April 17, 2007

Contact: Richard Bonnin
713/743-8155 (office)
281/840-9820 (cell)


A groundbreaking ceremony for a new $35 million academic building at the University of Houston System at Sugar Land (UHSSL) begins at 11 a.m., Friday, April 20 at the Fred and Mabel R. Parks Rotunda, 14000 University Blvd., in Sugar Land.

Among the dignitaries who will speak during the ceremony are David G. Wallace, mayor of Sugar Land; Leroy Hermes, chairman of the UH System Board of Regents; Jay Gogue, chancellor of the UH System; Tim Hudson, president of UH-Victoria; P.D. “Danny” Gertson III, chairman of the Wharton County Junior College Board of Trustees; Betty McCrohan, president of Wharton County Junior College; and Denise Adams, alumna of Wharton County Junior College, UH-Downtown and UHSSL. Guests are by invitation only.

The building is scheduled for completion in fall 2008. The project, which has the potential to create 200 jobs, is part of the “Building Futures Together” campaign started in May 2005 to support construction of a new academic building at the UHSSL site to be shared by the UH System and Wharton County Junior College.

“The building to be constructed at the UH System in Sugar Land would not have been possible had it not been for the collaboration of many,” Hudson said. “This partnership is receiving rave reviews in Austin as a model for moving forward at this time of competing funding priorities in the Legislature. Every stakeholder has recognized they have a vested interest in meeting the educational needs of the Fort Bend area and the state. The return on investment will be enormous.”

The new building will add 145,000 square feet of classroom and instructional space to the existing Sugar Land campus. The junior college will lease about two-thirds of the space from the UH System.

In addition to meeting the educational needs of this growing population, housing both UHSSL and the junior college on the same campus will help each institution devote more of its funds to educational activities rather than to infrastructure. Both institutions will reduce duplication of services by sharing certain administrative expenses, technology resources, labs, classrooms and student service functions. The joint facility also will allow students to fulfill most or all of their educational needs on a single campus that offers lower-level and upper-level courses.

“We at Wharton County Junior College look forward to working alongside the University of Houston System at Sugar Land in serving the educational needs of the emerging population of Sugar Land,” said WCJC President Betty McCrohan. “Although we have operated a campus in Sugar Land since 1990, this new facility will provide students with the convenience of obtaining their freshman-, sophomore-, junior- and senior-level courses at one location. We realize the need to keep education affordable and accessible and encourage potential students to consider the joint admissions agreement between the WCJC and UHSSL, which was intended to save our students’ time and expenses.”

The plan calls for more than 50 new classrooms of various sizes, as well as a performance hall/auditorium; computer, science and nursing skills labs; faculty offices; a bookstore; a weight room; an aerobics room; and a student lounge. The new classrooms will provide seating for about 2,500 students. The current facility, the Albert and Mamie George Building, will serve as an instructional site and as the administrative headquarters for UHSSL and Wharton County Junior College.

The building is being designed by the joint-venture team of Archi*technics/3, in association with PageSoutherlandPage, both of which have a history of working with higher education institutions. The contractor is Skanska USA Building Inc., one of the world’s leading construction groups, with expertise in construction, development of commercial and residential projects and public-private partnerships.

“Skanska is helping the University of Houston build today to be ready for the demands of tomorrow and to ensure that higher education is available for all,” said Frank Roetzel, Skanska’s area general manager for Texas.

Previously, the project site was used to farm crops. Therefore, Skanska, the designers and the University of Houston System have spent the last several months working together to address all the design and construction issues related to this site, including utilities, site drainage and logistics, and are confident the project will be completed as scheduled.

WHAT: Groundbreaking ceremony for new $35 million academic building at the University of Houston at Sugar Land
WHEN: Gathering begins at 11 a.m., Friday, April 20. Remarks begin at 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: University of Houston at Sugar Land, Fred and Mabel R. Parks Rotunda, 14000 University Blvd.

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