UHV gets ready for fall full of firsts


June 12, 2010 at 1:12 a.m.
Updated June 13, 2010 at 1:13 a.m.

Unfortunately for students coming to Jaguar Hall in the fall, the swimming pools are being removed as the University of Houston-Victoria renovates the former hotel. Jaguar Hall is expected to open in August.

Unfortunately for students coming to Jaguar Hall in the fall, the swimming pools are being removed as the University of Houston-Victoria renovates the former hotel. Jaguar Hall is expected to open in August.

Ana Gabriela Cervantes wants to help start new traditions at The University of Houston-Victoria this fall.

The 17-year-old Katy resident is excited to be one of the first freshmen at UHV.

"It's like a baby," said Ana Gabriela, who plans to major in education. "I want to help make it grow and be a leader."

Ana will be living in Jaguar Hall, the former Inn Place Hotel and Holiday Inn across from Citizens Medical Center that is being converted into a residence hall for the university's first underclassmen ever.

It will open in August.

Until now, UHV has offered only junior, senior and master's level courses. Last June, Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill to allow UHV to add underclassmen starting this fall. Preparations are being made for the students to arrive.

Preparing for the fall

Jaguar Hall will have enough room for about 256 students to live in double occupancy rooms.

So far, 1,283 freshmen have applied, and 462 have been accepted, said Chari Norgard, associate vice president of student success and enrollment management.

Of the 462, about 261 have requested to be placed on the "firm list," which means these students have expressed a higher level of interest in attending.

The "firm list" numbers are expected to increase as August approaches.

"To get on the firm list, they had to fill out a housing form, or have submitted a letter of intent that says, 'yes I'm definitely coming to UHV,' or have e-mailed the president or recruiters on staff to let them know they're coming on," Norgard said. "Our goal for freshmen recruiting is 200. We have surpassed our goal."

About 16 percent of those on the firm list are athletes, Norgard said.

Based on the number of housing applicants, the female-to- male ratio in Jaguar Hall so far is 2 to 1, said Denee Thomas, director of Letting Education Achieve Dreams and underclassmen recruitment.

The university will have a better idea of how many freshmen and sophomores will come once fall registration opens June 21, Norgard said.

The first day of school is Aug. 23.

In general, freshmen and sophomores will be required to live at Jaguar Hall and must fill out a housing form.

Students can, however, apply for a waiver if they feel they have a good reason for not living at Jaguar Hall, such as if they are already from the Crossroads area and prefer to live at home.

So far, there is no student housing deadline, Norgard said.

Enough housing?

With the growing number of students who say they are committing to attend UHV, the university is discussing possible housing locations in case Jaguar Hall goes over capacity.

"We are looking at other options for where we could do alternative housing at this point," Norgard said. "We're having discussions at what our possibilities are."

UHV has visited with Woolson Real Estate Company, which manages apartments close to UHV, said Wayne Beran, vice president for administration and finance.

"They've been very nice and said they could help us if we need it," Beran said.

Ideally, Beran would like students to live close to the university and for the students' apartments to be in close proximity to each other for better social interaction.

"It's tough in this town because there's not that many apartments that have eight or nine rooms close together," Beran said.

Housing students who will be sophomores for the 2011-12 school year could also be a challenge, Beran said.

"We know next year's going to be another issue, too," Beran said. "We may find somebody out there that wants to build an apartment complex."

Underestimated housing costs

UHV purchased the Inn Place Hotel in December to convert in into a residence hall.

Originally, the UH System hired a consultant from Jones, Hill, McFarland & Ellis of Houston in October for an repair estimate on the property.

The consultant determined the hotel needed about $5 million worth of repairs alone, Beran said.

Adding in the furniture purchases and renovations to the repairs, Jaguar Hall would cost about $9 million altogether, Beran said.

Architects began analyzing and preparing construction costs for Jaguar Hall in February, Beran said.

The main building, built in the 1960s, is scheduled to open before the fall semester, Beran said.

The annex building, or Building B, on the west end of the site that would have 88 rooms, was originally scheduled to open in spring 2011, Beran said.

But once architects started preparing the construction documents to determine what needed repair, the cost ended up being higher than originally estimated, Beran said.

"It would have been hard to get a real good hand on it," Beran said. "We found additional renovation work that needed to be done that was not in (the consultant's) scope."

After finding extensive mold, asbestos and roof damage in the annex building, UHV discovered that building would cost $5 million to repair.

As a result, the annex building will be razed this summer for $500,000 instead. UHV is now deciding what to do with the extra land, Beran said.

"It's better in the business sense to tear it down and then look at what we want to do with that," Beran said. "We could always use additional parking, or we could maybe use it for a different type of student housing. We just don't know yet."

Thus, Jaguar Hall will cost $9.5 million to be renovated, because of the additional $500,000 to razing the annex.

In the main building, asbestos is being removed, the roof is being repaired, and the whirlpool and swimming pool are being taken out, along with the renovations to make the hotel look more like a residence hall, Beran said.

Future expansion could occur if UHV acquires a grassy 1.5- acre of property in back of Kresta's Boats and Motors on Ben Wilson Street if the owner decides to sell it, Beran said.

The property is directly behind Jaguar Hall.

Student life

Jaguar Hall will be about a 10-minute walk to campus. A sidewalk will be installed along the west side of Ben Wilson Street to give students easier access, Beran said.

Housing will cost $4,050 per year, while the meal plan is $1,250 per semester, Thomas said.

The $1,250 per semester constitutes 20 meals a week, three meals Monday through Saturday, and two meals on Sundays, Thomas said.

Within the first few weeks of school, UHV is planning a "Welcome Week," where students will get to know each other, and learn about student organizations they can participate in, Norgard said.

Marissa Cervantez, a future UHV student from Temple who will play on the soccer team this fall, also plans to get involved in student organizations.

"I would want to be in clubs, just any club that I could help around the community with people in general," Marissa, 17, said. "I guess anything that would help me get to know my peers around my dorm room. Just basically anything from like hanging out, to playing outdoorsy things. I'm real big into meeting new people."

The students will also participate in naming the student lounge, which will be at Jaguar Hall, Norgard said. The lounge will have a pool table and a Wii system for student use.

"We want them to name the place they're going to spend a lot of time in," she said. "It'll be a place for students to gather."

UHV will also survey the students to find out what activities they are interested in, such as a movie night or karaoke night, Norgard said.

"We want to give them a really strong voice in what student life should be at UHV," Norgard said. "Most universities have had freshmen for years. We're different in that this is going to be literally the first 200. They are going to contribute a lot to what life is like on campus. They're going to form some of the traditions."



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