UHV purchases adjacent land for future academic building

The University of Houston-Victoria continued implementing its campus expansion plan on Thursday by purchasing nearly 5 acres of land on the east side of Ben Wilson Street across from the university.

The land eventually will be used for a new academic building, which UHV will seek approval to build when it submits its construction bond package in 2014 as part of its appropriation request for the 2015 Texas legislative session.

The property was purchased in two separate sales from Image-Riggle Corp. and Casa Del Rio Ltd. for a combined $4.23 million.

“Adding this property on Ben Wilson Street is an important step forward in building UHV into a dynamic, destination university,” UHV President Phil Castille said. “Our Victoria campus is growing fast and setting new enrollment records. We also are adding new academic programs to be more responsive to the students and communities we serve. The last thing we ever want to do is cap enrollment because we lack academic space, so having room to grow is essential.”

The property contains two apartment complexes built in the 1960s: The Arlington, 3106 N. Ben Wilson St., and Casa Del Rio, 2902 N. Ben Wilson St. Because the land won’t be immediately redeveloped, tenants can remain in place for now. UHV and the current property managers will assist tenants in future relocation.

“The community is expecting UHV to plan to provide facilities comparable with what can be found at other regional universities,” said Wayne Beran, UHV vice president for administration and finance. “We want to give our students more programs and more career opportunities that prepare them for the professional workforce. Having adequate room to expand is a critical component of UHV’s contribution to future economic development in the Crossroads.”

Woolson Real Estate Co. has managed The Arlington since 1971 and Casa Del Rio since 1991. The company will continue to manage both apartment complexes until UHV is ready to use the land for new construction.

“The transition will be a slow one,” Beran said. “During that transition period, Woolson Real Estate will work with residents to help identify other housing options.”

Both properties are older than UHV, which opened in 1973. The Arlington was built in 1963, while Casa Del Rio was constructed in 1969.

“Real estate is about buying at a particular time, recognizing opportunities and having an exit strategy,” said Nancy Garner, president of Image-Riggle Corp., and president and broker of Woolson Real Estate. “It’s a good time for us to sell. We think that, long term, this sale is good for the university and the community.”

She said right now, the tenants are the most important thing.

“I am writing each tenant a periodic update as things progress, so they will know exactly what is happening,” she said. “The long transition period will help the tenants. We will work on making it as easy as possible for our tenants to find other places to live.”

Woolson Real Estate owns or manages six other apartment complexes in Victoria. Garner said there are 500 additional apartments currently being built in town, so residents will have choices about where they live.

UHV administrators had discussed using The Arlington and Casa Del Rio apartment complexes as student housing. But given the code restrictions for student housing and the high cost of making upgrades to properties that eventually will be demolished to make way for new academic facilities, it did not make economic sense.

“There are specific building codes for student housing,” Beran said. “While Woolson has done a good job maintaining these apartments, to convert them to student housing would require a sprinkler system and a fire suppression system, along with meeting stringent Americans with Disabilities Act compliance requirements. The cost for doing all that would be too high.”

The money for the sale came from the UH System, which is supporting UHV in its campus expansion. Including closing costs, the UH System supplied nearly $5 million. The sale was approved by the UH System Board of Regents and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“We appreciate the UH System stepping forward to fund this land acquisition in Victoria,” Castille said. “It shows that the Board of Regents and the system leadership are committed to helping UHV continue to develop as a full-service, four-year residential institution here, serving the Crossroads area and beyond.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro