The University of Texas at Austin- What Starts Here Changes the World
Services Navigation

UT Direct



Appendix B
Professor Hillisí Narrative Comments that Accompany the PowerPoint Slides in Appendix A



(Slide 1) Those of you around this summer probably read in the paper about the proposals presented by the Cooper Robertson firm from New York for the Brackenridge Campus of UT. We had a Faculty Council committee that worked with Cooper Robertson; I chaired that committee all of last year, and we met on a regular basis. Our committee was quite disappointed in those proposals because we felt like none of the ideas and information being brought forward from the faculty or from the administration from UT campus being represented in those proposals really met any of the academic needs of UT that had been presented. So, we pulled together our proposals and recommendations and put them into a report of our committee, which has now been presented to a number of groups at UT, and weíre now presenting it here to the Faculty Council. The committee is made up of myself as chair, Sam Wilson in anthropology, Tom Palaima from classics, Chris Bell from geological sciences, and Molly Cummings from integrative biology.

(Slide 2-9) The design principles that we tried to articulate with Cooper Robertson and that we developed in this proposal were the following. One, we know there is clearly an interest in generating new income from UT, but we wanted to make sure that it was generated in a manner that was consistent with UT Austinís mission. Obviously, one of our primary driving concerns that we discussed in our faculty meeting with Cooper Robertson last year was about improving academic programs at The University of Texas at Austin and improving the conditions for the overused teaching and research facilities that are currently located on the Brackenridge Track. As everyone knows, weíre very short on space on main campus for programs, for faculty expansion, for undergraduate teaching space, and so trying to free up space to be able to develop some of those uses on main campus was critical to our views. Obviously, graduate student housing is one of the current uses of the track, and we wanted to improve those opportunities. Thereís been a real push from the legislature in recent years to try to increase opportunities for technology transfer from UT research programs. We thought that this was a good opportunity to be able to take advantage of some of those possibilities. We wanted to strengthen outreach and improve community relations between UT Austin and the citizens of Austin and the citizens of Texas. Then, we were concerned about keeping options open for future UT expansion. Our current problems with lack of space on main campus are not going to go away. In fact, theyíll just get worse as we continue to expand our facilities and programs. All of that went together in making the basic outline of the proposal.

(Slide 10) This is an aerial map of the area showing Lake Austin Boulevard here and the track cuts off. Hereís the golf course located to the north of Lake Austin Boulevard and the current uses UT Austin makes of the tract. There is a commitment or contract with the city of Austin for the golf course to stay there for another 10 years until 2019. We held off in terms of making recommendations regarding the golf course. Iíll return to that in the end, including whether or not we can best utilize that area, but that is something that can be put off into the future. Currently, the only parts that can really be developed are the parts to the lakeside on Lake Austin Boulevard. So, this is the part where we focus on this area.

The field lab is located in this area A, and a lot of the recommendations will involve the field lab. The report itself also talks about developing a public outreach center for making the public more aware of whatís going on at the field laboratory. It includes the existing developed areas of the track as well as plans for developing and making better use of those, transferring some of the current activities from the main campus out to the field laboratory track so they can be better utilized, and also freeing up the space on the main campus that those facilities currently occupy.

Thereís an area along the lake that really canít be developed since itís on the flood plain. So, that area would be part of a publically accessible park. Then, there are graduate student apartments located both here and here. We have some plans for phased development for technology transfer that could be located here at the current location of the Colorado apartments. Our plan incorporates an aspect of the Cooper Robertson proposal, which would involve relocating the graduate student housing from the Brackenridge tract to the Gateway apartment area. We recommend that the Gateway proposal be studied in clear detail. If itís feasible that the Colorado apartments be first phased in and moved over to the Gateway area, then we will have an area that is available for technology transfer development. Then, there would be a phase to study the Brackenridge apartments at a later date after this first phase involving the usage of the Colorado apartment site has been completed.

(Slide 11) A quick overview involves expanded classroom and research space at the field laboratory (freeing up space on main campus), taking the research support collections that are currently scattered across campuses at UT and putting them together under one place and one roof where they are best utilized, and then having kind of an expanded environmental sciences campus and associated research park. This would have components of academics, of public outreach, and of commercialization all located in this one area. This would include a world-class public science center, which I will talk a little bit more about later; an appropriate, integrated commercial development including technology transfer to industry; and a very important modular plan so that development can proceed as we go along and will not have to wait to begin until 2019 when the golf course is available.

(Slide 12) So, just very quickly, the educational importance of the Brackenridge Field Laboratory needs to be mentioned. Itís very well utilized now with over 500 students taking classes out there every year. Itís proximity to campus, having something where both faculty and students can go during the course of the day in between the regular class schedule, is absolutely critical. In addition, it also provides a security for long-term field projects as well as for students and faculty to be working there at nighttime. The students gain hands on research experience there so itís become critical for our efforts to develop research experiences for undergraduates. Itís home to classes across six different UT colleges and schools, and weíd actually like to expand that and develop additional classes out there if we just had the appropriate facilities for that to occur.

(Slide 13) Of course, it also has a strong research component. Itís a magnet for attracting top-quality faculty and graduate students to one of our top-ranked programs in the sciences and has a very long-term record of data collection at one site, which is critical for the long-term kinds of environmental and ecological studies that are conducted there.

(Slide 14) Hereís a map showing its location. The main campus, where we are now, is here. Just a few miles away is the Brackenridge Field Laboratories and the travel time is short enough that it allows faculty and students to go there during the course of the regular class schedule. Of course, itís also on a campus bus route, which allows for easy transfer of students back and forth from the main campus.

(Slide 15) Now, it has some limitations. The limitations include the fact that the current support collections are scattered across lots of campuses that are not as well utilized as they could be there at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory. The teaching and research buildings currently located on the track are crowded and overused so we have limits to how many classes we can actually hold out there.

(Slide 16) This is a map that just shows the different parts of the field laboratory. Iím not going to go into any detail about this except to emphasize the fact that every bit of space is used and has different kinds of purposes. The part of the Cooper Robertson proposals that were, I think, very aggravating to those of us on campus were that one proposal eliminated the field laboratory entirely and said it should be moved off of campus to a location thatís too distant really for faculty and students to be able to use it during the course of a regular work day. The other proposal arbitrarily seemed to just cut off each of the ends of the field laboratory and thus eliminate critical facilities that canít be replaced out there. It seemed to us that their proposals completely ignored the recommendations from the committee about how the field laboratory is currently used and how it can best be utilized in the future.

(Slide 17) The plans from the proposal from our committee include a number of different stages. The order of the stages could be changed, but the critical component is that they are modular. So, the first stage involves expanding the research and teaching facilities at the Brackenridge Tract and relocating a number of collections that currently occupy a lot of valuable space on main campus. This relocation effort would free up about 100,000 square feet of space on the main campus for development of undergraduate teaching facilities and for faculty expansion. Then, this also actually provides for a critical new source of income, which we sometimes forget about, that comes from external grant proposals. By this expansion, we would project that this would result in about $20 million per year of new grant monies coming in to UT.

(Slide 18) Hereís a map again just zooming in on this one little area of the field laboratory that would be slated for expansion. This is the current field laboratory. This would involve a little bit of expansion of this facility and some renovation of this area so that it can be better utilized. It would also involve expansion of some of the greenhouses and animal facilities at the field laboratory. The biggest part of that would be utilization of this building here, the Lake Austin Center. UT Austin owns this building, but itís not part of the field laboratory. Itís obvious from its location that itís a prime place to expand our teaching facilities, lecture halls, and faculty offices at the field laboratory. Itís about 60,000 square feet of facilities that could be for expansion and for relocating lab-related functions off of the main campus, and this usage would not involve construction of a new building at the tract.

(Slide 19) What would it free up and where would it free up space? Well, six floors of the main building (or about 28,000 square feet) are currently occupied by the plant resources center. At least the functions utilizing about 20,000 square feet in other biology buildings, such as the algal research collection, could be moved out to out to this new facility at the Brackenridge Tract. Eventually. this second part wouldnít be entirely done until stage three of this plan, but it would free up the entire Texas Memorial Museum building, which occupies a very critical central location on campus. Itís a beautiful building, but itís extremely inappropriate because it offers very poor access for public usage. So, right now weíre not making the best use of public outreach for our science programs due to the museumís being located in a place where the public really canít come and visit very effectively. By moving the entire displays and collections of the Texas Memorial Museum to the Brackenridge Tract, we would free up a large central space for faculty expansion and for undergraduate teaching. Then, also, thereís another 8,000 square feet of space at the Pickle campus used for natural science collections that could also be moved to the tract. These collections are in a building that is currently shared with the libraries facilities. Libraries facilities would like to expand into these 8,000 square feet, which would benefit their programs.

(Slide 20) The second stage of the plan involves moving some of the graduate student housing. It would first target the graduate student housing located at the Colorado apartments and involve relocation of this housing function from the Brackenridge Track to the site at the existing Gateway apartments. This is a part of the proposal that was recommended in the Cooper Robertson proposal. We think that needs to be studied and the feasibility needs to be looked at a little bit more closely; however, assuming that part of the proposal was reasonable, then the relocation effort would free up some space for additional development at the tract and would also increase the available graduate student housing in the long run at the Gatewood area. So, what we propose to put in that area of the tract would be a campus for technology transfer from environmental sciences to industry. Obviously, the amount of income generated from this new activity is hard to estimate, but it would involve both rental of the space as well as eventually increased royalties from the new patents that would develop from this technology transfer.

(Slide 21) Here are just a few examples of the some of the industrial partners that would be appropriate for the technology transfer activity. There are many programs at UT already in existence that are ripe for technology transfer. UT is already a leader in the area of biofuels research and development. So, weíre developing biofuels from algae for instance as well as other biological sources. Thereís already work at the field laboratory in this area so itís an obvious one that could attract industrial partners. Texasí most successful biotech companies have come from UT biology faculty, who have begun start-up enterprises and developed them into productive companies. This is obviously another area that would fit in nicely with our academic programs and attract industrial partners. UTís Environmental Sciences Institute and Bureau of Economic Geology already have environmental engineering and policy programs with current research in progress at the field laboratory. In addition, UTís College of Engineering has produced a lot of breakthrough programs in clean energy technology, including solar, wind, and battery-based sources. Our School of Architecture has been partnering with environmental sciences to develop programs in environmentally friendly design. The field laboratory is already recognized as having some of the countryís best research in controlled invasive species. This is something where you might not have realized the extent of the commercial implications. However, just one of those invasive species, fire ants, causes over $1 billion in damage to Texas agricultural crops every year. Thereís an enormous interest in trying to figure out ways to control these pests.

(Slide 22) The third stage involves building a public outreach center, which weíve dubbed the Discover Texas Science Center. This would be a place designed to provide education to the public about the environmental sciences and to facilitate increased public understanding of the research going on at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory as well as science in general. This third stage would also extend the public hike and bike trail through the Brackenridge Track, and it would incorporate the existing city plans for building the bike lanes along Lake Austin Boulevard. Commercial development projects would be associated with the extension of the hike and bike trails, which would provide additional income-generating possibilities for UT. Examples could include cafes, bike shops, and other services along the hike and bike trail that can be rented out and provide rental income for the University.

(Slide 23) Hereís an artistís sketch of what the science center might look like. This would actually be developed in a 12-acre piece of land thatís currently unused by UT thatís adjacent to the field laboratory. From this view, weíre looking up the lake, and this is the field laboratory. Thereís a 12-acre piece in there, and the Brackenridge graduate student parking is currently located on the other side of this area. The proposed Discover Texas Science Center includes a catwalk extending out for the public to be able to go out and interact with the field laboratory, see the research and teaching programs going on there, learn more about them, and view public displays and educational programs similar to the ones now available at the Texas Memorial Museum. The parking area, you can see, has greenhouses on top, which will alleviate the shortage of greenhouse space on campus. Solar panels will be used to incorporate green environmental design features. Thereís a rooftop cafť. The buildings nearer to the lake will include a public butterfly house modeled after several similar facilities, including the one in Houston and the research collections that were relocated from main campus. Along the lake, you can see there are some docks associated with the aquatics facility.

(Slide 24) Hereís just another view of a mock-up looking from the lake up towards the Texas Science Center. It is kind of a schematic.

(Slide 25) Hereís an aerial view showing the relationship of this to the graduate student housing on the upper side and the Brackenridge Field Laboratory to the lower right.

(Slide 26) This is just an artistís view of what the rooftop cafť might look like showing the green roof design of the building as youíre looking out towards the lake.

(Slide 27) The science center itself is modeled on a number of other successful science centers that have been popping up around the country. These science centers have been very popular with the public. Theyíve been huge tourist draws and commercial successes. Iím not going to go through these in detail. Iíll just mention this one at the very bottom. This bottom picture is the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Harbor. I mention that one in particular because I went to high school in Baltimore, and when I lived in Baltimore, nobody would go down to the harbor because it was not a place that people wanted to visit. It was a bunch of run-down industrial buildings. They built this science center, and it became a magnet for attraction of the public. Now, the whole inner harbor has been redeveloped and has been a huge tourist draw for all sorts of purposes. It completely revitalized that entire area. Thatís a similar kind of thing that we have in mind for the kind of development that can occur associated with this at the Brackenridge Track.

(Slide 28-29) These are just some of the other centers that exist around the country that we used as kind of models in developing this idea. Iíll skip through those pretty quickly. The California Academy of Science Expansion at San Francisco is probably one of the best examples. It even includes the green roof design and the aquatic and terrestrial facilities to facilitate public understanding of science.

(Slide 30-31) As I said, our plan includes extending the hike and bike trail through the field lab. Initially, we thought the trail would go along the border of the Brackenridge Track, and we thought about maybe actually picking off a small corner of the field laboratory to connect it from here to where the golf course begins here. As it turns out, the city already has plans for extending bike lanes all along Lake Austin Boulevard. In addition, the city also has the funding in place so actually all we really need to do is extend the hike and bike trail up along the edge of the Brackenridge Track and connect it with Lake Austin Boulevard, and then that will fit in perfectly with the cityís plans to extend the trail. They have one million dollars in place. The only reason that they havenít moved forward with that, as I understand from the planners at the City of Austin, is that theyíre waiting to find out what will happen regarding the Cooper Robertson proposal. That outcome will affect it since that proposal completely reroutes and changes the layout of the streets in the area. This development of the hike and bike trail also provides more opportunities for income for UT if we want to develop some shops and cafes for servicing that trail. That trail also then provides much better public access to the rest of the track and is consistent with the whole development.

(Slide 32) This is just a map again showing different parts that I already talked aboutóthe field laboratory, this area of improved expansion of facilities at the field laboratory, and the area of technology transfer and commercialization down here. The hike and bike trail will come up along like that along Lake Austin Boulevard and extend out Lake Austin Boulevard towards the LCRA facilities. Hereís the area we call the Science Outreach Center. Then this is the area of graduate student housing we had initially suggested keeping as graduate student housing. However, itís available for future expansion would depend on how development progresses with regard to the technology transfer or other potential commercialization. The golf course, as I said, is10 years off into the future and so there is a long time to be thinking about that. Weíd recommend that we wait and see how some of these other developments go before contemplating how to best utilize the golf course space in a decade from now. In any case, we would recommend against the Cooper Robertson proposal, which was essentially to develop this whole track into a big, high-density residential area. The problem is that once you build residential housing there it will be virtually impossible to modify in the future. If you put a city there, it makes it virtually impossible to move the city and ever use the land for any kind of academic purposes.

(Slide 33) Much of that development in the first three stages could begin immediately. Itís compatible with the agreement between UT and the City of Austin. As I said, the golf course decision is a long way off, and weíd recommend against putting something there that we canít later move.

(Slide 34) To summarize, this plan provides new teaching research capacity for UT, improves research and teaching space for the existing programs, frees space on the main campus, improves graduate student housing, and improve public outreach and community relations. It is estimated to produce about $44 million in new income per year for UT. No new roads are necessary and there is reduced impact on the local neighborhoods. So weíve got a lot of positive feedback on this plan from the local neighborhood groups. I think itís more consistent with the City of Austin plans than the other proposals for the tract.

(Slide 35) Here are the design principles that I enunciated at the beginning of the presentation, I think each one of those principles is met by this plan. I think each one of those principles has been addressed.

(Slide 36) Additionally, I think that this plan is much more respectful of the donorís wishes for the Brackenridge Track than the Cooper Robertson proposals. So, when Colonel Brackenridge donated the land, he explicitly said that it was for the purpose of advancing and promoting University education, and he said the land should not be disposed of but held permanently for such educational purpose. I think putting a housing development on the land is clearly not using it for its best educational purpose, especially when we have such a strong need in our academic programs for using that space.

(Slide 37) So, if you compare these two proposals, the one I just presented with the Cooper Robertson proposal, I think that our proposal clearly enhances UTís academic programs, provides new space for our teaching and for new faculty, maximizes our UT research resources, provides opportunities for long-term academic development, enhances the transfer of technology for UT research, maximizes our economic benefits consistent with UTís mission, improves our outreach in community relations, and honors the donors wishes. I think none of those principles are met by the Cooper Robertson proposals that have been presented so far.

(Slide 38) I just want to thank a lot of the people who contributed to this work in addition to the members of the committee who worked on this proposal. Many different people across the campus have provided input into this. Weíve had lots of good ideas and suggestions from a lot of people. I hope weíll have some additional good discussion about that today. Thank you very much.

Return to main minutes

 

 

 


  Updated 2013 October 18
  Copyright | Privacy | Accessibility
  Comments to fc@austin.utexas.edu or
  Contact Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary,
  General Faculty and Faculty Council