Phillip Ray
Phillip Ray

McALLEN, RGV – The Texas A&M University System is putting its full effort into the development of a future teaching center in north McAllen, according to its leadership.

Through the insistence of Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, who has made the facility a “priority project”, officials say they are putting the project at the front of the line among all developments being undertaken by the university.

“We are truly excited about this. This is a top priority of Chancellor Sharp and through his leadership we are going to meet and exceed all expectations,” said Texas A&M Vice Chancellor Phillip Ray on a visit to McAllen.

“Under his leadership, the Chancellor wants to expand our presence down here in the Valley, and we are absolutely committed to his vision,” Ray said.

Ray led a contingent of experts from Texas A&M who visited the region recently to inspect the site of the university system’s future teaching center located at the Tres Lagos development in north McAllen.

In September, Texas A&M leaders signed a letter of intent to develop about 100 acres at Tres Lagos, a master planned development by Mike Rhodes Enterprises. This group is also developing the Bentsen Palm master planned project in Mission and Alliance River Crossing master planned project in Donna.

Since the September announcement, Ray says the Texas A&M University System has been conducting its “due diligence,” which includes property surveys, environmental reports, transportation plans and utility infrastructure in conjunction with leaders from Hidalgo County and the City of McAllen, which collectively have offered $10 million towards the facility and $8 million for infrastructure. The Tres Lagos development is more than 2,500 acres, and will contain an IDEA charter school as well as Edinburg school district campuses.

“On behalf of Chancellor Sharp and the Board of Regents, I brought my team here. I brought some engineers with me, I brought my survey planning and construction folks, I brought my environmental health and safety people with me to visit with the great folks in Hidalgo County and McAllen, and we were blown away by the visit,” Ray said.

“We had officials from McAllen come out and just had some very fruitful and productive conversations about this collaborative project. It was just a great day,” he said.

Ray said the facility’s current timetable calls for a 2017 opening with about 100 students, and 800 more five years after that.

“Our agricultural, life sciences, engineering, veterinary medicine and biomedical scientists are all partners with this,” Ray said. “So, the vision is for them to have their type of faculty and level of education and programs down here in this teaching center, and hopefully this will become a branch campus of Texas A&M. There is just tremendous potential here.”