The city of West University Place is undertaking the largest public facilities makeover in the city’s history as spacing issues and aged infrastructure creep in.
Since December, West University has held a series of public meetings to discuss its five-year facilities master plan, which involves adding, renovating, expanding and relocating key city buildings. The facilities plan is part of the city’s broader $174.26 million capital improvement plan outlining various projects, including street and road paving, and water line replacements.
The facilities plan is projected to cost the city about $38 million over the next five years, and construction is expected to take place between summer 2023 and early 2027, according to prerequisite material supplied by West University Place.
"Completion of the facilities master plan was approved as a top policy priority by council for this year in order to develop a long-term plan for the location and function of city facilities,” assistant to the city manager Will Thompson said during a June 27 council meeting.
Key focuses of the plan involve renovations to City Hall, which houses the IT, finance, human resources, communications and police departments; relocating the public works facilities; and relocating the West University Branch Library and the city’s community and senior center.
While all of these spaces have been renovated in the last 20 years, the average age of these facilities is 62 years, according to city documents.
“The demands of services have changed over the years, but the facilities are constrained in the ways that they can grow,” West University city manager David Beach said.
Public works campus
The first project to be carried out is the relocation of the city’s public works department from Amherst Street.
The city plans to move the department, which includes the Building and Standards, Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction, and Zoning and Planning boards, to a 21,000-square-foot property at Westpark Drive and Dican Street, in the city of Houston, just north of West University’s city boundaries, and a separate animal services facility.
The city itself is 2 square miles, much of which is built out. However, the city owns land outside its limits that can give public works its own space, Beach said.
“It allows for operational efficiency from just the facility itself,” he said. “You’re creating more of a central hub.”
Design firm Pierce Goodwin Alexander & Linville presented two options for the public works campus: One would work with land the city already owns, and another would expand the campus by purchasing more property along Wakeforest Avenue. The second option leaves room for a stormwater detention pond instead of having to install underground detention.
This section of the $10.65 million project is subject to permit approval by the city of Houston. Construction is expected to take place between summer 2023 and summer 2024.
Another portion of the plan focuses on renovations of the city’s municipal building and the construction of new facilities.
The city’s community and senior center, which provides auditorium rentals and activity space to adults age 55 and older, is the oldest of the four buildings in the plan, having been erected in 1941. The city plans to spend $10.72 million to relocate the building between Milton and Amherst streets along College Street.
Additionally, the city is planning to relocate the West University Branch Library to the same property. However, City Council has not yet decided whether the library and senior center will be built as one multipurpose center, Beach said.
“This is something we are certainly excited about, having more room for our collection,” said John Harbaugh, branch manager of West University Library. “The proposed plans they have given us are absolutely exciting changes.”
Meanwhile, the city will spend $11.07 million to relocate the fire department out of the City Hall building to its own two-story site on the corner of Milton and Auden streets.
The last project, renovations to City Hall, is expected to cost $5.53 million. The building, constructed in 1954, was last renovated in 2014.
While the design of the new public works campus is underway, construction on the community and senior center, the library and the new fire station as well as City Hall renovations are unlikely to meet the outlined time frame, Beach said.
Construction on the new library and senior center is expected to begin in early 2024, the new fire station in early 2025 and City Hall in spring 2026.
Following town hall discussions in April, one of the city’s goals for the new facilities became the pursuit of a stronger environmental goals.
On July 11, PGAL CEO Jeff Gerber went over the necessary design criteria to meet environmental goals, including reducing energy use; increasing renewable energy use; recycling construction waste; and benchmarking water, greenhouse gas emissions and waste materials.
“Council’s acceptance of the master plan is not a carte blanche authorization to move forward with it, but it tells us what their plan is,” Beach said.