San Antonio-based BioBridge Global will serve as the anchor tenant at the VelocityTX redevelopment of the old Merchants Ice complex at East Houston and Cherry streets, it was announced last week.
VelocityTX is an incubator for start-up and emerging companies in the bio and life science fields. It's being established by the Texas Research and Technology Foundation (TRTF), which is an economic development nonprofit that was co-founded by Robert McDermott in the 1980s.
The first phase of the $227 million redevelopment is composed of the three buildings that face Cherry Street—between Dawson and East Houston streets. Those structures, a combined 110,000 square feet, will house the VelocityTX innovation center and BioBridge Global's GenCure Biomanufacturing program, a producer of "large numbers of consistent, high-quality, clinical-grade adult stem cells needed to help bring potential new therapies into human clinical trials," according to a press release.
BioBridge Global will lease 21,000 square feet in the first phase of VelocityTX's innovation center, and is expected to be completed this year. The company anticipates hiring 20 to 25 scientific and technical staff at the site.
According to the release, BioBridge Global collaborates with military, academic and private research institutions "involved in the field of regenerative medicine." For example, BioBridge Global and its GenCure program are part of a three-year, $8.9 million contract from the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium to develop "large-scale manufacturing capabilities for clinical-grade stem cells to be used in research and therapeutic applications." The other partners in that endeavor are the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and StemBioSys.
VelocityTX's plans for the four-acre Merchants Ice complex on the 1300 block of East Houston Street span 10 years. Future developments include an office mid-rise, a hotel inside the actual Merchants Ice building, and potential residential units on a parking lot across Houston Street next to Estate Coffee Company.
The U.S. military plays a role in the types of businesses VelocityTX will help grow.
"If the military comes up with a project or product, they can't make it—it's against the law," VelocityTX President and CEO Randy Harig said in an interview two weeks ago. "They have to find somebody to take that tech and build a company around it, build the product, so they can sell it back to the government."
VelocityTX will be an open campus, meaning anyone from the community can walk on to the property and take advantage of a planned restaurants and coffee shops. VelocityTX is also in the beginning stages of an outreach program that targets students attending East Side schools. The nonprofit plans to recruit from the East Side for future positions. It anticipates creating 665 jobs, which will amount to $78 million in wages and benefits annually, when the center is completed in 10 years.