Feature Illustration (above): A concept rendering of the planned student housing complex for the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at Abilene campus. Courtesy: Hendrick Medical Center.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Abilene (Taylor County) — After a two-year effort to cobble together 24 single family lots in a neighborhood adjacent to the Texas Tech University-Abilene campus, Hendrick Medical Center has set the stage for its conversion to a three-story student housing complex.
Hendrick Medical’s vice president and former city mayor Norm Archibald spoke before the Planning and Zoning Commission at its Jan. 8 session about a request to rezone a two-block area to multifamily for the purpose of constructing an “institutional dwelling.”
Hendrick Medical has been investing in the real estate to benefit a Texas Tech Health Sciences Center campus.
Norm Archibald, vice president, Hendrick Health System. Courtesy: City of Abilene video archives.
The initial project that made everything that followed possible, Archibald said, was Hendrick Medical’s development of the property that became Texas Tech’s School of Pharmacy.
“Where the pharmacy school sits today, there were about 25 abandoned cars on that lot, right on Pine Street. It was so blighted looking … and when you drove by afterwards and saw the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy, the people in the community were saying, “Wow! That really was a great improvement,” Archibald said. “Not long after that came the School of Nursing, and following after that came the School of Public Health.”
The Texas Tech campus is still growing. East of the existing buildings, Archibald said there is room for two future buildings.
“We’re not through, yet, with the development of that institution. We’re hoping someday be pushing about 600 students just on that campus alone.”
To further Texas Tech’s expansion, Hendrick Medical began purchasing lots. At the outset, most of the lots had single family homes on them. It was a time consuming process because for a number of transactions it was difficult locating the landowners.
A city staff planner said most of the lots are now vacant, but several houses remain and are in the process of being removed. The total area comprises 4.7 acres.
The planned student housing complex is within the yellow boundary. Lines in red are public rights of way that will be abandoned. Google map with graphics by Adolfo Pesquera.
The private developer, Texas Student Living, is based in Plano and run by Brad Johnson, the president and project manager. He recently completed a 390-unit student housing complex with 1,260 beds at the University of Texas at Tyler, Archibald said, and is ready to commence work on the Abilene project.
The complex envisioned in Abilene will be three stories and contain 250 units. Archibald did not specify the bed count.
“They’re planning for an amenities building that will have a pool, a fitness center, some computer rooms, study rooms, etcetera,” Archibald said. “It will be a gated area and on top of that it will become a real show place for campus living.”
In a related action, the commission recommended to City Council a Hendrick Medical request for the abandonment of 278 feet of Cedar Street, the public road that separates the two blocks, as well as 818 feet of public alley ways.
The multifamily project follows a trend toward increased multifamily housing around the campuses of Texas Tech and Hardin-Simmons University, which are separated only by Hendrick Medical. It also falls in line with the city’s goal getting the medical center and downtown to grow toward each other along the Pine Street business corridor.
A view of the project site–highlighted in yellow–from the parking lot of the Texas Tech campus. Image: Google Streets/graphics: Adolfo Pesquera.
The Dallas office of Ken Killian prepared the conceptual rendering.
City Council is scheduled to consider the case Jan. 24 and get through the second reading Feb. 14.