It’s not a secret that we always hope to be making our communities better places through our real estate redevelopment projects. We’re not a huge developer of properties that take away living area from original residents or drive businesses out of the area by raising prices. We want to create homes for people and improve the towns we work in.
Last weekend, I met someone with a similar vision, but on a larger scale. I’d like to share a bit about the strategy that Ryan Terry, of Bryan Texas, is using to create a small multi-use development near downtown there.
I’d been helping my neighbor deliver grass-fed beef to the really nice farmer’s market that’s held on Saturdays in an empty parking lot near downtown. I decided to take a walk to look at the storefronts in the area, which feature a lot of resale shops and the like. I noticed these nice new buildings going up on one of the many empty lots near downtown. There was a sign, so I went over to look at it. At that point, a well-groomed young man came over and asked if I was interested in an apartment. I laughed and said, no, I was a real estate investor and was just curious about what was going on with this property. Ryan introduced himself and said he was the developer. That was a lucky coincidence!
500 Bryan North
I proceeded to pepper him with questions, which he seemed really happy to answer. It turns out the many empty lots around downtown Bryan are the results of the city buying up a lot of property for a proposed large-scale development that got derailed by the events of 2008-09. They’d been sitting around, hosting the farmer’s market and a few other events, since then.
So, when Ryan, his architect dad, Tim of R + T Studio, and their group offered to buy up a block, they were not turned down. And what city would not? They had a great plan to build multi-family units in a style that blended in with the surrounding buildings and that combined retail and residential space. It’s called 500 Bryan North. Each of the units you see in the photos has four apartments and one small retail space. These would be perfect for a legal office, insurance office, or other small storefront. And the owner could live right on the property! The plan is to add two more of these buildings, then a row of storefronts with residences above them that will face the main street.
The planned development will be sure to bring new residents to the downtown area, which is becoming revitalized more and more. It will provide a great addition to the only 40 rental residential spaces in the downtown at the moment. Residents will enjoy a community area with grills, fire pits, and raised beds to grow their own gardens. And no one will feel surrounded by people, thanks to the well-designed residences (designed by Tim Terry). Still, big porches will allow residents to socialize when they want to. A great balance.
Be sure to check their website for images of what the place will look like when complete!
Something We Have in Common
It was a lot of fun to talk to Ryan about the project. Two years into it, he is still very enthusiastic. I asked him about the financing for the project, since that’s something we are always thinking about on ours. It turned out that he is like us in that he prefers local, small banks to large corporate conglomerates. He also really knows the bankers he is working with and can talk to them in person, not go through long protocols with approvals for decisions made in some office nowhere near the borrower. Thank goodness for these banks that help smaller projects get funded!
Why the Retail?
I asked Ryan why he combined residential with retail in his development. He explained that, because there is a lot of empty space downtown still, income from retail rentals is really low (which explains the kinds of stores I had noticed) except in a small area that’s become popular. You get a better return on the apartment rents, but still, the area NEEDS the better quality retail space to attract better businesses. So, that’s why they are including them.
I was really impressed with how carefully this team had thought through the needs of downtown Bryan when designing their development. They aren’t throwing up cheap, cookie-cutter buildings to make a quick buck, but are instead creating good quality properties that will enhance the city and help them and others prosper.
For those of you friends who are considering going into commercial real estate, this model is a nice one to build from, I think. And thanks to Ryan for giving me permission to share his story.Hermann says please like and share!