Lafitte feat: It was vacant for decades and became one of downtown Galveston’s biggest eyesores. But after nearly two years, a massive makeover of the former Jean Lafitte Hotel into apartments is complete, save for a few final touches. Look for tenants to begin moving into the building, 2101 Church St., in about two weeks, Sarah Zelczak, director of marketing for developer The ITEX Group, said.

ITEX in 2009 bought the vacant 10-story hotel, built in 1927, from Houston businessman Tracy Suttles, who bought the building in 1999 with plans to convert it into luxury condominiums, but never did.

The new project, named 2101 Church Street for its address, contains 83 residential units on the top nine floors. Retail is planned for the bottom level.

Financing came from several sources; $3 million from the sale of historic tax credits from a federal preservation program; $5 million from a Community Development Block Grant awarded for disaster recovery after Hurricane Ike struck in 2008; a $2.8 million Federal Housing Administration-backed loan from Davis Penn; and equity from The ITEX Group. As part of the agreement to accept federal disaster recovery money, ITEX was required to set aside 46 units — 55 percent — for people earning 80 percent or less of the area median income.

About 40 people are on waiting lists to lease units, Zelczak said. But the partial government shutdown, in which thousands of workers have been idle and unpaid and many services suspended, has slowed paperwork for those wanting to lease units set aside under the federal rules, Zelczak said.

Rent for apartments set aside for affordable housing will be capped at $714 for a one-bedroom and $866 for a two-bedroom, according to early reports. Rents for market rate units range from $700 to $1,000, depending on how many rooms and which floor.

Amenities include a pool, media center, on-site management, modern stainless steel appliances and, in some areas, crown molding original to the building. The most difficult construction feat was installing an elevator in the middle of the building, Zelczak said.

For information, call 409-766-9922.

Wholesale truth? An intriguing rumor is making the rounds on the mainland that the freshly vacant Sam’s Club building, 9300 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City, has a new owner. But don’t expect another mass merchandiser to move in. Word has it the building’s new owner is an industrial type business. Earlier this year, Sam’s Club in Texas City was replaced by a 136,000-square-foot store at the intersection of Interstate 45 and FM 1765, next to the Walmart Supercenter in La Marque. Stay tuned.

In the loop (net): Meanwhile, readers are wondering about the status of another high-profile commercial building in Texas City — Mall of the Mainland, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway. City officials confirm they had been in talks to buy the mall, which has been on the market for more than a year. But sellers are asking for more than the city is willing to pay, officials said.

Officials didn’t elaborate about what they had in mind for the property, saying they had only hoped to have some control over its destiny. Pacific Western Bank, which four years ago took possession of the troubled mall, was willing to sell it for $15.4 million a little more than a year ago. A month later, real estate resource loopnet.com put the asking price at $9.5 million. This week, the seller has the property priced at $8.86 million, but is willing to sweeten the pot with a $1 million price reduction and a $100,000 broker incentive if the sale closes before Dec. 15.

The owner is selling about 79 acres that include the regional mall and nine pad sites. Some anchor tenants own their own buildings. Sears, for example, would not be included in the sale. Other anchors include Palais Royal and Cinemark, which is rumored to be considering developing on land near the popular Tanger Outlets shopping center that opened a year ago at 5885 Interstate 45 in Texas City.

Over the years, the mall sustained a series of tenant departures, including Macy’s, which closed last year. Retail trackers predicted Tanger’s opening would deal it another blow. But interestingly, Tanger is being used as a selling point. Sales information claims the new shopping center, just a mile north of the mall, brings significant traffic to the area. Stay tuned.

Be sweet: Want to help fight childhood hunger and appease your sweet tooth? The Kitchen Chick, 528 23rd St. in the island’s downtown, plans the Great American Bake Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Last year, the Chicken Scratch Bakers raised more than $700 selling dozens of baked goods made from scratch. This year, the team aims to raise more than $1,000 for Share Our Strength, a national organization working to feed 16 million children.

Laura Elder is a reporter for The Daily News. Biz Buzz appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email your tips and suggestions to laura.elder@galvnews.com.

(5) comments

Mary Branum

Looking forward to see this grand old hotel re-opened as a residence. It was the first hotel my parents and I stayed in 1957, meeting my Dad's ship which was docked at the old grain elevator.

ERMA SMITH

Should bring more foot traffic downtown!

Sweet Sue LaRue

2101 Church Street, Galveston, Texas
is the site of the former Jean Lafitte Hotel.

1417 Harborside Drive, Galveston, Texas
is the site of my cousin Jean Lafitte's Maison Rouge.

My grandmother on my mother's side of the family had the maiden name of Corine Lafitte, so quite naturally at the age of six in 1951, I was told that Jean Lafitte was my cousin.

I have often wondered why Galveston does not make better use of Maison Rouge and the tales of Jean Lafitte. Laura Elder, why doesn't Galveston make better use of Maison Rouge and the tales of Jean Lafitte?

Thanks,
Sweet Sue LaRue

Karen Sawyer

so is it only for low income?

lauraelder
Laura Elder

No, as reported in the article, half the units are market rate.

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