Line to run near UH-Downtown
The UH System Board of Regents was updated on METRO construction plans along both the University and UH-Downtown, the UH Web site and changes to board’s bylaws at a meeting Thursday.
METRO announced early last month it plans to construct a University Corridor, which will run along Texas Southern University and Rice University. The line would run along Alabama Street, Scott Street and Elgin Avenue.
A Southeast Corridor would run adjacent to UH through Martin Luther King Boulevard and intersect with the University Corridor at Scott.
UH Vice President of Plant Operations David Irvin said the University has communicated its plans to close a portion of Cullen Boulevard in accordance with the UH master plan. The street closures, which include a portion of Holman Avenue, were approved by the board in May to foster a pedestrian-friendly campus.
"We have had many meetings with over a dozen different people at Metro, presented the UH Framework Plan in great detail and have given them numerous copies of the plan," Irvin said in an e-mail in September.
Construction is set to begin in mid-2008 and be completed in 2011 or 2012, The Daily Cougar reported in October.
UHD is in negotiations with METRO to conduct a purchase and sale of land properties.
David Bradley, UHD vice president of administration and finance, said ongoing discussions over land purchases along METRO owned property in downtown will be coming to a close. Four METRO-controlled properties in downtown along Main Street, which total 8.4 acres, will cost $11.1 million to purchase.
Bradley said METRO and UH-Downtown have been in the current discussions over purchasing and selling land from each other since summer. Although Bradley did not indicate when the property swap would occur, he said it would be finalized before the next board meeting in UH-Victoria on Nov. 15.
"There is a great need for UH-Downtown to have this resolved soon," Bradley said in a phone interview Friday.
Bradley also said preliminary negotiations over properties owned by both institutions began in mid-2005.
According to the METRO Solutions Web site, "the METRO Board of Directors voted to authorize the President and CEO of approximately nine acres of land for the development of the Intermodal Terminal" in May.
METRO is expected to begin construction in spring, he said, and although it has not surveyed the possible effects on traffic in the area, surveying and sampling in the area has been conducting.
"METRO has not done much in the way of traffic studies," Bradley said of progress in METRO’s current construction plan.
The UH System is preparing to sell three properties in downtown totaling 4.7 acres to METRO for $6 million, Bradley said.
METRO would build an Intermodal Transit Center just north of downtown as part of its plan to construct five rail lines to run throughout the city to connect different areas together.
METRO announced its initiative to build a transit center three-fourths of a mile north of UHD on Main Street, the Houston Chronicle reported in May 2006.
The Judge Alfred Hernandez Tunnel, located on Main Street, would be reconstructed to make room for the transit center, a building that would "enable residents, visitors and workers to easily transfer between different modes of transit including light rail, guided-rapid transit and METRO buses," according to METRO solutions’ Web site.
Bradley said one of the UHD’s priorities in the land swap was obtaining a property located across the new Shea Street Building on Main. The other parcels obtained by UHD would be used for different purposes, such as parking or buildings. The goal would be for UHD to be a more pedestrian-friendly campus, Bradley said.
Web site redesign
The updated UH Web site went live on Sunday after a year of receiving input from more than 2,000 people, including focus groups made up of faculty, staff as well as current and prospective students, Director of University Marketing and Project Manager Darcie Champagne said.
"The changes were guided by our audiences, not by ourselves," Champagne said.
The UH Web site is made up of more than 100,000 pages, which will be changed by spring, she said.
The new site is expected to be user-friendlier for students. Another update in the Web site in the spring will include streaming video presentations and blogs to assist students with the admissions, enrollment and financial aid. Champagne also said that information for prospective students and visitors would be readily available on the new Web site.
The board also voted to change its bylaws to change the amount of members to attend closed committee sessions, as discussed at a previous meeting on Oct. 2. Enacted by UH Legal Counsel Dona Cornell, the amendment to the bylaws would allow four board members to attend standing committee meetings without breaking state law.
Standing committees – composed of academic and student affairs, administration and finance, audit, endowment management, external affairs, strategic planning and University advancement – will have a quorum of four board members instead of five.
Previously, administration and strategic planning was a single committee and was split up as a strategic planning committee and an administration and finance committee.
The change was made so the board could operate similar to other state universities, such as Texas A’M University, Cornell said.
Standing committees generally meet every four months, Cornell said, unless pertinent University business arise, such as financial management or personnel issues arise. Standing committee appointments are all composed of board members as chair, vice chair and two other regents and last one year. The committee appointments, along with the amendment approval, began Thursday.
According to the Texas A’M System Web site, four board of regents members are required to be present in standing committees of audit, academic and student affairs, finance, and buildings and physical plant.
Executive meetings, which are open to the public, unlike closed executive sessions, need three members to make a quorum, in which decisions can be reached.
The regents’ Web site does not reflect the changes because of their recent approval, said Gerry Mathisen, executive administrator for the board. The Web site was last updated on Nov. 2, 2006 and will reflect the amendment made this week, Mathisen said.
Additional reporting by Kelsie Hahn.