Downtown North: Chillin’ at the Ice House

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Story By Tori Elgin | Photographs by Conrad Earnest

If you don’t regularly venture to the north end of Downtown Bryan, put it on your New Year’s resolution list to keep an eye on the redevelopment that has already begun. Together, the Ice House on Main and a new mixed-use development by R+T Studio will redefine how to eat, shop, stay, and play in the historic center of Bryan.

The Ice House-3102 Years Chillin’

Joan and Jose Quintana have already made an indelible mark on Historic Downtown Bryan. Taking a walk with Jose up and down Main and Bryan streets to the SEAD Gallery, Innovation Underground, Grand Stafford Theater, and most recently, The Amity Building underscores how deep is the couple’s commitment to the urbanization of Downtown Bryan.

Their philosophy is simple. “We try to hear what’s missing, and if the community wants to support it, we just do it,” explains Jose Quintana.

Next up is the redevelopment of the Ice House on Main. Anchoring the northern tip of Downtown for the past 102 years, the building has hosted an icehouse, a local distribution company, a tractor dealership, a dance hall, and even a furniture restoration business. The Quintanas’ have a different vision for its future: “We want to make this a community building, an engagement space for the community to use,” says Jose Quintana.

Envision an event center in the spacious back of the building that can comfortably fit up to 500 people. The middle section will be expanded into a performance space for live music concerts, art film showings, and even theater plays. The front of the building will be home to a restaurant, a microbrewery, and a local coffee shop.

“The retail aspects and community engagement are very needed,” says Jose Quintana. “The neat part about this project is that even though we are driving it, we have a lot of community members that are supporting the process. Local professionals, students, faculty members – you name it. They are coming in and helping the project. Pretty much every single group of the community is represented.”

Scheduled in four phases, the project will begin with the event space, followed by the coffee shop, restaurant, and microbrewery.

Let’s Get Urban

If the Ice House on Main is the space to engage the community, 500 Bryan North developer Ryan Terry is building the places where the people in the community can live within walking distance of where they also eat, work and play.

As the business operations lead at R+T Studio, Terry says the real estate development and consulting company has big plans for the north end of Downtown Bryan. Residential fourplexes and some mixed-use flex spaces are the first step.

“As far as economic activity, the city has pulled a lot of money for the infrastructure, but there is a high turnover rate,” says Terry. “There is not enough foot traffic to drive the businesses here. By building a residential section, people in the community will come to live, to work, and to eat – all in Downtown Bryan.”

When people come to stay and have a 24-hour involvement within this community, a more vibrant and urban culture will evolve, says Terry.

R+T Studio has signed a letter of intent with the City of Bryan to build 46 residential units over four, fourplexes, and two, three-story mixed-use buildings. Eventually there will be 50 or more new residents living in these units, all helping to create a more prominent presence in Downtown North, says Terry.

“We have signed the purchase agreement, and have agreed to a multi-phase development of this project,” says Terry. Like the Ice House on Main, 500 Bryan North will be completed in four phases starting with the development of two of the four fourplexes. If everything goes according to plan, each phase will take roughly 18 months to complete.

“What we want to do is to take a different stance than a lot of developers,” says Terry. “We do not want any tax abatements. We just asked the city for a guaranteed price through an offer, and they agreed.

“We have certain benchmarks to meet, and as long as we hit all of those, we can keep moving forward,” says Terry. “This will contribute to the economic activity, as well as the cultural activity in the scene. In the 90s, this was a place that no one wanted to be. The Brazos Valley is growing, and there is an unmet demand from young people who want to live close to where they work, to where they shop, and to where they participate in other activities. This development will spur this activity.”