University of Houston unveils $35M landscaping project

Big birthdays call for big celebrations, and the University of Houston is spending $35 million to prepare for its 100th.

University officials on Tuesday announced their most detailed plans to date for a project that will redesign major areas of campus – all in time for the centennial in 2027. UH has retained landscape and urban design firm OJB to envision new gateways at several entrances, a gathering space called Centennial Plaza and a shaded pathway along University Drive.

OJB is known for its work on open spaces in various cities and universities, including Klyde Warren Park in Dallas and Aggie Park at Texas A&M University.

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“Our centennial plan is a transformative project,” UH President Renu Khator said. “The University of Houston is a crucial part of the fourth largest city in the country, and having a welcoming campus that everyone can be proud of is paramount. This reimagination will create a sense of place, community and learning, while also promoting health and well-being not only for our students, but for all Houstonians.”

University Drive will be lined with trees as part of a new design project for the University of Houston's centennial celebration in 2027.

University Drive will be lined with trees as part of a new design project for the University of Houston’s centennial celebration in 2027.

Courtesy of the University of Houston

The project sprung from a centennial master plan committee that convened in 2020, partly to mark the occasion but also to bring UH closer toward its goal of becoming a top-50 ranked public university.

OJB has begun the design process so construction can begin next summer and be completed by the end of 2026, according to the university.

“So much of the student and campus experience is found in the spaces in between buildings: its landscape and open spaces,” said Chip Trageser, partner in charge for OJB. “Creating inclusive spaces for people to come together is at the core of innovation. The Centennial Plan strengthens these experiences, not only from a physical point of view, but also as an expression of the University of Houston’s values and mission.”

One of the largest changes will come to the original campus quadrangle – which is soon-to-be a ceremonial, game day and student gathering space called Centennial Plaza. Sustainability is a large goal, project leaders said, and the plaza will include native trees as well as low-maintenance planting at surrounding buildings. 

The firm is also planning a new gateway monument at Spur 5, with trees lining a central pathway on University Drive from the gateway to Cullen Performance Hall. And University Drive will contain outdoor “rooms” marked by public art and dining spaces, university architect Jim Taylor said.  

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The plans include sustainable landscaping and storm water management, according to the university. UH officials said they hope the changes will create a more walkable campus, including with updated sidewalks, lighting and irrigation.

Other landscaping improvements will come to Lynn Eusan Park, Cougar Woods, Butler Plaza and the campus woodland from the Science and Research 1 building to the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design. 

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