Saturday, July 20, 2013

Preparation Begins For Student Health And Counseling Center

Construction prep-work is underway along 17th Street as the lawns of Belvin-Buchanan and Elliot halls are dug up to prepare for the new Student Health and Counseling Center, according to the July 16 Houstonian:

Friday, July 12, 2013

SHSU Declines Land Donation

The Item had a follow-up on July 12 to their earlier story (Jul. 2) regarding property that would have been used for SHSU's ROTC program:
SHSU rejected a property donation that would have moved the university’s ROTC program near FM 2821 and Quality Boulevard.  SHSU vice president Al Hooten said in an email Friday the property is “not within the university’s future growth areas per our Campus Master Plan Update,” which was approved by the Texas State University System Board of Regents in February.

Tarek Maalouf of Maalouf Properties in Huntsville offered a free share of his 57 acres behind the Community Service Credit Union located on FM 2821, but Hooten informed Maalouf’s attorney Lanny Ray on Wednesday that the university would not accept the offer.

Both Maalouf and the university in recent weeks showed interest in land occupied by the Army Reserve Building on Sam Houston Avenue. Hooten requested June 28 that the Huntsville City Council reject all bids on the property because the site had been included in the university’s new plan to revamp the ROTC program and offer services to veterans.

Maalouf was the only one to bid on the property before the deadline, offering the city of Huntsville $650,000, which was $50,000 more than the original asking price.

Maalouf then offered to donate land that he did not consider prime real estate for commercial development. “I would love to give some of my 57 acres that I have in town to Sam Houston to build an ROTC building,” Maalouf said at the July 2 council meeting. “I’m all for it. So please, if it ever becomes a plan at Sam Houston that the city wants to work with, count me in as a developer. I would love it.”

Maalouf said university officials also seemed to have a misunderstanding about his intended donation — whether it was just land or if Maalouf was also going to provide building construction. Before it was made clear the offer was strictly a land donation, Maalouf said, the university seemed interested.

It is unclear how SHSU will continue with its plans for ROTC. The Campus Master Plan Update does not specifically mention the Army Reserve Building property, but the development framework plan highlights the area as “an additional development opportunity to meet future demands.”

SHSU has seen a spike in veteran students and children of veterans enrollment through the growing popularity of the Hazlewood Legacy Act — a tuition exemption put in place for discharged or separated Texas veterans and their eligible dependent children and spouses.

In the 2009, there were 137 Hazlewood students at SHSU, which resulted in $437,000 in tuition exemptions.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Museum to Honor Houston’s Memory with Funeral Reenactment

The Item reveals - in a July 7 article - SHSU's plans for celebrating the 150th anniversary of the death of General Sam Houston:
The 150th anniversary of Houston’s death will include a presentation by Texas Historical Commission interpretive planner Hal Simon on [Friday] July 26, the actual anniversary of Houston’s death, followed by a tour of the Steamboat House and a reenactment of Houston’s funeral on [Saturday] July 27.

“Sam Houston died on July 26, 1863, and his funeral was held the next afternoon,” said Danielle Brissette, museum historical interpreter. “The 150th anniversary is a momentous occasion, warranting more than simply a moment of silence. The events we have planned will be tasteful, informative, unique, educational and even fun. It should be interesting for the whole family. ...we have an excellent opportunity at our museum because we are lucky enough to have the actual house in which Sam Houston died and in which his funeral was held. The [Steamboat House] was moved to our museum in the early 20th century, but it was originally located near Oakwood Cemetery. We even have some of the original artifacts that were in the home when Sam Houston passed.”

The event will conclude with a masonic funeral reenactment, from 1:30-2 p.m. at the main Museum Rotunda, featuring local masons who have researched how Masonic funerals of the time were performed.

“We know that the local masons from Forrest Lodge No. 19 performed Sam Houston’s funeral in 1863, and these masons will help us to honor this event in 2013,” Brissette said. “It’s something we’re very excited about and just one of the aspects that will make this year’s event completely different from the one last year.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

City Council Awards Property Bid Despite SHSU Contention

A July 2 Item article says at the most recent Huntsville City Council meeting SHSU made a late attempt to stop the $650,000 purchase of the Army Reserve Building by Maalouf Properties, LLC, citing needs for expansion of the university’s Army ROTC and various veterans programs:
University Vice President Al Hooten said at Tuesday’s meeting that SHSU anticipates nearly 1,000 student veterans this fall, and that it was critical to have centralized services for this section of the student population. Hooten said the property was included within an area identified in the Campus Master Plan Update, approved by the Board of Regents in February.

The Master Plan does not mention the property specifically, but the development framework plan highlights the area as an additional development opportunity to meet future demands.

Tarek Maalouf was the only one to place a bid with the city by the June 17 deadline. Hooten said the university was unaware of the city’s property sale and “quite surprised to hear that the city solicited bids for this property without notifying the university.”

“I would love to give some of my 57 acres that I have in town to Sam Houston to build an ROTC building,” Maalouf said. “I’m all for it. So please, if it ever becomes a plan at Sam Houston that the city wants to work with, count me in as a developer. I would love it. The problem I have is this property is prime retail property.

“It’s a prime spot for businesses to grow. And as much I support the veterans, I also support small business and people wanting to come to town, open stores, generate revenue and tax dollars for the city. I don’t know why Sam Houston State University has to have prime property for ROTC purposes.”

The Local Government Code did, however, provide a loophole for the university to make its case. Section 227.001 states that a political subdivision may donate, exchange, convey, sell, or lease land, improvements or any other interest in real property to an institution of higher education to promote a public purpose related to higher education.