Community and University of Houston-Victoria leaders broke ground Tuesday with golden ceremonial shovels to signify the beginning of renovation work to the university’s new 44,000-square-foot Northwest Campus, formerly Town Plaza Mall.
“Providing additional space and amenities will help us better serve our students and continue down our path on becoming a destination campus,” UHV President Bob Glenn said. “Northwest Campus will be a place for our students and community to engage in meaningful partnerships. We’re thrilled to see the positive impact it will make on UHV and the community.”
UHV students, alumni, faculty and staff were joined by community leaders for the groundbreaking celebration. Also attending were members of UH System Facilities Planning & Construction and representatives from companies working on the building.
The new Northwest Campus will be located in the 1500 block of Airline Road just east of Laurent Street. Renovation on the building will begin in June and is slated for completion by summer 2020.
“Expanding our footprint with the Northwest Campus will provide flexibility for our continued growth,” said Wayne Beran, UHV vice president for administration and finance. “This additional space will be critical as we continue adding more programs and attracting more students.”
Once it is renovated, the building will house the UHV Small Business Development Center, Partnerships for Regional Economic Prosperity, Athletics, the university’s kinesiology program and university classrooms. It also will have administrative offices and climate-controlled space for records retention, storage and additional UHV Library books. UHV shuttles will transport students to and from the Northwest Campus.
“The Northwest Campus will be a regional asset providing essential resources,” UHV SBDC Director Lindsay Young said. “Both Partnerships for Regional Economic Prosperity and the SBDC will provide a one-stop shop for the communities and businesses we serve.”
The UHV SBDC area inside the Northwest Campus will have offices, a large multi-purpose room, and a shared conference space with Partnerships for Regional Economic Prosperity, formerly the Regional Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. PREP recently was rebranded to reflect the goal of serving the region’s needs by working collaboratively with the SBDC to strengthen the university’s partnerships to help prepare the region for economic stability during cyclical downturns.
“PREP will use UHV faculty, staff and students to provide resources and services to the communities it serves,” PREP Director Joe Humphreys said.
The new state-of-the-art kinesiology lab in the Northwest Campus will be funded by a $1.5 million gift from the M.G. & Lillie A. Johnson Foundation. The gift was announced by the university in November.
The lab will be located near several other lab spaces and a sports performance center that will provide UHV undergraduate students pursuing health career education with hands-on training, said Raymond Tucker, a UHV assistant professor of kinesiology. The area will include physiology, body composition and biochemistry labs, and will provide students with the advanced tools needed for careers in physical therapy, occupational therapy and other health-related professions.
“Having hands-on training before our students graduate will make them more marketable in their job search,” said Fred Litton, dean of the School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “We’re recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association for our programs, so having this lab will help us better teach strength and conditioning techniques as well as how to properly train athletes. Our goal is to have the top health-related programs in the area.”
UHV Athletics also will benefit from moving to the Northwest Campus, UHV Athletics Director Ash Walyuchow said.
“Being housed in the Northwest Campus will provide more space for our staff and student-athletes, including those who would be involved in any future sports,” he said. “The location will increase visibility, and the opportunities from having the sports performance facility right across the hall will be a benefit for our student-athletes.”
A portion of the UHV Library’s books also will be housed in Northwest Campus. A retrieval system will be available to those who wish to check out books that are not immediately on hand in the new library inside University Commons, located on the east side of Ben Wilson Street directly across from the UHV University Center.
Future renovation of the remaining portion of the Town Plaza Mall will depend on the university’s needs and funding, Glenn said. In July 2017, UHV purchased 132,000 square feet of the former mall from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Victory. UHV used $1.9 million in capital construction bonds to buy the property.
The Northwest Campus will cost just under $10 million to renovate the first 44,000 square feet. The general contractor for the project is The Morganti Group Inc. of Connecticut, and the architect is PBK Architects based in Houston.