Building A Bi-National University
Jan 01, 2010

AUSTIN, TX January 21, 2010 - Amidst the Gulf of Mexico's beaches, a stone's throw away from the US-Mexico border, dotted by palm tree-lined avenues and blooming bougainvilleas, is a grandstanding 380-acre educational institution that welcomes all. The University of Texas at Brownsville in partnership with Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC) set up its roots back in 1926. The partnership as a community university was established in 1991, pioneering a new model in higher education, one that blends a community college with a university.


To support student enrollment growth, from approximately 7,000 in 1990 to currently more than 17,000, the university has had to evolve. Broaddus & Associates, a building design and construction project management and planning firm, is assisting UTB/TSC as they evolve into a greater educational institution in the globalized environment.


On November 2004, the Texas Southmost College taxing district voted for a $68-million bond program to build and improve facilities at the UTB/TSC campus. Broaddus & Associates was retained for bond program management and planning.


The firm prepared a master planning and programming study to address campus residence needs at the Village at Fort Brown, a 21-acre peninsula, much of which was designated as a student housing area. The analysis provided a long-term, phased implementation plan for the growing student population. Encompassed by the campus resaca (oxbow lake), this area is connected to the campus core via roadway and bridge.


The resulting master plan projected 1,570 beds, 160 apartments, a student dining building, student-related retail space, and approximately 400 parking spaces. This financially feasible, physically constructible, long-range plan included a phased implementation plan, with program and design guidelines.


Master planning was also provided for Los Tomates Athletic Complex. This 80-acre property, formerly a tomato farm, is located near, but noncontiguous to the main campus. Broaddus & Associates worked closely with university officials to identify best use for the recently acquired property, and prepared a development plan for the university's growing sports programs and auxiliary needs.


The master plan addressed immediate requirements to build athletic facilities, and provided a clear direction for future expansion. Diagrams described vital connection points with future academic, housing, and college-town developments. The implementation plan identified priority projects, as well as a property acquisition strategy to better connect the noncontiguous property to main campus. UTB/TSC is planning the first phase of development to support its burgeoning soccer program.


Broaddus & Associates also provided facility programming services for the initial phase of a 400-bed residence hall at the Village at Fort Brown and the campus' new Science and Technology Learning Center, which is a 78,000-square-foot facility to accommodate the biological sciences and nursing departments, the Emergency Response Center, and general use classrooms. Facility programming is the research and decision-making process to identify the scope of work to be designed. After client approval, data is incorporated into the design process.


The firm has been involved in managing the following construction projects: A library, classroom building, Arts Center, the International Technology, Education, and Commerce Center (ITECC), and Center for Early Childhood Studies.


The new three-story, 45,000 gross square-foot (gsf), $10.4-million library is the focal point for entering campus through University Boulevard. This building includes space for a two-story byzantine glass mural, to depict literary greats across time. With its brick detailing and scale, the architectural style pays homage to Fort Brown. UTB/TSC is on the old fort's site, which was a US Army post during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fort Brown was deactivated in 1947, and purchased by the City of Brownsville and Brownsville Independent School District. This purchase led to relocation of Brownsville Junior College to this site.


Flanked on the library's south is the new $8-million, 39,000 gsf classroom building with medium and large lecture halls. This two-story structure is also designed in the Fort Brown brick architectural style. The multidisciplinary facility and library buildings caress a natural botanical garden being preserved by the university.


Next, the $25-million, 57,000 gsf Arts Center is a new nautilus-shaped structure featuring an 800-seat performance hall. A covered arcade archway, with decorative brickwork, welcomes you into the building. The fully equipped stage accommodates orchestras, operas, dance and theater productions. Designed as a circular, layered shell, the building includes five theater studios, three rehearsal halls, a green room, patron's terrace, and lobby for receptions and exhibits. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby offer an exquisite campus view.


Renovations took place at the International Technology, Education, and Commerce Center. ITECC is housed in a former shopping mall purchased in 2002. The center includes the university's technical training and continuing education programs, international banking and business services, Brownsville police academy, newcomer industries, plus a small-business incubator. This incubator has thus far assisted in creating over 40 businesses and 940 jobs in the region.


Exterior renovations are based on Broaddus & Associates' planning of a new facelift and recommendation to create a connection to main campus. The program manager's strategy of using mature trees from a Lowe's store site, where they would have been demolished, was implemented to create a green mall area in front of the ITECC building. The green mall in front of the former mall enhances its appearance as part of a college campus.


Moving forward, there is the $5-million, 19,400 gsf Center for Early Childhood Studies. This center is designed to educate both students and teachers on childhood development, offering preschoolers a vibrant educational setting and university students a real-world setting to learn teaching methods. The new center allows the university to triple the number of children served. The complex includes an administration building with a kitchen, cafeteria, four smaller buildings, or casitas, housing classrooms and non-invasive observation areas. Classroom buildings have two classrooms separated by breezeways to utilize the prevailing southeastern breezes. The casitas pay homage to Fort Brown housing in their design.


Broaddus & Associates guided the owner in designing highly efficient buildings. Due to Brownsville being in a hurricane-prone zone, the facility was designed with concrete exterior walls. To create a healthier environment, parking areas have aerated concrete instead of asphalt, while recycled floor and low-volatile organic compound materials are applied in the interiors.


Broaddus & Associates utilized the construction industry's best practices during program management. These include schedule compression, general condition efficiencies such as strategic scheduling of contracts, constructability/value engineering, and volume procurement. The program manager recommended purchasing in bulk for items such as: Bricks, furniture, carpet and flooring, light fixtures, kitchen and playground equipment, plus the energy management system. Altogether, UTB/TSC saved approximately $4 million using the program manager's strategies.


Since launching as a junior college back in 1926, UTB/TSC has covered major milestones. Now a part of the largest public university system in Texas, the university embraces the bi-national environment of the US-Mexico borderlands. In addition to building students' professional qualities, this institution also emphasizes linguistic skills. The university is involved in monumental research, like nanotechnology that redesigns matter from a molecular level. Its faculty speaks at global conferences on topics like food insecurity in Pakistan. Ultimately, UTB/TSC creates affordable access to postsecondary education in a region where the college-going rate is half of the state's average. Broaddus & Associates is gratefully assisting this institution in its strategic plan of designing pathways to success.