AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted Wednesday (Feb. 14) to take the necessary action to acquire the property located at the southeast corner of Guadalupe and 27th streets. The UT System will acquire the 60,129 square feet of property for UT Austin either through negotiated purchase or, if necessary, by eminent domain.
The Texas Legislature granted the regents the authority to purchase the property as part of a major campus expansion program in 1967. The University refrained from taking any action while the site was used as a personal residence by the current owner.
Acquisition of the site, 2612 Whitis Ave., is essential to meet the University’s need for additional student housing on campus, said UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner. “There is an acute demand for more housing — and given the scarcity of land in the area — this piece of property is critical,” he said. A new campus dorm on this site would increase beds by 500.
“Using the property for additional student housing is consistent with the University’s master plan and the city of Austin’s Smart Growth Initiative, ” Faulkner said. “It is important that we act now.” Faulkner added, however, that negotiations are proceeding with the owners of the Whitis property and that he expects to achieve an agreement without any special process.
“The regental action provides a basis for closing a deal once agreement is reached, but also signals our firm intention to follow through with the long-range property plan manifested in the Legislature’s action of 1967,” he said.
The only remaining tract of land covered by this approval is 2612 Whitis Ave. The land occupied by the All Saints Episcopal Church is not a target for future acquisition, and there are no current plans for expansion north of 27th Street in that area.
Every year, the University has approximately 15,000 applications for on-campus housing. Eight thousand to 9,000 of these applicants end up coming to UT. Prior to fall 2000, the University had 5,300 beds available on campus. The completion of the new San Jacinto Residence Hall has added 850 more, putting the total at 6,150. The campus master plan recommends UT expand to approximately 10,000 beds.
“Our percentage of students living on campus is lower than that of almost any comparable university in the country,” said Dr. James Vick, UT Austin vice president for student affairs, adding that Texas A&M University has 10,000 beds for a student population approximately 80 percent as large as UT’s. “We see the addition of two more halls as a high priority for student affairs and the University.”
Nearly 70 percent of the bed spaces on campus are occupied by freshmen. Each year, the University conducts a lottery among the continuing students to see who will be able to stay in the residence halls the following year. “We are committed to maintaining this level of occupancy by freshmen,” Vick said. “Part of the reason for this is that students who live on campus, particularly in their first year, perform better academically and adjust more successfully to college.”
The regents met in executive session to discuss acquisition of the property as part of their regularly scheduled two-day meeting (Feb. 14-15).