City vies for UT-RGV offices - Valley Morning Star : Local News

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City vies for UT-RGV offices

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Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:16 pm

The Brownsville City Commission is devising a strategy to bring the administrative buildings of the new university into the city limits, but those discussions are happening behind closed doors.

Commissioners met in executive session for about 40 minutes Thursday ahead of a special meeting scheduled to discuss a list of city properties to be considered for listing.

One of the two items on the agenda concerned the development of a community center while the other gave the commission an opportunity to discuss the city’s approach to submitting a proposal to the University of Texas System to bring the headquarters of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to Brownsville.

The UT System’s request for proposals, announced March 14, has led to widespread jockeying for position by Rio Grande Valley cities, including McAllen and Edinburg, as each hopes to land the administrative building.

The Brownsville commission voted in open session to proceed as discussed during executive session concerning the item, keeping discussion to a minimum.

Mayor Tony Martinez said he could not discuss the city’s plan for bringing UTRGV’s offices to Brownsville, but said he felt everything was going well and that the competition among cities is expected.

All of it, he said, will help ensure that the headquarters will be located where it can best serve the university.

While UT System staff members will largely lead the RFP process, the request states that the Board of Regents will make the final decision on where to locate the UTRGV headquarters.

The RFP says sites up for consideration should be able to accommodate about 100 employees and have access to amenities, major highways and a UTRGV campus.

The second executive session item, which was placed on the agenda by Commissioners Jessica Tetreau and Estela Chavez-Vasquez, was approved with minimal discussion as well, although two commissioners voted against it.

The item authorized city staff to identify land and initiate an appraisal for the future development of a community center.

The item went straight to a vote after it was read into the minutes, with Commissioners Ricardo Longoria Jr. and John Villarreal voting against it.

An item that did trigger some level of discussion Thursday night concerned a list of properties the city might list through its membership in the Rio South Texas Economic Council.

RSTEC provides available property listings for members, leading District 3 Commissioner Deborah Portillo to ask city staff to prepare a list of vacant properties the city owns.

The list, presented April 15, contained various airport buildings that would require Federal Aviation Administration authority to sell as well as a building currently being leased by UT Brownsville.

The updated list that Planning Director Ramiro Gonzalez presented Thursday was color-coded to indicate which properties the city could consider selling.

Properties like the Cueto Building, where UTB has offices, were colored red to indicate they should not be considered for sale in Gonzalez’ slides.

Other properties, like a plot of land behind Lincoln Park south of the border fence and the airport buildings, were yellow, indicating questions needed to be answered before they were listed.

Properties shaded green were presumed to be ripe for listing.

Although only Martinez had seen the new, color-coded list, the commission voted to approve the list as presented by Gonzalez.

Portillo noted that she had heard staff was also reaching out to private landowners to offer listing services for them.

Gonzalez said his department had not had time to include those properties on the initial list, but suggested it was in the works.

“That’s a service the city can provide,” Portillo said.

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