Tuesday, October 04, 2005

UTB/TSC’s Explosive Growth

Picture at left is the UTB/TSC campus as of 2004. University Blvd is under construction as well as the Business & Education Complex next to University Blvd.

When I first started coming to UTB/TSC (University of Texas @ Brownsville/Texas Southmost College) in 1993, the North and South Building had just been built a couple of years before and had been the first major buildings to be built in twenty years. For those of you who have been to UTB/TSC (TSC before the 1990s) in the early 1990’s, the furthest building on campus from International Blvd was the Cavalry Building and the Maintenance Building, where my father was the Director of the Campus Police, Grounds crew, and Maintenance. I remember that it would take about five minutes to walk from the Tandy Building (along side International Blvd) to the Cavalry Building. I thought to myself that in about ten years, that UTB would grow a little more but never expected to see it grow to the size it is today.

Back in 1993, if I remember correctly, UTB was less than 100 acres. Today, 2005, UTB has grown to over 325 acres and growing at a phenomenal rate. I have personally seen the construction of six large buildings to accommodate the growth of this university. In 1997, the Science, Engineering, and Technology Building (SET-B) was built and cost roughly $27M. It was the largest building at the time and was larger that the North and South Buildings put together. I was fortunate enough to be one of the first students to use the new building as I was in the Electrical Technology program at the time. Then the Life and Health Science (LHS) Building (2002), the Regional Academic Health Center (RACH) and the Student Union were built around the same year. A larger bookstore was also built around 2001 because it had outgrown the old one that was located inside the North Hall. I remember that little store and had wondered for many years when a new would be built. The LHS, RACH, and Student Union pushed the boundaries of UTB’s outer limits as the old compress buildings that were located at the far end of campus were torn down and these new buildings were built in their place. A whole new view was created as the new LHS and Student Union were built along the hidden and forgotten Lozano Banco Resaca. For many decades, this Resaca was hidden behind a thick brush and trees that almost made it look like a jungle. With the clearing of the trees and brushes, UTB finally had another Resaca to look at, instead of the familiar “horseshoe” shaped Resaca where most builds are situated alongside it.

Sometime in the early part of the new century, UTB bought the Smith Property (behind the Lozano Banco Resaca), The Jacob Brown Auditorium, The Alonso Building (a historical building built in the 1890s), the Cueto Building (also built around the late 1890s), The Fort Brown and Ramada Hotel (located on the peninsula), which are being turned into student housing, and finally, UTB bought the largest single building that Brownsville had known since it was constructed in the 1974, The Amingoland Mall, which had finally given up as a mall in 2003. The mall’s failure was mostly due to the population growth to the north and the horrendous rail road crossing and the rail road switch yard behind Amigoland Mall that would snarl traffic at one of the only two entrances and exits from the mall. Since the switch yard was behind the mall, this would cause the cars to stop at the RR crossing for hours at a time causing frustration, rage, and economic loss to the mall as many people would just turn around and go to Sunrise Mall. If this wasn’t bad enough, traffic on the other side of the entrance would be blocked by traffic headed into and out of the B&M International Bridge causing more headaches and rage. Basically, both sides of the entrance to the mall were just nearly impossible at times to get to the mall. Eventually, the mall lost so much business to these two problems and to the $50M renovation to Sunrise Mall that nearly doubled its size that it just folded in early 2003. UTB saw a huge opportunity with the mall and decided to buy it soon afterward. Now, UTB could boast two campuses. The Amigoland Mall was renamed to ITEC (I still don’t know what it stands for and neither does anyone else in Brownsville!).

By the summer of 2005, saw yet another large complex built on alongside the new East Loop (University Blvd as it is now called) that connects Elizabeth Street in downtown with the Expressway 77/83 and East Ave in Southmost. The new loop was constructed on the opposite end of the Lozano Banco Resaca as well as the new Business and Education Complex (as seen in the picture above). The complex opened just in time for the Fall 2005 semester and a 300 foot pedestrian bridge was built over the Lozano Banco Resaca to connect Business and Education Complex (BEDC) with the rest of the campus near the Student Union and the LHS building. The building cost roughly $28M and rivals in size of the LHS building. Please visit UTB’s Orange & White Newsletter for more on the new EDBC.

Looking ahead, UTB/TSC is not finished growing. On the contrary, UTB/TSC will probably nearly double in size within the next four to five years! With the passing of the $68M bond this year, UTB is now in the planning stages of using this bond to build a new library and renovate and expand the old one, a performing arts and music building, (Jacob Brown will be the new Arts and Music building and be renovated and expanded), more class room buildings, a new research center, a new childhood center, and renovate the ITEC. A new Recreation and Wellness Center (REC) that the students passed last year will also be built alongside with a new Kinesiology building. The REC is the first of the newest buildings to be built at the end of 2006. The others will follow soon after, around the fall of 2007 or 2008. And I don’t think that the growth will stop there as UTB is aggressively pursuing more funding from the state to build yet more buildings to accommodate the explosive population growth of UTB. When I started college here at UTB, the student population was roughly 6,000. Today, that number has grown to over 12,000 students and growing. At this rate, UTB should reach about 20,000 students by 2015 or so. UTB is slowly but steadily buying up individual condos and apartments located at the Fort Brown Villa and other condos on the peninsula that one day, the peninsula will be dedicated to student housing, retail, and restaurants for the students. Phew, got tired just writing that sentence. Lastly, UTB is also very slowly buying up the lots and houses that are between UTB and the Expressway 77/83. That’s about 10 blocks worth of homes!!

I estimate that by 2025, UTB will have grown to about 500 acres, a student population of 25,000 and 28,000 with staff and faculty, encompass all of the Rio Grande River along the levee to the Veteran’s Int’l Bridge to the Expressway 77/83 and nearly along International Blvd, except for the retail and restaurants directly in front of Int’l Blvd. That’s about 1,500 acres or more!! What after 2025? Who knows? Only the administrators at UTB know that. A new master plan would have to be devised in about ten years just to plan for the future beyond 2025. Until then, please see the UTB 2020 Master Plan. It’s very interesting and shows the development of UTB to 2020.
Now, if only UTB/TSC could think of building up instead of sideways. Two and three story buildings that takes up too much land and cause the destruction of wildlife habitat. Maybe they will realize this and begin building taller buildings. Not only will the campus look beautifuland be seen from far away, but help protect the deminishing wildlife corridor along the river. What do you say UTB?


Blogger Claudia said...

I would just like to say thanks to everyone who played a part in creating the new Buisness and Education Complex. I am a senior majoring in education and I really apprectiate the beautiful building and all the extras provided with it. IT'S GREAT!!!

7:28 PM  
Blogger TonyL said...

Thanks for the comment, Claudia. The BEDC is a beautiful building and I really like the bridge too.

I'm a Senior in the Electronics Engineering and had the pleasure to be one of the first students to use the SET-B when it was first built. SET-B rocks!


5:44 AM  

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