Texas Research and Technology Foundation (TRTF) has retained San Antonio-based architectural firm Lake Flato to redevelop the blighted Merchants Ice complex on the Eastside, the Foundation announced Monday.

Plans are underway for the new commercial offices and technology innovation center inside the five-building complex at 1305 E. Houston Street.

“We feel the Merchants Ice complex will create an authentic sense of place which will engage the whole community,” Lake Flato’s Associate Partner Todd Wascher stated in a news release.

VelocityTX, TRTF’s new innovation hub, will be the development’s first tenant. Innovative startups from around the world will follow, if all goes as TRTF plans.

“The property will be multifaceted with live, work, play, create spaces, and will bring new life into the near-Eastside along with growth to downtown San Antonio,” TRTF CEO John Randolph Harig stated.

Jorge Varela, executive vice president of innovation at TRTF, will oversee the new innovation entity which will provide resources for biosciences and cyber entrepreneurs.

“It really is about the innovation center Velocity, blended with incubator spaces for a mixed-use development,” Wascher told the Rivard Report.

Lake Flato is working on the master plan with Harig and Varela and plans to have a first draft completed sometime in October. Its portfolio includes several local projects such as the Pearl Brewery’s master plan, H-E-B’s South Flores Market, 1221 Broadway, DoSeum, Alamo Brewery, and the Witte Museum’s recent renovation to name a few.

With more than 110,000 square feet on almost five acres, TRTF’s focus will be on helping companies working in the biosciences, cybersecurity, and emerging technologies. TRTF is also launching a new investment fund to support the development of more early-stage life sciences and technology companies in San Antonio.

“We expect to be a catalyst in the revitalization of this historically underutilized area of San Antonio,” Harig stated.

The long-term vision is to redevelop Merchants Ice into a campus complete with partnering ventures and other tenants leasing from TRTF. The commercial activity and leasing income would sustain TRTF’s innovation accelerator with revenue streams.

“Lake Flato understands the dynamics of creating spaces that engage and create a sense of community and we expect that they will deliver an innovative design that inspires entrepreneurship at Merchants Ice,” Varela said. “With all the startup activity in San Antonio the time is right for such a place.”

Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science, and veteran affairs. She won the Texas Veterans Commission Media Excellence Awards for her 2016 Veterans Day story "Life as a Veteran: What Veterans...