University village to attract faculty under consideration

The current plan would have the village take up all or part of Parking Lots 18, 19, and 21.
Illustration Courtesy | Toole Design Group via TAMUC Presentation

Todd Kleiboer | Co-Editor

In striving to bring students and faculty closer, A&M-Commerce is considering a plan to build a university village to meet that goal in a literal sense.

“We are still early in the process, so there really isn’t anything specific to report,” Alicia Currin, vice president for business and administration, said in an email. “I can also say that the project will be thoroughly investigated and researched before moving forward.”

The village would take up all of Parking Lot 19 and some of lots 18 and 21 between the One-Stop Shop and Rayburn Student Center, increasing the strain on student parking.

“Student parking remains one of our top concerns, and we are considering other options should this project move forward,” Currin said.

No timeline for the village’s construction has been development, but according to Currin, “Dr. Keck’s vision is to develop this area in multiple phases.”

According to the presentation given to faculty at the Spring Assembly, the village would consist of 45 to 50 two-story townhomes and two three-story mixed-use buildings surrounding a 3-acre park. The project designs are based off suggestions made by Toole Design Group, the same architectural firm who gave redesign plans to the city of Commerce.

The residential properties would be open to faculty, staff, and others interested in purchasing one, and the townhomes would have three bedrooms and differing design plans. The university would sell the property and then buy it back from the resident once they moved.

“Since we are still at the concept and idea phase, there are no specific floor plans at this time,” Currin said.

The mixed-use buildings would include commercial tenants on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors, and because it is early in the process, no business has been lined up.

“These would be commercial pads,” President Ray Keck said in his spring address to the faculty. “This would be, I hope, a movie theater. This is something we very much need, and they’re looking if there’s a way to do that.”

Legality problems present themselves in the university, a public entity in Texas, buying and selling private property, and funding is critical to move the project forward. These problems are being investigated by A&M-System representatives according to Currin.

“Dr. Keck met with some of our system representatives last month and they are investigating the need, legality, funding plans, etc,” Currin said.

There are precedents of public universities, such as University of Washington-Seattle and University of California-Davis, building employee housing in other states, but it was done to offer affordable prices in comparison to other prices in those cities’ housing markets according to a UC- Davis’s release and a Seattle Times article. For the university, it is more a beautification project aiming to attract faculty to reside in Commerce, according to an East Texan article last fall.