An ambitious, long-term master plan could turn the University of Houston into an inviting center of activity that mixes student housing with academic buildings. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, the concept could slowly transform the campus over the next two decades.
The plan would nearly double the amount of square footage of buildings on campus, add student housing to some of those buildings and at the same time double the number of students living on campus. It would also increase enrollment from the current 35,000 to 45,000. Dilip Anketell is the University’s executive director for facilities planning and construction.
“Our housing is pretty-much segregated from the academic core of this campus. So what we are looking at doing is integrating housing as part of mixed-use development so all future development on this campus won’t be just dedicated for one use but will have a multiplicity of uses within each of these buildings.”
The plan has a wide-ranging budget, anywhere from $180 to $700 million depending on the level of state funding and the success of other fundraising efforts. Anketell says the master plan is careful to retain green space while creating new areas for social interaction on campus.
“One of the major goals of the plan is to make sure that we continue to and strengthen the open-space network that we have with plazas and courtyards and create a series of malls that connect each of these so that you have a hierarchy of open spaces to continue the feel that this campus currently has with its heavily-wooded nature and green spaces.”
At the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at UH, students are putting the finishing touches on a large model of what the master plan will look like. It’s 16×14 feet and shows where new buildings and other additions will go. Lecturer Joe Meppelink is supervising the model construction and says the plan includes five distinct areas of campus.
“The real emphasis of the plan was to provide a ring drive around these five precincts and then to push into the precincts with tree-lined alleys, so I think that each of those thoroughfares will have a unique feel.”
Joe Mashburn is the dean of the college of architecture and thought up the model plan. He says inside of keeping the city out, the master plan invites it in to the campus.
“The plan that has been put forward is uniquely I think University of Houston. Instead of walling the city out like others, we’re inviting the city in. We were founded to educate the sons and daughters of the working class and I think this is just an extension of that essential fundamental idea that the University of Houston is based on. “
Regents are expected to officially approve the master plan when they meet in November. Construction on some of the first buildings could come as soon as next May.