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UNT regents move forward with land purchases, new chancellor

Regents for the University of North Texas named Lesa Roe the sole finalist for the chancellor position and authorized university officials to buy the IHOP and former McDonald's near the Denton campus during their Thursday meeting.

Roe, the acting deputy administrator for NASA, was the anticipated finalist for the position and that was finalized Thursday. The approval started the 21-day holding period before Roe can formally be hired, as dictated by state law.

The decision to buy the IHOP restaurant, at 1001 North Texas Blvd., and the lot at 1600 Interstate 35E that used to hold a McDonald's restaurant, will help UNT's growth, said Bob Brown, UNT vice president for finance and administration.  However, there is no set project for the site at this time. 

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In the board's order, it says the property can be used "for the public use of expanding, locating or relocating, constructing, maintaining and operating UNT facilities for education, instruction and public outreach, including related teaching, clinic, and research facilities, services and areas."

When the board authorized officials to move forward with the purchase, it also authorized the use of eminent domain to obtain the two properties. This will only be used if absolutely necessary, Brown said. 

"Although this action was taken by the board, it would be preferable if we could find a market-based solution to this," he said. 

A similar motion was put forth when the university went to buy Sack 'N Save, a former grocery store along Interstate 35E. In that case, the university was able to buy the property and not use eminent domain.

The university has not set aside a specific amount of money it's willing to pay for the land and does not have a specific timeline moving forward, Brown said. 

Currently, the Texas Department of Transportation owns the lot along Interstate 35E and Andy's Pancakes Realty Company owns the IHOP location. In 2017, the location was valued at $490,000.

"We would like, of course, for this to happen as soon as possible, but being willing to spend a little time with the current owners to see if we could reach a settlement that didn't require the final use of eminent domain," he said. "I think we’re sensitive to them and would like to give it a little time."

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.

FEATURED PHOTO: The University of North Texas Board of Regents gave approval Thursday to school officials to begin proceedings to buy land near the Denton campus. One of the lots currently houses an IHOP restaurant and the adjacent lot previously housed a McDonald's.
Jake King/DRC