After an offer had been on the table for a few years, the Bryan City Council turned down a TXDoT grant that would have gone towards building a visitor center downtown. Some $450,000 would have come to the city if they'd have taken the grant. The city wants full control of the visitor center's destiny.
Tuesday, Bryan said no to TXDoT's dough, and a transportation museum that would have gone along side their proposed visitor center. Mayor Ernie Wentrcek says the museum wasn't worth it.
"It would take almost the entire amount of money we would get from TXDoT just to build that," said Wentrcek, "and then we would still have to come up with the money to build the part that we really wanted."
What they do want is this property off of Texas Avenue to be the eventual home of the visitor center. A pair of century-old buildings would be refurbished to house a good portion of the facility, with landscaping, wrought iron fences and lighting to be added later to a facility that would be for more than pamphlets.
"People could hold weddings," Wentrcek explained. "You could have music events, picnic areas, so it would be a facility that would have much greater use than having a transportation museum."
"It could be somewhere in the $300,000 to $500,000 range," said Bryan Assistant City Manager Hugh Walker. "We're hoping if we partner with the private sector, we could come in much lower than that."
Walker has been at the forefront of the project for the past two years. The council toured the historic homes back in October and expressed their interest in the site, which Walker says would act as a gateway to downtown.
"We'd really like to spruce that up, and I think this could be the way to do that," Walker said. "We also see a need to have a place for folks to stop and get information as they're coming into Bryan."
The city says it's a critical step in making their town a bigger destination in the state.
If the city ends up negotiating a deal for the downtown property, they hope to begin work on the visitor center before year's end. They would build the site up in phases to spread the costs over a few years time.