on campus could begin by late spring.

She said the plan to build needs to move quickly because of the leases the university has with TSC and in and around the community.

If land transactions are finalized with the city, the university would have approximately 280 acres to call its own for a projected student body that could swell to 20,000 on this campus of the new entity established by the UTB merger with the UT-Pan American, Garcia said.

School officials have cited Rice University with 300 acres as the model for a school of this size.

Garcia said she can’t say for certain what the land where Lincoln Park is would be used for, but only that it’s needed because of its proximity.

mmontoya@brownsvilleherald.com

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