Partner up? A&M invites Blinn to build new facilities at former Riverside Campus location

Bryan - In a move called "unprecedented" by Blinn College's president, the Texas A&M System has extended an invitation to Blinn to develop its new Bryan campus on the recently-announced RELLIS Campus, which has been known for years as Riverside.

The respective boards of the A&M System and Blinn, along with state officials, will have to approve the proposal, which would see Blinn cease its development plans at the corner of FM 2818 and Leonard Road, and instead turn to RELLIS off Highway 47. A&M announced the $150 million investment for a research and development campus earlier this month.

Blinn's board meeting is Tuesday, May 31. The A&M System will hold a meeting Thursday.

"The new campus location would allow Blinn to develop additional science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and other core curriculum offerings, and expand its workforce, technical, and research programs," said Blinn District President Mary Hensley in a letter to Blinn faculty and staff Tuesday. "The new campus will allow students to transfer seamlessly to leading universities throughout the Texas A&M System once academic agreements with the individual universities are in place."

Hensley touted the Texas A&M-Blinn Transfer Enrollment at A&M (TEAM) Program which, since 2001, "has allowed thousands of additional qualified students to earn their degree from Texas A&M while enjoying the benefits of enrollment at both institutions."

With the current A&M plan, the RELLIS campus would start off with seven buildings, including a proposed education center. Outside companies could build research facilities on the site. Their foci would be on robotics, driverless and connected vehicles, advanced manufacturing, large-scale testing, and smart power grids and water systems.

“We believe RELLIS represents a unique opportunity for Blinn College and we are glad the Trustees are considering it,” A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said in a Blinn press release. “It will be a great opportunity for thousands of young Texans as well.”

“This proposal has the potential to strengthen the Blinn College District’s exceptional reputation for leadership and innovation,” added Blinn Board President David Sommer. “This invitation reflects Blinn’s longstanding tradition of partnering with the state’s leading institutions, and our community, to the benefit of students and taxpayers.”

In February 2015, Blinn announced it had purchased 94 acres at 2818 and Leonard Road for $3.8 million to address record and growing enrollment in the community college. The aim was to house upwards of 15,000 students and to host classes as early as 2017.

Bryan Mayor Jason Bienski expressed his support for the proposal Tuesday, calling it a win-win.

"The RELLIS campus is already off the tax rolls, and this move could put the Leonard Road location back on the tax rolls and available for development," he said. "This puts the campus deeper in northwest Bryan and opens up more opportunities for the businesses and citizens of Bryan."