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Texas A&M board takes next step toward Fort Worth expansion

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Posted at 7:00 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 20:00:13-04

The Texas A&M University System is one step closer to growing its footprint in Fort Worth.

The system’s board of regents on Thursday added two buildings to its capital plan for a new education and research campus proposed in downtown Fort Worth, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The board must add the projects to the construction plan before moving forward with design and ultimately construction.

The board agreed to spend $85 million on a law and education building, which A&M officials expect to start building next year. Another $85 million was approved for a research and innovation center, which is scheduled to be built in 2024.

“Texas A&M is the future of Fort Worth,” said Mayor Mattie Parker. “This is truly the most transformational thing that will happen in Fort Worth that will continue into perpetuity.”

Dubbed “Aggieland North” by Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, the new campus will be next to the Texas A&M School of Law and will house a variety of research and education programs.

Sharp’s vision is 10 years in the making.

It’s where leaders of the system’s Institute for Advancing Health Through Agriculture hope to develop a new food pyramid for the country. Tarleton State University, about 70 miles southeast of Fort Worth, will relocate its health-related courses so students are closer to nearby hospitals and clinicals. The campus will also provide space for local companies to conduct workforce training.

Multiple state agencies, including the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, will have a presence on the new campus.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to potentially place a “disaster school” on the campus to train first responders and emergency response leaders from across the midwest in emergency preparedness and mitigation.

“This is going to be a presence built on the needs of Fort Worth,” Sharp said. “Whether that is defense contractors or whether that is a health science facility or whether it is engineering.”

A third building on campus, the Gateway Center, is also in the works to replace A&M’s current law school building, Texas Wesleyan University’s former law school building, which became Texas A&M School of Law in 2013. The new Gateway Center will house law school administrators and other rooms for use by the community.

The money for the two additional buildings in Fort Worth is part of a $1.5 billion package of newly approved projects that make up the system’s five-year, $4.2 billion capital plan across the system’s 11 universities and eight state agencies.

The idea to expand into Fort Worth began nearly two years ago when Fort Worth billionaire John Goff and former Mayor Betsy Price invited the Texas A&M system to expand its reach into the city and stimulate business growth downtown.

Goff told regents Thursday that Fort Worth is one of the largest cities in the country without a Tier 1 research presence.

According to A&M, about half of the 1.2 million adults in Tarrant County over the age of 25 do not have a college degree, and 1 in 4 households have an annual income lower than $30,000.

Texas A&M system leaders expect to bring a design for the new law and education building before the board next spring, which is the last step before the system can break ground. The law and education building will be paid for with earnings from the Texas A&M University System’s endowment, known as the Permanent University Fund.

Disclosure: Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University, Texas Engineering Extension Service and Texas A&M University System have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribunes journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/05/19/texas-am-fort-worth/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.