Although it wasn’t officially incorporated until 1938, College Station, Texas, has a rich history, and the city is eager to preserve it. After years of planning, the community dedicated its new city hall building last December and has demolished the former structure to make way for a public plaza. It is also repurposing its old police and fire building to create a new tourism office and event space.
“We have a lot of exciting things happening, and we are excited for everyone to see them,” College Station City Manager Bryan Woods said.
Connecting to the past
Located in the heart of Brazos County, College Station’s origins date back to 1860 when the Houston and Texas Railway began developing in the region. A decade later, the area was chosen as the site for the state’s first public, post-secondary institution — the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, which opened in 1876. The school was later renamed Texas A&M in 1963.
“People came here for the school, and in fact, that’s how we got our name,” Woods said. “When we looked at the original city hall structure that was built over 50 years ago, we commissioned an architect that would create something reminiscent of our history with the school as well as the railroad.”
The new city hall building, located across the street from Texas A&M, is an 80,000-square-foot edifice. Kirksey Architecture designed it, and CORE Construction built it. Its exterior evokes the feel of an old train depot with stone on the bottom, pitched roofs, a clock tower and a red brick façade. Additional train station elements await visitors at the entryway of the building. The interior is a thoroughly modern city center with plenty of offices, meeting spaces and multipurpose rooms that can evolve and change over time.
Woods said everyone loves the two-story lobby with the open railing on the second floor. Other positive additions include the large city council chamber that can hold up to 200 peopl; the 1,200-square-foot Bush 4141 Community Room, which can be reserved for a variety of functions; and the Aggieland Room, which stretches across the front middle of the building and offers the best view of College Station.
“We get a lot of calls from people wanting to use it for weddings,” Woods said. “We are still trying to figure all of that stuff out, but it is a tremendous place that we are excited for people to use.”
Along with the new building, College Station also unveiled its new seal, which pays tribute to the Bush 4141 locomotive, Texas A&M University, Union Pacific and the armed forces cadets who play a big role within the community.
“We have the largest uniformed body of students outside of the military academies,” Woods said.
Focused on the future
In March, College Station completed the demolition of the former city hall site to make way for a plaza and greenspace that will be used for community events. Additionally, it will repurpose the original police and fire station building to serve as the city’s new visitors’ center. As one of the oldest buildings in College Station, the “1207 Building” has been home to the city’s human resource and maintenance offices, but Woods said it will be remade to show off the connection between College Station and the university. Four bay doors on the side of the building will serve as meeting and entertainment spaces to activate the whole area.
Woods hopes the new center will be ready to show off in time for football season so that tourists and residents alike can enjoy it.
“We want to be the greatest college town in America, and we are building that identity in conjunction with the university,” Woods said, noting that the community’s population can swell by 100,000 on game days. “It’s a good problem to have, but it helps to know that every shop and restaurant benefits from the presence of a top school.”
Woods said he knows that even today, most people still come to College Station because of the university; however, he wants them to stay for the high quality of life. Not only does the city want to attract students who will live among its residents for four to six years, but it also wants to attract a talented faculty, administrative and support staff by providing them with places to eat, shops to patronize, parks to play in and the infrastructure in place to live their best lives. When he thinks about the people who created the original building, he knows that there is history in those bricks, and it is that history that he hopes to carry forward. “As a public servant, you are a caretaker, and during that period of time, you are entrusted to create the most opportunity for the people you serve,” he said. “Everything you do has to have an impact on the people you serve. We can’t predict how people will live and work even a decade from now, but you try to build things that will give them the most flexibility to adapt when new opportunities arise. Hopefully, we have done this through these projects.”