Preliminary Plans Unveiled for Bryan Development

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An Indianapolis-based construction firm brought its plans for a big project to Brazos County Commissioners. Wednesday, officials heard that major retail development is in the works for 60 acres in Bryan.

But as officials from Lauth Construction put it, there won't be a door to walk through on this site in the year 2007. But in the 2008-2009 range, a pair of major, recognizable retailers could be in place and in business at the property, which is located on an empty lot between the Brazos Center and the BMW dealership along Briarcrest.

Contracts both pending and in place are keeping the identities of the businesses a secret, but we do know the plans right now call for major and a minor anchor retailer at this 60-acre property. Though the plans are fluid, upwards of 10 businesses could be a part of the development

Some 300,000 square feet of retail space, not including so-called pad sites -- some of the smaller would-be retailers -- would be at that location.

In other words, it would be big development, big business, and one thing that's already building -- big excitement.

"I just see a nice development out there for Bryan and Brazos County," said Brazos County Judge Randy Sims. "I like the idea of, possibly, a hotel going in, and they might be able to use our Brazos Center as their convention venue."

"People finally realize that Bryan's a good place to locate business and there's enough business in Bryan to support those kind of elements," said Bryan Councilmember Mark Conlee. "They're realizing it and they're trying to hop on and get that land before somebody else gets it."

"Being from here, we forget that Bryan-College Station is a unique community," said Mike Gentry, the attorney representing Lauth Construction. "With population growth, with the economy, the quality of life is something that's attractive to people all over the country.

This may just be the first phase in development. The landowners that sold the property to Lauth Construction also own land to the south along Highway 6. Officials with the company say they may make some more deals for land in the future, which would bring more phases of construction down the highway.

Lauth says those secret identities will soon be revealed.

"The developer and all those involved with the project will be anxious to make that known to increase the excitement about the project," Gentry said. "I think it will be something that everybody is going to be excited about."

"The destiny is to grow here because metroplexes are getting more compact," said Dennis Goehring of the Bryan Business Council. "We now have an opportunity to grow within our region, and this is going to be a regional growth for us."

But some bureaucratic hurdles will need to be jumped to keep this project on track. For one, the 60 acre lot is currently zoned agricultural. For retail growth to sprout up, Lauth will soon place a rezoning request to the city.

In addition, discussions are already underway on whether to create a tax increment finance zone for that property in order to fund it. Officials from both the city and county say it might be worth it.

"I think if a TIF is put in place, this is a good one, because I think it's going to be beneficial long term," said Sims. "I think it will pay itself off in a shorter length of time because of the value that is being put out there."

"You've got a lot of land just south of this development that would need some extra help with the floodplain," Conlee said. "We need a road that goes all the way to University Drive from there."

At the meeting, one resident in the Wheeler Ridge subdivision asked about potential runoff from the massive amounts of concrete from such a development. City officials said they recently conducted a study to determine the best ways to eliminate environment hazards.