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Texas A&M Commerce Expands Its Footprint In Downtown Dallas

Downtown Dallas doesn’t have a full-fledged university – it has three of them, all based at the Universities Center at Dallas. The biggest by far is a branch of Texas A&M Commerce.

It just moved into a shiny new home next to the Majestic Theater, and we paid a visit.

Many students enrolled in Texas A&M Commerce classes agree on one thing – the new building at 1910 Pacific Place is way nicer than the old digs.

“Windows. Artsy people love windows and that is probably the biggest difference,” said Holly Mayo, a visual communications student as she was on her way to class. “The square footage – fantastic. But it’s really just the environment is different, and coming from an artistic background, we really kind of absorb our surroundings.”

Renovations began in October and students and staff moved in last month. Last week, university officials celebrated the newly-expanded center, which includes 42,000 square feet of space across three floors.

Araceli Cadena, the coordinator of recruitment and advising for Universities Center, showed off the new student store as she gave a tour.

“Like I mentioned, it was literally a box and now we have so much space,” Cadena said.

The new space also includes a larger student store, class and conference rooms, a student lounge and an art studio/exhibit area.

Cadena said staying in this location is key because the school offers educational opportunities to a specific demographic. About 80 percent of the center’s 1,300 students are enrolled in A&M Commerce and the majority take graduate level courses.

“Being in downtown Dallas where we have new corporations, new businesses moving, we just see a large need for that in order to be able to provide an educational facility to a growing economy,” she said.

Cadena also pointed out how some of the professors come from local businesses like the financial consulting firm Deloitte. And many of the students come from the Dallas Federal Reserve, 7-11 Corporation, DART, City of Dallas and the Dallas Independent School District.

“These are your working professionals that come here to take classes because it’s convenient for them,” Cadena said, adding that students also come from area community colleges.

The Universities Center actually goes back 20 years and was called the Dallas Education Center. The original building is located in what was once Joske’s Department Store at 1901 Main Street. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board established the center so people living and working in or near downtown would have access to college.

Nadiya Charania runs Sundry shop in the 20-story Pacific Place building. She’s hopeful the school’s expansion means she’ll be busier. She’s already extended the hours of operation.

“They told us the school are coming and you will get more business. So, from one year, we’re are waiting for that to come and we get some nice business. Students coming in … ”

One of those students, Cora Woodward, took a break from classes to enjoy a new dining and lounge area. She says she likes how the tables are right next to large windows that look out to downtown.

“I feel connected to the city and not just cooped up in a little dark room,” Woodward said.

She laughed and added another bonus: students finally get their own microwave.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.