Monday, November 26, 2012

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

An early 1990s advertisement for one of my favorite defunct eateries

Today a Walgreens, this was the home of one of my family's favorite places to eat in the 1990s, Confucius Chinese Cuisine (2322 Texas Avenue South). In older versions of this page, I provided two links comparing the 1995 aerial to the 2011 aerial. You can see the same thing with Historic Aerials or a copy of Google Earth (just search for the address).

While I sadly do not have a picture for Confucius Chinese Cuisine (and I did look, though buried on Project HOLD you can see the sign, however, I can't find it either), it was housed in a building at the corner of Brentwood and Texas Avenue. I still remember how cool it looked on the inside and out. It had a curved Chinese-style roof, the sign had one word in orange, one in green, and one in red. And those were lit up at night. I don't know what the history of it was. All I know was that it was open in 1989 but the building pre-dating it for a few years courtesy of an even older Chinese restaurant called "Jade Garden".

Inside, to the right you had the restrooms, a mural was toward the front, with what appeared to be a crowd of tiny Buddhas playing, and the décor was mostly red and gold, with the aquarium bubbling in the background (complete with an eel that never became a dish).

It was my family's go-to place for Sunday after-church dinners. The buffet was a single line with some really good egg rolls but I don't know if it was good or if I just thought so because I was young and didn't know what good food tasted like (it was markedly better than the old Chinese buffets in town following its closure, which admittedly isn't saying much). I seem to remember it closing a bit later than it actually did: Brazos CAD lists the Walgreens replacing it was built in 2001, and the deed changed hands from restaurant owner Jimmy Chang in early 2001 (though I do remember it was in spring), indicating it closed then. Referring to Jade Garden (as it was called in 1984, likely not built too long prior to that), it appears based on deed info that it changed names and ownership later. In 1982, the deed was transferred to Kwan and Helen Chui, then to Confucius Chinese Cuisine in 1993 (though the restaurant had that name by the time) until Jimmy Chang in 1995, which indicates that Jade Garden changed names before it changed hands.

I suppose it's better that the restaurant closed instead of selling out to new management: it never saves restaurants, just leaves a "bad taste" in people's memories of how good the food was. Interestingly, throughout the entire restaurant's "career", there was Imperial Chinese Restaurant, which moved there sometime between 1993 and 1995 (it was in the place where Wolfies was, which was Ninfa's by '95) just two doors down at Brazos Square. This one had declined from its early days, but outlasted Confucius Chinese Cuisine. Between them was College Station Pawn (2316 Texas Avenue South). The pawn shop and the empty Confucius Chinese Cuisine were demolished, with the pawn shop moving to a space at Manuel and Texas. After Imperial succumbed, the pawn shop moved back to the place where Imperial was. The restaurant closed within a few years of the Brentwood stoplight being added, too.

UPDATE 11-05-2020: Clarified previous name and date. Previously updated February 2019 to account for more accurate closing date, revisions in writing, and cutting out Brazos Square info.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

University Apartments and Century Square

Trendy mixed-use right in the heart of the city! (Picture by author, 2/20)

This post was originally written as "University Apartments", which focused on the group of university-owned apartments that were largely torn down around 2014 for what we now know as Century Square. Initially, I had no interest in covering Century Square as I had updated the post to my standards at the time to wrap up the site (it's why there's an eight month gap between the last 2014 post and the first 2015 post). As a result, this covers the predecessor of Century Square, the University Apartments, first, and we'll progress to the present day and the current occupier of the site.

During my time at A&M, I was thankful that I had enough sense to photograph many buildings on their way out in terms of demolition or extensive renovation. I didn't get enough pictures of the old Scoates Hall, and no inside shots of Dulie Bell, but did get pictures of The Commons, Zachry Engineering Center, Read Building, G. Rollie White, and of course, these.

When making this post originally (or at least doing a significant update), I had done research at Cushing Memorial Library, which refers to Battalion articles that aren't available to be linked. Some of the links that were available, dating from the mid-2000s have been removed from the Battalion's webpage (with no to rescue them, I didn't have enough sense back then to archive my links).

Originally rows and rows of two-level Army-style barracks filling up the diagonal-row roads in the early 1950s, with two complexes, College View and Southside, a federal grant in 1957 (to the tune of 2.5 million dollars, which would be about 20 million today) allowed more to be built.

From what I could tell, the original College View Apartments were Army-style barracks filling up the diagonal-row roads east of Northgate built in the early 1950s (at the same time Southside was built, which appeared to have been at the northeast corner of Wellborn and modern-day George Bush Drive, more on that another day).

In 1960, the Hensel Apartments (later Hensel Terrace Apartments) were built, and originally not air-conditioned (until likely the 1970s). The new College View Apartments, built in 1969, were built facing FM 60 and according to The Battalion were "cool, comfortable, and complete", being climate controlled at 70 degrees.

Interestingly, despite the new College View apartments replacing the old College View buildings on a 1:1 basis, only about 7 buildings were built. Nearly 30 others were torn down (a few lasting into the early 1980s, a footnote at a document called "Brazos Valley Chronology" at Project HOLD, mentions the last of these were removed in 1982) without replacement, and until the Century Square development, those spaces remained vacant, possibly due to lack of funding. The back 13 were redeveloped into Avenue A Apartments on a 1:1 replacement, but it was still a lot of vacant space. The 1970s also saw the construction of College Avenue Apartments, which were directly across College Avenue from University Square Shopping Center.

As time went on, the Married Student Housing became known as the "University Apartments", as it started to become known for international students as well. The maintenance of the apartments declined and the roads started to deteriorate, but there wasn't any major trouble. Piecemeal improvements were made to the complex, including the addition of the Becky Gates Children's Center, a 1997 addition on Hensel that would have childcare for students married with children. Later on a community center and playground were built as well. However, it was an incident in 2004 that did change the University Apartments forever.

One day in July 2004, residents complained about a smell of natural gas in the Hensel Terrace Apartments. The maintenance worker responded but decided to not repair the leak until the next week (in fact, they told residents to close their windows, thus making the smell inside worse). Saquib Ejaz, a resident of those apartments, lived with his wife and daughter at Hensel Apartments. His parents were visiting from Bangladesh. While his parents, wife (who was pregnant with another child), and daughter were home, the gas somehow ignited and fire consumed the apartment's interior, severely burning all four. His wife and father survived, but his daughter and mother did not. Other apartments were damaged, as well, however; the structure itself survived.

Lawsuits were filed, and by 2005, a number of new improvements were announced, including new stoves, new detectors, and much better maintenance. This still wasn't "enough" maintenance, as the apartment complex was still falling apart, with the College Avenue Apartments on Ball Street having unleveled floors.

However, by fall 2006, a plan was approved to add the Gardens at University, which, instead of building it on vacant land, would replace the existing apartments. When I first wrote this article in 2012, the College Avenue Apartments had been demolished in 2011 (without replacement), and two-thirds of the Hensel Terrace Apartments (including the rebuilt apartments where Ejaz's apartment was) had been torn down for the Gardens. Nothing else had been altered since then.

In early 2013 "Campus Pointe", a long-planned redevelopment of the area, was trotted out again and approved. This would essentially lease the university's land to a private developer, becoming one of the few shopping malls built on property leased from a university (Stanford Shopping Center is another example).

College View Apartments, Hensel Terrace Apartments, and Avenue A Apartments were marked for destruction--all residents had to move out. There were even stories of the mattresses being moved out first, so many had to make do with sleeping on the floor, and a new field designated for playing cricket (popular as most of the residents came from overseas) had to be closed. Despite (presumably) assistance, the apartments all near campus had much higher rent, and both Northgate and Southgate had undergone some degree of gentrification.

While The Gardens, the daycare, and the maintenance building were not affected and still stand, the demolition for redevelopment seemed to take a long time, for months, the abandoned apartments (speckled with graffiti) stood, then for many more months with just vacant land. Sometime during all of this, Campus Pointe was renamed to Century Square.

A friend and I took these in May 2013, soon before eviction in summer 2013 (the picture at the title is also from that):

Nobody's home.

Avenue A Apartments, which has eight units per building, four of which are seen here.

There is so much open space here, great for large group games or tossing a Frisbee around. Too bad this will go away...

College View Apartments. These face University Drive.

Hensel Terrace Apartments. Most of these are already gone, including the unit that exploded in 2004. It's worth noting that the building wasn't actually destroyed. The apartments have concrete foundations and despite being old and run-down, are better built then similar apartment complexes of the same era.

The Gardens at University Apartments. These will stick around.

Interesting vents on the University Apartments Maintenance Building.

For the next few years, the entire area was gated off as new construction began to take over, opening as Century Square.

The center would open in phases, with many of the restaurants coming in-line by fall 2017 (the hotels opened sooner). I haven't actually been to most of what Century Square has to offer...the parking is a major issue, in an effort to be more like Houston high-end development, the developers instituted paid parking everywhere except the garage (which also once had a strict time limit for staying).

The "mall space" is composed of a bunch of buildings floating in parking lots. As the way I'm going to explain it is going to be confusing, I recommend you look at the PDF directory to understand the layout. It's an archived version, and will go increasingly out of date as time goes on, but the link should stay up.

1025 University Drive - Located at the corner of the development, closest to the College Drive/University intersection, this building has, from left to right, Mo's Irish Pub (opened May 2018), Orangetheory Fitness, Sharetea, Merge Boutique, Clean Juice, and Piada Italian Street Food (opened summer 2017). I ate at Mo's Irish Pub not too long after it opened, it was an airy, modern space with cute waitresses, but average food with only a few token "Irish" dishes.

1099 University Drive - This is almost the same building as 1025 University Drive except there's a covered open-air walkway between them. This building has three tenants, Velvet Taco (opened September 2021 and the former home to Runway Seven, a women's clothing store, which closed sometime in 2019 after about two looks like the other stores have since closed as well), Tiff's Treats, and Cava (opened 2023 to replace the original 2017 Zoë's Kitchen, which was phased out as a chain).

1027 and 1037 University Drive - Directly behind the 1025/1099 building is 1027 and 1037, a two-story building that wraps around the parking garage. This is where Star Cinema Grill is, located on the second level with the 1037 address. The 1027 addresses face University Drive while 1037 faces Century Court. Working from the farthest corner on the map, there's empty space, Grass Stains, a specialty boutique with its only location here (the original location in Graham, Texas has since closed), College Station's own Lululemon Athletica (with its pricey, brand-name yoga pants), Harvest Coffee (opened 2018 after its original 2014 Downtown Bryan location), a vacancy (it was second local location of I Heart Mac and Cheese, opened September 2020 but closed in early 2022), and finally, Brazos Running Company, opened around 2023 and moved from Central Station.

166 Century Court - Directly east of the preceding building, 166 Century Court is a multi-story office building ("Century Square Two") with six retail tenants currently on the ground floor. Luchesse Bootmaker (opened early 2021), a vacancy (temporarily home to "selfie museum" Instaland BCS), King Ranch Saddle Shop (opened late 2020), Apricot Lane (opened early 2022), Onward Reserve (opened November 2019), Kendra Scott (opened early 2022), and Hemline, a women's clothing boutique out of New Orleans.

144 Century Court - To the east of the preceding building. Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Hey Sugar, and Ring Guards by Montelongo's, are all located here. Ring Guards opened to replace Sabi Boutique. Sabi Boutique had maintained at storefront at The Lofts at Wolf Pen Creek for years (even when they couldn't hold onto any other retailers) and opened a new location at Century Square in April 2019. However, within a few months of opening at Century Square they opened a University Drive East location a few months later. By May 2020 Sabi had decided to close the Century Square location. The other two places, Hopdoddy and Hey Sugar I've never bought anything from, and I have some less-than-flattering impressions that I could tell you about, but it would be bad form to disparage open businesses.

143 Century Court - The "mirror" of the preceding building to the east, on the other side of The Green (an open space for outdoor events and al fresco dining) has three more tenant spaces: Blaze PizzaLick Honest Ice Creams (opened in October 2022 to replace Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream, which closed in or around February 2020), and Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café. I've never been to Sweet Paris but I do know of it since it had replaced the Rice Village location of Texadelphia (a fact mentioned in our Texadelphia post).

175 Century Square Drive - The only retail tenant below the Century Square One office building is Galleria Spa Salon, formerly Galleria Day Spa (for years it used to be at the corner of Cavitt Drive and Villa Maria Drive, until it moved to Rock Prairie, which is still there). The office tenants include Breakaway Ministries, UBS Financial Services, and BRW Architects (among others).

Going counterclockwise around toward the back are two boutique hotels, "The George" (with "1791 Whiskey Bar" inside), which opened August 2017, and Cavalry Court, which opened November 2016 (one of the first tenants) with its "The Canteen" restaurant. Despite being a four-star hotel with off-season prices being around $120 a night (as of 2021), all the rooms open to the outside.

Directly behind The Green was Poppy (named after the late Bush 41's nickname). Sometime right around very early 2020 before you-know-what happened, Poppy closed for an upscale Mexican concept, opening in May 2022 as Juanita's Tex Mex Cantina (it was delayed, but it happened). West of Juanita's is Porters Dining + Butcher, a high-end (well, at least for College Station) steakhouse.

170 Century Square Drive - Finally, to the east of the complex is 100 Park, an apartment building that fits into the whole modern "mixed-use" concept, though not oriented toward students. At the bottom of this apartments include Pokéworks (opened January 2020) and MESS Waffles, which opened October 2018. This used to be known as Wafology, which was mentioned at the 711 University Drive article.

1289 University Drive - The first tenant to come...and go...Neighbors Emergency Center opened in October 2016 but closed around August 2016. This opened in October 2016 as Neighbors Emergency Center, a private 24-hour care emergency clinic that was the first open tenant in the Century Square development. However, it closed within about 10 months. In November 2018, CapRock Urgent Care opened in its place, and in spring 2021, became Integrity Urgent Care as CapRock sold off most of its facilities.

UPDATE 01-04-2021: After adding Century Square in the fourth edit version to this page in February 2020, the fifth edit to this page includes some tenant changes and other minor fixes.
UPDATE 07-10-2021: Minor updates, but the only thing of note was Integrity Urgent Care (CapRock sold).
UPDATE 12-13-2021: Added Velvet Taco and minor update regarding Poppy, as well as UBS.
UPDATE 04-23-2024: 2024 update for all stores and services at Century Square. Every paragraph was gone through and retouched. Cava, Apricot Lane, Brazos Running Company, Juanita's, and more were all added.