UHV finalizes Town Plaza Mall purchase

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

July 6, 2017 at 9:45 p.m.
Updated July 7, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Wayne Beran, UHV vice president for administration and finance looks around the former Town Plaza Mall.

Wayne Beran, UHV vice president for administration and finance looks around the former Town Plaza Mall.   Contributed by UHV for The Victoria Advocate

The vacant Town Plaza Mall will soon be revitalized as home to the University of Houston-Victoria's expansion.

"It's easier to renovate space than to build new space," University President Vic Morgan said Thursday. "It feels like we own it."

UHV and Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church officials announced the formal purchase Thursday at the former mall site.

The university used $1.9 million in capital construction bonds to acquire from the church 132,000 square feet of the former mall at 1502 E. Airline Road on 10 acres.

The U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration in June awarded a $1 million matching grant to the university to renovate a portion of the mall.

The UHV Small Business Development Center and the UHV Regional Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship will relocate to the former mall.

The next step in the process is to get the utilities switched over, Morgan said.

About 11 architects were recommended by the university to the University of Houston System for selection. The university is in the process of looking for contractors.

Some construction at the site will begin in late fall or early spring, he said.

"Work will begin to the building's exterior and parking lot, so the building begins to look like ours," Morgan said.

Enough of the structure will be removed for an opening to separate the church's portion and the university's portion. This will also begin in late fall or early spring.

The structure is in excellent condition, Morgan said. The roof will need to be redone, and the air conditioner will need to be replaced.

The project will not be worked on all at one time, Morgan said.

He said several spaces will be open as early as fall 2018.

The university's shuttle service will extend to the location when classes begin to be offered.

Preliminary plans for the rest of the building include a lab space, training classrooms, Dalkey Archive Press, climate-controlled record storage and book storage for Dalkey Archive Press and the new University Commons.

Town Plaza Mall was built in 1969. Our Lady of Victory bought the mall in 2011.

Our Lady of Victory kept the former J.C. Penney location, said the Rev. Kristopher Fuchs, church parochial vicar.

The church's renovation project for a conference and reception center will be complete in August, he said.

"This is a very exciting moment for us, and we are happy to have the University of Houston-Victoria as our new neighbors," Fuchs said.

A driveway and green space will be created between the old J.C. Penney building and the rest of mall.

Finalizing the purchase means continuing the university's growth pattern and the beginning of new opportunities, Morgan said.

"We can have programs, faculty offices and classrooms more quickly than the STEM and (University Commons) buildings come up," he said.

Students and Victoria residents can expect to see a new area unrecognizable as the former space, Morgan said.

"They will see a completely new facade that looks more like a university building than it does a mall," he said. "We are excited to be a part of the revitalization of the area."



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