Hammer time: Look for crews Monday to begin work on the University of Texas Medical Branch’s $90 million expansion at its Specialty Care Center at Victory Lakes in League City. The medical branch, inspired by success in the north county, late last year confirmed plans for the major expansion that would include an emergency department and beds to accommodate patients requiring overnight stays.

While construction begins Monday, medical branch officials are planning a groundbreaking ceremony for 4 p.m. Tuesday. The project will create 142,000 square feet of clinical space, allowing for the addition of 39 patient beds and inpatient stays of up to 72 hours. 

In a related project, the medical branch will build a central plant facility to provide utilities to its 62-acre Victory Lakes campus.

The Specialty Care Center’s ambulatory surgery and complex diagnostic services will allow for 17 emergency/urgent care treatment rooms, four operating rooms, endoscopy rooms and 25,000 square feet of shell space for future development. Also, the finished site will provide increased imaging capabilities including an X-ray fluoroscopy facility, ultrasound and CT unit, officials said. 

The utilities project will yield a 5,000-square-foot plant to provide added thermal utilities, normal and emergency electrical power for each system at Victory Lakes, officials say. The system will be capable of independently providing electricity, hot water and chilled water for up to 72 hours. The medical branch opened the Specialty Care Center, 2240 Interstate 45, in 2010. It houses several clinics in 110,000 square feet. 

The clinical space project is valued at $82 million and is scheduled for completion in February 2015. The contractor is McCarthy Building Cos. The designer is HKS Inc

The central-plant facility is valued at $8 million and is scheduled for completion in August next year. The contractor is Tellepsen Builders. The designer is AEI Affiliated Engineers Inc.

Simmering speculation: The medical branch’s expansion in League City isn’t going unnoticed by some island restaurant owners. While owners are mum, rumors have it at least two well-known island restaurateurs are planning League City eateries near the Victory Lakes complex. Stay tuned.

Hot tamale: Is this a Texas chain in the making? Steve and Nancy Salinas in November opened a second Alamo Tamales to Go, 620 Marina Bay Drive in Clear Lake Shores. The couple opened the first Alamo Tamales to Go, 13914 state Highway 3 in Webster, in February last year. 

And now, the growing venture is working to secure permits to sell tamales via a truck on the beach at Apffel Park in Galveston. And Alamo also sells tamales at the Clear Lake Shores Farmers Market on Saturdays. Popular tamales include the handmade pork and also the large, brisket tamales. Alamo also plans to soon bring back the spinach and cheese tamales, which are in high demand. “I couldn’t make enough of them; it was insane,” Steve Salinas said. Sweet tamales, including the apple tamales with brown sugar and cinnamon, also sell well. For information, call 832-864-2111.

Conference call: Islanders can expect a surge of visitors — about 2,500 of them — when the Texas Water 2013 Conference commences April 9-13 at Moody Gardens Convention Center. Texas Water is the largest regional conference in the United State for engineers, operators, facility owners and municipalities in the domestic water and wastewater industry. In other words, the conference attracts anyone related to the treatment of domestic drinking water and wastewater. 

The conference will fill hotels and boost island business. Conference organizers are planning tours around the city and participants will have a chance to try island eateries, Sheldon M. Buck, senior project manager, said. American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation organize the conference, which will showcase the latest in industry technology. For information, visit http://www.texas-water.com.

Room service: City officials confirm that owners of the gutted building formerly occupied by Hollywood at Galveston, 3028 Seawall Blvd., do indeed plan to develop a hotel using the existing building. But requests for more details, including how many rooms are planned and who owns it, have gone unanswered.

 According to Galveston Central Appraisal District records, a venture going by Ocean Inn LLC owns the property. Ocean Inn LLC in August bought the building from Houstate Investment LLC. The 22-room hotel was built in 1946. It generated much attention in 1999 when it was transformed into the first hotel catering solely to gay and lesbian clientele. After the hotel closed, the building briefly served as a home for the mentally ill members of affluent families. Stay tuned.

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