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Saturday, September 23, 2017

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UH System expands Katy footprint with 46-acre purchase


The UH System is selling its former Cinco Ranch campus, pictured here, for $6.8 million. Demand for the programs offered at that campus outgrew the facilities. | Karin Keller/The Cougar

The UH System has finalized its purchase of 46 acres from Parkside Capital at the northeast corner of Interstate 10 and the Grand Parkway for its new Katy campus, which will be known as UHS University Park.

For Katy commuters, this campus couldn’t come soon enough.

Every semester, I have to pick my schedule so that I can best avoid traffic,” said biology junior Kevin Saravia. “With this campus, I wouldn’t have to worry about accounting for traffic, so I could take class earlier and end midday with no worries.”

Initially, UH plans to build an 80,000 square foot facility. This facility is currently in its design phase. Director of UH System properties Jason Trippier said the construction will begin starting fall 2017 and that the new campus is expected to open in Fall 2019.

According to the Houston Business Journal, UH’s 46 acres will be part of the 125 acres of the new campus, which is expected to serve 2,000 students initially. With the systems’ master plan of 500,000 square feet of space, it will eventually be able to accommodate 8,000 to 10,000 students.

Trippier said that the planning for this university began in 2014 and that, in 2015, UHS went to the Texas Legislature to obtain funding.  

“I established the Katy Task Force in October 2015 to develop the academic programming for the new Katy building, including infrastructure needs,” Trippier said. “Specific programs will be offered in Katy and students will be able to complete those programs at the Katy campus.”

The undergraduate programs that will be offered include: civil engineering, environmental engineering and computer engineering. For graduate programs, the school will offer petroleum engineering, subsea engineering and a master of science in nursing.

The school has placed a strong emphasis on engineering programs due to high demand along the West Houston Energy Corridor.  

In a news release, president and CEO of the Katy Economic Development Council Lance LaCour said that 40 percent of all engineers in Houston commute from the Katy area.

Biology freshman Sindy Zabala hopes that the new Katy campus will also offer advanced medical courses.

“I feel like a lot of commuters from Katy are interested in working in the medical field, and having courses closer to home would help a lot,” Zabala said. “The worst part of being a commuter is dealing with an accident on I-45 at any given time. That stress coupled with the stress of trying to get into medical school can be a bit much at times.”

Saravia would like to see the presence of a strong medical program at the Katy campus, but also said that he would like the courses offered at the satellite campus to be cheaper than the ones offered at the main campus.

UH System is selling its former Cinco Ranch campus for $6.8 million. The campus opened in 1989 and is being sold because the demand for the programs offered at that campus outgrew the facilities.

Unlike UH System’s Sugar Land campus, there are no plans for a shuttle and no plans for certain majors to move the majority of their coursework to the other campus.

In the UH press release, UH System Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and UH Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Paula Myrick Short said that the purchase of this new plot of land will be the next step in the UH System’s mission of expanding its ties within the community.

“By providing increased course offerings in the Katy region, we’re furthering the success of our students toward timely and accessible degree completion,” Myrick said.

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