Showing posts with label planned and canned. Show all posts
Showing posts with label planned and canned. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ramada Aggieland Inn

Doesn't look so bad, does it? Yeah, well you haven't gotten close to it.

Opening in summer 1974 as the Aggieland Inn (named after a long-defunct hotel on campus, which had long been functionally replaced by the MSC and gone for many years), this hotel was initially successful with its restaurant ("Whistle Stop") but in the mid-1980s renamed to Aggieland Hotel shortly before being the Ramada Aggieland Inn by 1988 after Ramada pulled its name from the bankrupt tower. It renamed to Ramada Inn (like the former tower), then simply "Ramada".

Football program, 1988-1989


Even before losing the name, the Ramada had been going on a downhill trend for years, there's a story about how the restaurant accidentally(?) gave food poisoning to the Longhorn football team circa '99, and other minor stories of what happened there. Sometime around 2006 or 2007, a new Ramada hotel began to be built on the bypass behind The Home Depot, and the name would be pulled. Since the economy was good at the time, an ambitious plan evolved to convert the Ramada Inn into an upscale student housing and retail complex.

Here's some exclusive scans from the defunct AbouTown Press December 2007 issue. Obviously, this all never happened. Somewhere during this whole process (the widening of Texas Avenue was well underway at this time), the economy tanked and rather than a big redevelopment, the hotel renamed to "Aggieland Inn" (the original name), just like how the Clarion across the street became "College Station Inn". I loved how the website (at AggielandInn.com, but it's down) called itself a "2.0-star property" as if it was something to be proud of, which would've been like someone with a "Proud Parent of a C Student" unironically.





Unlike the 1970s incarnation, the "new" Aggieland Inn was a no-name junk hotel that received miserable reviews. The hotel shut down in Aggieland Inn closed for good in September 2011 just before the football season.

In 2013, it got a repaint and was rumored to reopen for the fall, but it never did. Here's a Google Maps 45° view of the hotel before the repaint.


In addition to the new photo at the top of the page, in April 2015, I made a visit to snap some more pictures. However, there were lots of No Trespassing signs in the area, and I wasn't going to get arrested for some semi-defunct blog I was just updating, so here's one more shot of the hotel (I didn't get too close to the lobby part, unfortunately).



5/15/17 - Since updating this article a few years ago much has changed. The pool out front has been demolished for a new lobby and the peaked roof removed for the new incarnation of the hotel, TRYP by Wyndham. Unfortunately, the hotel (with a new address of 1508 Texas Avenue S.) is not open yet, despite signage since August.

The lobby and restaurant space of the old Aggieland Inn was gutted and is now a strip mall. I don't have a picture yet but tenants are as follows:

Ste. 100 - Urban Bricks Pizza Co. (open May 2017)
Ste. 200 - Wayback Burgers (opened September 2016?)
Ste. 300 -
Ste. 400 -
Ste. 500 - SignatureCare Emergency Center (opened 2016)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

University Square Shopping Center / Legacy Point


A still-standing reminder of what the center was. All but one was gone as of this when this photo was taken in 2012. The Junction pulled out in summer of 2012 and was replaced by "Piranha Fitness Studio". There's a smaller sign signed as Legacy Point closer to IHOP.


This was one of the more popular topics of this blog, and one of the first "requests" for a blog topic on this blog. This post began with telling the history of "Skaggs Shopping Center" and how it ended up as the sad "University Square" we know today. This all would all change, of course, when it was revealed that the center would be dramatically altered for a new mixed-use development, and now it looks completely different.

This post has gone under a lot of changes. The former Albertsons at 301 South College Avenue, I removed and moved to this link, so that's where most of the pictures that used to be here disappeared to. Speaking of disappeared, the old Albertsons is gone completely these days...another major change from the old post.

Another major error was "Skaggs Shopping Center" being the original name. As it turned out, "University Square" was always the name of this shopping center, which was previously believed to be Skaggs Shopping Center, which was an understandable mistake since all the ads for adjacent stores featured the [supermarket] Shopping Center (whatever was in the spot at the time) until the closure of the supermarket (c. 1997), at which point the University Square name came into more common usage. A more amusing example is when the coin & jewelry store was going out of business in October 2013 it referred to the center as the "IHOP Shopping Center". Ultimately, this ended up being bought and renamed David's Jewelry & Coin Exchange instead.

Since so many changes have been happening to the center (and Albertsons, which was the main feature of this post has been demolished), and the long list of running updates were getting too unwieldy, I've rewritten this post multiple, multiple times, and then later outsourced parts. Like I said before, it's still a work in progress, but I hope to get it under control.

As early as 2003, the city was looking to improve on the center (which had lost Albertsons by that point) as part of a largely far-fetched Northgate redevelopment that would see University Square (eventually) get developed into something else: a "Cultural/Science Center" anchor, citing the Exploratorium as a model (and THIS I did hear about back in '03), a think tank/business incubator, or a mixed-use project that would incorporate a variety of restaurants and a modern movie theater.

As you might have guessed, none of that ever happened (frankly, it was rather vague) and we're just starting with a redevelopment that's far less "out there", though across the street, Century Square is going up, which will be closer to what University Square will become.

303 University Drive
Most recently Traditions. I went in in spring of 2013, wondering when it would be demolished (at the time it was still open) but the next time I went by the area a few months later, it was being razed. Short shelf life, apparently.

As seen in the comment below by "buzzz", there was a Mitchell's department store here. I'd like to say thanks, but I had added in that comment myself anonymously in an attempt to aid further discussion, which was a failure (and it just made me look more pathetic). It wasn't a "real" department store, much smaller than even small-town Wal-Mart stores (unless it took up the space of both the future Hancock Fabrics and Rother's, in which case it would still be quite undersized).

I took a picture from an old TAMU yearbook (thus, the poor quality) that shows the logo.


Notice the Tandy Corporation logo--that was RadioShack's parent company (which later adopted the name of RadioShack). They had a much greater range in those days, and ran full companies. By 1992, the store became a McDuff Superstore (according to a 1992 ad that I have), also at the address and owned by Tandy. I read that there was a RadioShack itself even later here. Somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s, it became Rother's, which would remain (save for a rename) until its demise.

309 University Drive
There is no 305 or 307 because even by 1980, this was Hancock Fabrics and remained so until it closed (leaving the sign up) and eventually BCS Bicycles. BCS Bicycles even left the sign in the back up (like Traditions did to Rothers), which can be seen in the pictures below. There was however, a 306 College, which in 1979 was occupied with Webster's Catalog Showroom.

The Old Theater and Around It
The other side of the shopping center has a slightly taller roof. This used to be the Cineplex (later Plitt) III, a three-screen movie theater. It lasted through the various names of the supermarket, but closed around 1996 and was divided between an expansion of Hurricane Harry's (at 313 College Avenue, which dated back to at least 1992--well before the theater closed, it also shares the address with what was once simply "The Jewelry & Coin Exchange") became TJ's Laser Tag (315 College Avenue), which was around from maybe 1996 to 1999. That spot later became The Junction (a pool hall that didn't serve alcohol). The Junction eventually closed around 2012 and became Piranha Fitness Studio. There was also additional A+ classrooms at 311A College Avenue, but they're gone (even though the space is still standing). At one time, 313C (unknown what's there now, but the building is still there) was a restaurant called "Fred's For Lunch" which sold submarine sandwiches and Blue Bell ice cream.

The Restaurant at 317 University Drive
Speaking of hurricanes, the restaurant in the east side of the parking lot was Crazy Cajuns', created by Hurricane Rita evacuees (Lake Charles, Louisiana) and was on its second location, moving from a very small place in Wellborn (indeed, the sign on the building side still read "Wellborn, Texas" up until its closure). While I first went to the location in Wellborn (I don't know what's there now), which included only a large covered area with picnic tables (December 2006 is when I went), this eventually did end up being a favorite of mine, as I went in March 2011 to this location and had a blast. Lots of food for a good price. It was still spicy, and had been in this place since somewhere about 2008-2009. It went through a few changes in ownership, and steadily declined, notably in service first, then food, and health ratings, before finally closing for good in summer 2012. It shut down the same week as Hebert's did (sad time for Cajun food lovers). I expressed some hope that Hebert's would be able to move into the restaurant, and go from essentially a snack bar to a full restaurant where you could take your family, but that wasn't going to work.

There used to be a Thai place before it (the second incarnation of Thai Taste, and not a particularly great one), and before that a combo Mexican/Cajun place called Alicia's (thanks to HAIF user "keyser" for the restaurant history). The comments tell a bit more of the story. In fact, while wandering around around the 2012-2013 holidays, I found the canopy had some older names exposed...


Alicia's AND Thai Taste!

It started out as a Bonanza Steakhouse in 1973 (or 1972), which was more a cafeteria/buffet affair (rather than a traditional "steakhouse") and later served briefly as Cow Hop (before it moved back to the main strip on Northgate). But in 2013, nearly 40 years after its construction, it now serves as BCS Bicycles & Repair, which moved from their location in the strip.


Even though there was a bookstore (Rother's, later Traditions), a fabric store (later BCS Bicycles), two A+ Tutoring locations (one of which was in a stand-alone building, which it shared with Fat Burger), a "Jewelry and Coin Exchange", the city had their eyes to redevelop the property. I don't know exactly what was in the center before all that: some MyBCS topics refer to a pool hall/arcade/foosball place called "Tom Foolery" next to the supermarket.


Right now, Legacy Point is far from complete: the first phase, "The Stack" is being built in the old "Mud Lot" area, and two structures, the Albertsons building and the A+/Fat Burger building came down in late July 2012. BCS Bicycles and Traditions are to follow.



Other shots, taken January 2011 & surrounding buildings...





Regrettably, I was never able to get a picture of the interior of the Albertsons, or any other time: the windows were painted over, and my one shot of the interiors was kind of messed up by the flash, and while it did capture some of the interior in a blurry configuration that revealed rows of fluorescents and columns, it mostly created a reflection of me, which I didn't like.


The next shot is one that's not mine, but it's a great shot, with the old Hancock Fabrics sign visible. The second and third show older tenants, like Rother's and Hancock Fabrics. These were taken in May 2012 by me. I guess the businesses didn't bother changing the signs in the rear...





I had noticed there was a ladder behind Albertsons, so you could climb up on the roof (in theory, of course--you wouldn't actually be stupid enough to go up there, would you?) No matter, since there's nothing of Albertsons anyway.

Two Food Shacks
For years (since approximately 1991, if I recall correctly), there was a little Cajun food place called Hebert's Cajun Food. It wasn't that cheap, but it was fast, delicious, and worth it: much like a food truck. It closed on June 15th, 2012 with more pictures (not mine) here, and later moved to Village Foods, but it's not the same (drinks were cheaper, for one). On August 30, 2013, Hebert's left Village Foods, so don't go there if expecting gumbo. In October 2013, they were still looking for a new location but that didn't stop a certain local Yelp!er from changing his opinion on it 360°. This was what was said prior to leaving:
Heberts was indeed the top Cajun in this area, and it will continue. In Village Foods, here for Yelpers;

http://www.yelp.com/biz/…

It's gonna be in Stover Cafe so we have not lost it Now Hebert's will be available daily and year round. My wife and I will be taking home gumbo by the pound, as this is simply the best Cajun ever in BCS. Quarter of a century, and it will go on.

There was also a coffee shop, "Java Jitters" just directly across it, which was a small shack operated by the same owners of Hebert's (the same guy ran both shacks, but obviously never simultaneously). Never went to it, it was only open in the mornings. The addresses of Hebert's and Java Jitters were 727 University Drive and 729 University Drive, respectively. You can see my pictures below.


Java Jitters, gutted.



725 University Drive
I also took the picture (a few, actually!) of the A+ Tutoring/Fat Burger building, which had both closed after the spring 2012 semester (the building was torn down in July 2012). Which was a shame, as I had gone to both buildings in the semester prior: trying to pass Organic Chemistry through A+, or hanging out in Fat Burger (not related to a chain called Fatburger, that's different--seems it's confused Yelpers), which had a fixings bar (which I went to fairly early in the day). It wasn't bad like Rev's American Grill (that was a disappointment, which I will never eat at again), and the place lived up to its name--offering the 1/3 pound "Fat Burger" and the full-pound Bevo Burger.

I didn't take the front of A+, nor Fat Burger at night, unfortunately (Fat Burger kind of had this half-burned out light, and A+ didn't light up at all). There was a picnic bench in front of both buildings. I know I remember (maybe circa 2003) that A+ actually had the "AT+" logo on the front, but it still must have ran afoul of TAMU logo usage, as seen below). In the pictures from June and July 2012 below, you can see a picture of the Albertsons interior taken by Stalworth (so it's not mine--my old cell phone would never be able to capture that resolution) and another ad, from December 1971 (the first Christmas of the grocery store). You can see those above.

According to a 1989 directory, the original tenant of A+ Tutoring was Music Express, a record store, and in the 1970s, was the site of Budget Tapes & Records, which was a popular music chain at the time. Later, a 1995 directory refers to the spot as "A&M Tutoring" (one of those TAMU related business names that ran afoul of the new usage terms: it's not clear if they had already changed their sign by that time).


They offer CHEM 227 and CHEM 228, just not at the time they painted this. Good thing, they did later...



Never thought to get Fat Burger delivered.



Old and less old.



The front of the building, taken in daytime by a cell phone camera.



Sad.


Former condiments bar.



This location is gone, too.


711 Church Avenue
Announced as the first new addition to Legacy Point, The Stack at Legacy Point is a large, low-rise apartment building that is unfortunately cheaply built with far too few elevators and paper-thin walls. We'll add a picture at another time, but the Yelp! page has pictures of outside and inside.

The most intriguing part is that it does have retail inside, the first tenant being a MedPlus branch ("MedPlus at the Stack"), which opened in February 2014. By the way, that's the Rise in the background, not the Stack.


The IHOP
Here since the 1970s, this restaurant is open 24 hours whether you're visiting people who live on campus, a rotund local who eats here regularly, or totally wasted. I haven't eaten here since about 1999. My only other significant memory of it was when they were playing "Mr. Blue Sky" on the outdoor speakers, which was earlier in 2013.

A few more things to note: while the former Crazy Cajuns', IHOP (oldest continuously operating restaurant in College Station), Hebert's, Java Jitters, Scholotzsky's, and that tiny building that serves an ATM are part of University Square, the Taco Bell, Chipotle, and McDonald's are NOT and can be found elsewhere on the blog. For more information on Mr. Gatti's (later Schlotzsky's) and that tiny building, click here to learn more about them.

Most recently updated in June 2014.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

[Side Stories] LoTrak

Updated on June 28, 2013, with the correct spelling of the word, also renamed from "LoTrack: What Little We Know"
Being in College Station, I can say that The Eagle keeps the worst archives of newspapers around.

One of the more interesting things I heard I've heard about the history of the city was the circa-1993 proposal of "LoTrak" officially) was a way to avoid railroad crossings along Wellborn Road.

The main reason is that both College Station voters didn't want to do it (or was it Texas A&M?) even though TxDOT, the county, and Bryan would do it (it would cost millions, as seen above).

The original plan (seen above) was a sunken trench that would basically allow trains to descend about 25 feet below street level around Southwest Parkway, and convert Wellborn Road to a divided highway. What's bizarre is that Villa Maria Road and FM 2818 (it was FM 2818 back then!) as railroad crossings, which ironically are the only ones today that have replaced their at-grade crossings with overpasses or underpasses since the LoTrak proposal.

I've heard some earlier conflicting stories about this (source and other source), as some have claimed that it would go past 2818, or be partially elevated (possibly around University, maybe, which already had an overpass)

Later the possibility came up of rerouting the railroad to the west (that I remember) around 2001. That was even more difficult to imagine. First off, had they done that, my best friend would've moved out of town (he had lived in River Run). Furthermore, I couldn't imagine (and still can't, frankly) the railroad being abandoned along Wellborn. That would leave a lifeless right-of-way along Wellborn, bumping over patched crossings and seeing nothing but a scarred grass path, which would eventually give way to a full highway.


Updated to 2013 Format 5/15