The University of Houston-Clear Lake will break ground on a 69,539-square-foot health sciences building on April 28 at its Pearland campus, university officials said. Construction is slated for completion in January of 2019, in time for the spring semester.

“They don’t have to drive all the way into Clear Lake. We augment classes for students who want a smaller setting and make that one-on one relationship with their professors,” said Kathy Dupree, the director of campus operations at UHCL Pearland.

The university will focus on expanding health care course offerings at the Pearland campus because of to its proximity to the Texas Medical Center.

Expanded programs will include an RN to BSN program, which is designed for registered nurses who want to complete their undergraduate education and earn a bachelor’s degree. Other programs include clinical counseling and behavioral science.

The three-story health sciences building will also house a satellite center of the UHCL Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

“We have intentionally focused on life sciences and health care as a community because our labor force is made up of people who work in the [Texas] Medical Center. This is another outgrowth of that continuing strategy,” said Matt Buchanan, president of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation.

The Pearland campus health sciences building will cost UHCL $19.7 million, and construction was contracted out to Austin Commercial. PBK Architects designed the building.

The state legislature approved $24.6 million of funding in 2015 for the UHCL Pearland health sciences building. The university will fund the project through tuition revenue bonds.

Currently, UHCL Pearland occupies a 31,554-square-foot building off Pearland Parkway.  In June, Pearland City Council donated about 22 acres of the 40-acre property to UHCL to move forward with the new building construction. By state law, the university could not construct the building without ownership of the land.

The city of Pearland and Mayor Tom Reid actively recruited UHCL to the area. Pearland City Council approved funding the construction of the initial building that the university now occupies. The building was completed in 2010, and the university signed a 20-year lease agreement in 2008 with the option to purchase the facility.

“It brings the community a sense of pride that they have a university here,” Buchanan said. “There will be opportunities for employers in our community to have another supply of labor to attract to their various positions and jobs.”

Editor's note: The story was updated to reflect that the building is expected to be completed by January of 2019 in time for the spring semester, not the fall semester.