State leaders have paved the way for new construction at UH Sugar Land (UHSL), a campus of the University of Houston. UHSL received a $54 million allocation in HB100, which the governor recently signed, to construct a new 150,000-sq.-ft. classroom building.
“If UH is going to continue to meet the higher education needs of the Houston area, we need to be building where people live,” said Provost Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs. “There is tremendous growth in Fort Bend County. We are grateful for the incredible support of the legislature, which will help further develop this campus and expand higher education opportunities in the region.”
The new building, planned to be completed in 2019, will primarily house programs offered by the UH College of Technology. A portion of the college will relocate to Sugar Land, and additional programs in business, education and health-related fields are also expected in the next two to five years.
“We will now begin the process of designing the building and determining its location on campus,” said Richard Phillips, UH System associate vice chancellor for system initiatives. “While a large part of the building will meet the needs of the College of Technology, we will also be looking at general purpose spaces that can accommodate the variety of campus needs and expanded programs we will be adding to UH Sugar Land in the coming years.”
UHSL is transitioning from a UH System institution to a campus of the University of Houston. The campus will expand undergraduate and graduate degrees offerings from the UH System’s flagship university. In addition to programs offered by the College of Technology, the nursing program offered at UH Sugar Land, which previously operated as a UH-Victoria program, will transition into the UH School of Nursing this fall.
The addition of a fourth building to the 250-acre campus allows for expanded programs that complement the workforce needs of the area, which is home to a number of technology and engineering companies, such as Fluor, Schlumberger and Texas Instruments. Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council CEO Jeff Wiley says the county is one of the largest in the state, boasts one of the most highly educated populations and consistently ranks nationally in the Top 10 for population employment growth rate.
“Our organization has always maintained the best way to predict the future is to create it. Becoming a campus of the University of Houston, a Tier One institution, gave us the accountability we needed to grow. The Governor and legislature’s allocation of facility funds gives us the facility capacity and opportunity to deliver workforce talent,” said Wiley, who also serves as a member of the UH Sugar Land Advisory Council. “Our residents place a high priority on education. They insist on quality public schools and higher education institutions. The recent decision to expand UH Sugar Land is truly a watershed moment, and we are pleased to be aligned with a growing Tier One institution.“
Area lawmakers, including State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Simonton) and State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), were instrumental in securing support for the capital construction project. Additionally, Kolkhorst and State Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land) helped facilitate the transfer of 16-acres of land from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to UH. The land sits between the frontage road of Interstate 59 and the entrance to the 250-acre campus to its north along University Boulevard. The land was previously a TxDOT construction staging area that was deemed surplus land.
“This was a big win for UH and UH Sugar Land. While we don’t have any plans to build on it in the near future, it was an important addition to make the campus whole between the interstate and our existing facilities. This was an important step in developing a master plan for UH Sugar Land moving forward,” said Jason Smith, UH System vice chancellor for governmental and community relations.
In 1998, a 250-acre parcel of land was transferred from the Texas Department of Transportation to the UH System to build the campus. It was followed by more than 15 years of private giving and public support, which included major allocations and gifts by the UH System, the city of Sugar Land, the George Foundation, state lawmakers, community-based capital campaigns, and Fort Bend County. A long-term lease with Wharton County Junior College, and partnerships with local industry and the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council have also been instrumental in the growth of the institution. Current facilities include:
- George Building (2002)- The 57,000-sq.-ft George building houses offices, classrooms and computer labs. It was made possible by funding from the UHS Board of Regents, the city of Sugar Land, the George Foundation and a capital campaign.
- Brazos Hall (2009)- The 145,000-sq.-ft., facility features classrooms, a bookstore, auditorium, science and nursing labs, and offices. It is partially subleased to Wharton County Junior College, which began a 20-year lease in 2009. Brazos Hall was funded with $27 million in Tuition Revenue Bonds allocated by lawmakers and contributions by the city of Sugar Land, The George Foundation and a capital campaign.
- Fort Bend County University Branch Library (2011)- The University Branch Library is a joint-collaboration between the University of Houston System (UHS), Wharton County Junior College, and Fort Bend County. UHS students, faculty and staff may use the Library's resources for their academic needs.
UH Sugar Land accommodates approximately 200 faculty and staff who serve about 5,000 students. An additional 2,600 students are expected in the next five years. In addition to existing and planned UHSL facilities, the city of Sugar Land has leased 52-acres of campus to construct festival grounds, which will benefit faculty, staff and students, as well as enhance campus infrastructure.