Rowling donates $25 million, UT gets ready to construct new building

Bobby Blanchard

A $25 million donation is going to give business graduate students another place to study and everyone else a new place to park.

Dallas businessman and UT alumnus Robert B. Rowling and his family donated $25 million to construct a graduate school building for the McCombs School of Business, UT President William Powers Jr. announced Thursday. The University is naming the building Rowling Hall and will build it at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Guadalupe Street.

“Texas is the best place in the country to do business, and we hope this gift will encourage the best and the brightest to come to Austin to get their MBAs and be part of the phenomenon that is Texas,” Rowling said in a statement.

Set to open in 2017, the 458,000-square-foot building will cost about $155 million to construct, of which $58.25 million will come from private gifts including Rowlings’ $25 million, which kicks off the fundraising campaign. 

Along with housing the business school’s graduate programs, the new building will also expand the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center’s ability to hosts conferences. 

Business school Dean Thomas Gilligan said Rowling Hall will help students by providing more space that is innovative and up-to-date.

“With respects to our peer groups, they all have buildings that are much newer than ours,” Gilligan said. “So it helps us compete for students.”

Gilligan said the current facilities UT has are nice, but they were built several decades ago. He said the spaces a university has to offer does play into applicants’ decision to choose one program over another.

“Graduate students spend a lot of time in these buildings,” Gilligan said. “They just don’t go to class and then go home.” 

The new building will also supply more parking at UT. Rowling Hall will come with a parking garage, expected to add 525 parking spaces. UT’s Parking and Transportation Services is paying the $15.5 million construction cost for the parking garage. 

Jeri Baker, assistant director of Parking and Transportation Services, said this is how parking garages at UT are normally paid for. Baker said the planning process is still early and many details are not available, but she said she is excited about the project.

“Any spaces that we can add to our inventory will definitely assist those that desire to come to campus,” Baker said.

UT acquired some of the land for the project from Players restaurant in April 2012 in a transaction through the McCombs School of Business Foundation. The foundation purchased the land for $3 million cash and a lease valued at $1 million and sold it to the University for about $2.5 million.

By law, the University cannot purchase property above the appraised value.

In addition to the $58.2 million from private donations, the building will be funded by tuition-backed bonds from the UT System, Parking and Transportation Services and the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Gilligan said.