Bun in the oven: Another popular Clear Lake area eatery was forced to make way for the Texas Department of Transportation’s expansion of Interstate 45. Panera Bread, a bakery and cafe franchise that had operated at 19305 I-45 since 2005, is among businesses closed by the expansion. Panera Bread, however, plans to move not far away to I-45 at El Dorado Boulevard., just one exit north from its former location.
Not only will the fast-casual eatery return to the area, it will do so in a big way, building the largest Panera Bread in the Houston market, said Keith Isbell, operations partner for Rolling Dough, which owns the franchise. The new store also will offer drive-through service, he said.
“We will provide our customers with a large dining room with the most current interior design, including a combined indoor/outdoor fireplace,” Isbell said.
Employees affected by the closure were given opportunities to work at other area Panera restaurants until the new one opens, Isbell said. Look for a May opening.
Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A last year closed its 19205 I-45 location after 11 years when the transportation department bought the property for expansion. Chick-fil-A also is planning to reopen near I-45 and El Dorado Boulevard, according to reports.
All the roadwork is part of a $93 million Interstate 45 South project to widen the existing six main lanes to 10 and add more frontage lanes in each direction from FM 2351 to Medical Center Blvd.
Officials with the transportation department offered this estimated timeline for the work, which is expected to facilitate smoother lane mobility, reconfigure some of the on and off connections and enhance feeder roads both north and southbound:
• Southbound frontage road north of Bay Area Boulevard — June 2014 to October 2014
• Southbound frontage road south of Bay Area Boulevard — October 2014 to November 2014
• Demolish Bay Area Boulevard bridge — January 2015
• Reopen Bay Area Boulevard at I-45 — April to May 2015
• Work on northbound frontage road — January 2015 to June 2015
Drip tip: Is another Starbucks brewing for the island? That’s the speculation surrounding the property formerly occupied by the William Temple Episcopal Center, 427 Market St. J.T. Bolger last week finalized acquisition of the property from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. The property, formerly used by the diocese for outreach programs at the University of Texas Medical Branch, sat empty after Hurricane Ike damaged it in September 2008. Bolger, who owns several island properties, including the property occupied by grocer Arlan’s Market, 513 Market St., on Tuesday confirmed that Starbucks is one of several retailers being approached by his development firm. But with the acquisition so fresh, marketing the site has only just begun, he said.
“I cannot at this time definitely say who may be a tenant,” Bolger said. A new retail center will replace the William Temple Episcopal Center, which, in its current state, wasn’t worth keeping, Bolger said.
Some islanders worried that new ownership of the property would mean the demise of the Labyrinth Meditation Garden, built in 2001. But the labyrinth is being moved to Moody Methodist Church, 2803 53rd St. The historic Rosenberg fountain at the site was donated to the Galveston Historical Foundation.
Jasper “J.E.” Tramonte of Tramonte Commercial Brokerage represented Bolger in the acquisition. Stay tuned.
Apartment department: The Bay Walk Apartments, 7200 Heards Lane, has a new name — Seaport Village. The complex is still managed by UAH Property Management.