BRENHAM -- Blinn's plans to build a second campus in Bryan officially were scrapped Tuesday and redirected toward a new arrangement several miles away that could ultimately save the college at least $10 million, officials said.
Trustees unanimously voted Tuesday to halt construction and relocate its new facility to the Riverside Campus, which is owned by the Texas A&M University System. Chancellor John Sharp, who recently announced a multi-million redevelopment and expansion of that property off Texas 21 and Texas 47, invited Blinn officials to build on what he envisions becoming a hub for technology and educational programs.
"When you have a good idea and you see something innovative in front of you, you want to grasp that immediately," said Blinn District President and CEO Mary Hensley during a press conference following the vote. "For Blinn College, it affords us an opportunity to have facilities in a shared location where we will have access to many more students."
While the move is expected to give Blinn students expanded opportunities for collaboration, it could cost the college up to $5.3 million for now.
But, officials said, Blinn will recapture almost twice as much as it redirects their efforts to what's been dubbed as the RELLIS campus.
Kelli Shomaker, the college's senior vice president for finance and administrative services, said during the specially-called meeting that the estimated cost for breaking its contract with Vaughn Construction on the current project off Sandy Point Road and F.M. 2818 is projected to be between $640,000 to $1.5 million.
Shomaker said Blinn has put $4.8 million into the development so far, $1 million of which will be able to be used on the new site at the RELLIS campus.
The new 15-acre Blinn facility is expected to cost the college between $24 million to $31 million, down significantly from the $46.5 million in bond funds originally earmarked for the project, said Blinn Executive Vice President and General Counsel Mel Waxler.
Hensley said the college will evaluate what areas could best benefit from the funds that were expected to be used on the Bryan campus.
The renovation of the RELLIS campus is expected to transform the area into a conducive environment for cutting-edge research, testing and workforce development where students, faculty and private companies can interact and collaborate on projects.
"Blinn College's participation is a welcome component to this new, transformative education model we call RELLIS," Sharp said in a statement released Tuesday. "We are excited to work with Blinn to ensure that high-achieving students across the state have additional pathways to their educational and career goals."
With the decision to join Texas A&M at RELLIS, Hensley said Blinn is also hopeful that it will allow more opportunities for collaboration between the two schools.
"Blinn College is excited to participate in this first of its kind educational community, which combines a major university system with a community college at a single campus location," Hensley said. "The vision for the RELLIS campus represents the future of Texas higher education, one in which universities, community colleges and private industries together can collaborate in the name of innovation and student success."
Hensley said Blinn hopes to have its presence on the RELLIS campus up and running by the fall of 2018.
Vaughn Construction had cleared the property at location off F.M. 2818 in Bryan and was prepared to start building. Officials said trustees will be discussing what to do with the land.
"Right now the board of trustees has not made any decisions on that property," Hensley said. "We intend to keep it for the foreseeable future. At the appropriate time we'll discuss its use."