Progress report: Crews have stripped off the back wall and this week removed the fire escape at the historic Medical Arts Building, 302 21st St. in the island’s downtown. Meanwhile, developer Andy Vickery is considering a slight change of plans for the property he bought in 2012. 

Vickery, a Houston attorney, initially planned to develop 83 luxury apartments at the site, with 6,300 square feet of retail/restaurant space planned for the first floor of the building. But Vickery this week confirmed he’s considering a timeshare development for the property. If he decides to do that, he’ll eliminate plans for retail but go forward with the 83 units, he said. The Medical Arts Building would be the only timeshare development downtown. For the uninitiated, such arrangements give several joint owners the right to use a property as a vacation home under a time-sharing agreement.

Crews have been working on demolition. They plan in June to begin a complete interior renovation of the 60,000-square-foot building, along with an exterior and interior renovation of an attached six-story, 23,400-square-foot building facing Mechanic Street. 

The building has long been in disrepair. 

“It’s been an eyesore on Galveston’s skyline, and it’s very exciting to see things start to happen,” Vickery said. The art deco Medical Arts Building, designed by architect Andrew Fraser, was an annex to the American National Insurance Co. building of 1913, which was demolished in 1972 after the company moved into its 20-story downtown tower in 1971. The building later housed medical offices, hence the name.

Developers have long sought to transform the building. In 2004, it was under contract to Houston businessman Robert Spiegel, who planned high-end condominiums. Other buyers came along, but nothing happened until Vickery’s venture. Stay tuned. 

What’s cooking? Notice all that activity at the building formerly occupied by Flamingo Steak and Seafood, 6028 Heards Lane on the island? Doug Thomas and business partners are giving the building a new look, new name and new menu. The eatery, going by the name On the Bayou — for its position on the shores of English Bayou — will serve up fine Texas cuisine without being too uppity, Chef Rafael Ruiz said. 

Ruiz describes the menu as “Texas Creole,” which will be heavy on seafood, while also offering steak entrees and other fare. The food will be rustic and simple with bold flavors, Ruiz said. Everything will be made from scratch, he said. 

The ambience is “casual fine dining” with Texas themes and colors, such as University of Texas burnt orange and Texas A&M University maroon. 

On the Bayou also will boast a sports bar, but don’t expect boring bar food. Ruiz plans to elevate the bar menu, serving such fare as a pork belly po’boy and hand-cut fries that require two days to prepare. The sports bar, which has a lot of TVs, will screen 11 football games at once, Thomas said. Crews are busy painting the place and plan to repaint the mauve exterior to complement the interior. The game room includes darts and pool.

Look for a soft opening of On the Bayou by Memorial Day weekend, said Thomas, who also plans to expand the deck to play up the waterfront experience. (Thomas, by the way, also is involved in plans to redevelop the famous Balinese Room, 2107 Seawall Blvd., which Hurricane Ike reduced to rubble in 2008. Plans call for a 3,000-seat amphitheater that would attract notable performers. The venue also would include several restaurants. Read more about that project’s status next week.)

Bob Greig opened Flamingo Steak and Seafood in 2012 with great success. But the eatery closed late last year after Greig decided to pursue other interests, which didn’t include running a restaurant. 

Greig still owns the 10,000-square-foot building, which has been home to a long line of eateries, including China Border, China Island Buffet and Saka Sushi & Hibachi. Want to talk about On the Bayou? Visit Buzz Blog, galvnews.com.

Ciao time: In other appetizing island restaurant news, a new eatery is opening in the building that until December had been the longtime home of Luigi’s Ristorante Italiano, 2328 Strand in the island’s downtown. Read more about Riondo’s Ristorante in Tuesday’s Biz Buzz or check in later this week for updates on Buzz Blog, galvnews.com

Buzz blooper: A Biz Buzz item Tuesday incorrectly stated the purpose of construction activity in the 7300 block of Broadway near Motel 6 in Galveston. Crews are building a satellite parking lot for Sea Scout Base, which is underway across the freeway at 7511 Broadway. Businessman Bob Patel plans an 80- to 100-room hotel on land next to the parking lot, but construction hasn’t begun.

What’s that? Anyone else wondering what all that noise and digging is outside Dickinson Public Library, 4411 state Highway 3? Crews are beginning the foundation for the three, life-size bronze Founders Statues the Dickinson Historical Society is installing. 

The statues will honor the rancher, the shopkeeper and the farmer, and represent the people who were instrumental in establishing the community.

The statues have been a project of the Dickinson Historical Society for the past five years and are the brainchild of member Ernie Deats to honor the past and pass on the history of Dickinson to the city’s youth, officials say. Anyone interested in donating to the project should email dhs@ci.dickinson.tx.us.

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.

(2) comments

Jan Johnson

Laura -- The Medical Arts building was desgined by Scottish architect Andrew Fraser in 1929. Of particular note are the faces near the roof line of this 11-story building. Waking Historic Galveston: A Guide to its Neighborhoods

lauraelder
Laura Elder

Hi Jan, I left the w off Andrew. He designed it in 1929, but The Medical Arts Building was an annex to the American National Insurance Co. Building of 1913, which occupied the rest of the 21st Street front of that block until its demolition in 1972, according to the Galveston Architecture Guidebook.

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