HISD Moving Headquarters

The Houston School District is set to move into its new headquarters building this week. The new facility near Northwest Mall is smaller than the old building on Richmond, but officials say it's a huge improvement for employees, and for the public. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The old HISD Administration Building on Richmond has been criticized ever since it was built in the 1970s for being a garish and expensive Taj Mahal, ill suited to the needs of the general public and the people who work there. By the turn of the century it needed major renovations, but HISD spokeswoman Adrianna Villareal says that would have cost too much, so the school board voted to build new.

"It would actually cost about the same to have a completely new building made up. So we decided that would be the best way to use taxpayer money, to instead use the money raised from the sale of the existing building to build a brand new one that would be more inviting to the public."

The deal was a wash financially. Villareal says the Richmond property was sold for $38 million, and the new building on West 18th at Delmar Stadium cost $38 million, and the district owns the land. The new building has 300,000 square feet of floor space, less than the old building, but Villareal says they'll use the space more efficiently. It'll also be more user friendly. Offices that deal directly with the public are all over the old building, and people often get lost. They'll be a lot easier to find in the new one.

"We're gonna have it all on the first floor as soon as you walk in. So it's really intended to be more inviting to the public, as compared to the one now."

One thing won't change. The new building will have same name that's on the old one -- Hattie Mae White -- the school board's first African-American member. Villareal says putting any other name on it is unthinkable.

"We couldn't even consider naming it after any one else. I mean she was such a courageous civic leader and she contributed so much to education we had to keep that name."

The board will vote Thursday to name it the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. They start moving in Friday, and the move should take about a week. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.