Lamar University has added more than 13 acres, acquiring two parcels of land for immediate beautification and future growth.
In December, LU finalized the purchase of the Martin Marietta Concrete Plant located just east of the main campus entrance at 1250 E. Florida Ave. Since that time, the plant, a supplier of building materials including aggregates, cement, ready mixed concrete and asphalt, has leased the 11.4844-acre space back from LU but will completely vacate the property by April 30. More recently, LU purchased McLeod Machine Works, located directly across from the LU campus at 4717 S. MLK Pkwy. The property located next to LU’s Athletic Complex is 1.783 acres with three structures.
“We’re making these acquisitions to enhance the campus community today and for future expansion,” said Craig Ness, vice president for finance and operations.
The acquisition of the concrete plant allows LU to move forward with plans to officially make the campus’ front door the intersection of East Cardinal Drive and Rolfe Christopher Drive. According to Ness, by spring of 2020, the Martin Marietta property will be converted into green space used for club sports or intra-murals. The conversion of the concrete plant property is just one piece of a bigger plan to create a more welcoming entrance. The university has just approved an architectural plan for a 6,000-square-foot welcome center to be built on the southwest side of Rolfe Christopher Drive where it intersects with Jim Gilligan Way.
“We’re doing a whole ‘south entrance’ plan,” said Ness. “It’s not financially feasible to do it all at once but it will include landscaping, lighting, monument signs, archways.”
Ness describes the LU entrance as “park-like,” with the soccer, softball and baseball fields and modern structures on the left and the green space or recreational fields on the right.
“Eventually as campuses grow, and they do grow, there will be a need to develop the Martin Marietta property for either academic buildings or, more likely, for a campus residential community,” said Ness. “But we don’t know what the needs will be in 10 to 20 years.”
Ness says the McLeod Machine Works property was purchased to centralize LU’s maintenance, custodial and shipping and receiving offices, staff and vehicles. Currently, these related workers, managers and their campus vehicles are spread across campus in varying locations. As a result of the consolidation, Ness says empty buildings will be repurposed. Most immediately, he says the 6,000-square-foot. shipping and receiving facility located at the north end of the Montagne Center parking lot will become the new band annex. The facility will store instruments and uniforms and give the band an inside practice space. Additionally, a space will be designed like a football field adjacent to the annex where the band will practice marching. Currently, marching practice is held on a prime parking lot.
“We think we’ll have a win-win for the band, especially on game days,” said Ness. “Instead of staging over in the music building and renting trucks to take their stuff across the bridge over MLK, they can just get it and go.”
With the latest acquisitions, LU’s total acreage is 299.1644. The university plans to acquire additional properties surrounding the campus as properties become available.
“Our goal is to protect the campus, create a more collegiate atmosphere and enhance the campus community while keeping our eye on the future and trying to anticipate what the university may need,” said Ness.