GALVESTON — On Thursday, the Galveston City Council approved a zoning change for the property that once held the Balinese Room. The change will allow developers to build a structure that rises high as 70 feet — should the developers follow through on their idea to rebuild the Balinese Room as a restaurant and concert venue that could hold as many as 3,000 people at one time.

 Thursday’s approval marked the second time this year that the Balinese Room project has gained approval for a rule change from a city board. In March, the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted developers a variance to waive parking requirements that normally apply to a building of the proposed size of the project.

During those two meetings, there’s been a lot of talk of what the new Balinese Room would look like, but little in terms of visuals. The city council’s packet on Thursday did not include any concept drawing or architectural plans (They weren’t required to because the developers weren’t seeking any kind of building permit.)

In fact, the only visual I’ve seen of the new Balinese Room is on a poster that architect Michael Gaertner, who is consulting on the project, has shown at both meetings.

Here he is with the poster at Thursday’s council meeting:

I got that picture by screen-shooting the city’s livestream of the meeting. I could have taken a clearer picture with my iPhone. In fact, back in March I tried to do just that.

When I got up from my seat at the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting to try to take a picture of the image Gaertner was showing to the board members, he hid it from view.  Literally, he flipped it over refused to show it to me.

After the meeting he told me that the picture was only a concept drawing and not necessarily what the final product would look like.

On Thursday, when Gaertner showed the same poster to the city council, I asked him again if I could take a picture. He said no.

I would make a public records request for the image, but it is not included on any document that the city has on file. The poster was not distributed to the council members or included in the planning department’s packet explaining the request for the zoning change.

That packet did include a partial description of what the structure would look like:

 “There will be vinyl reproduction windows and doors as well as reinforced vinyl or fiberglass doors (in lieu of hollow metal). The building will be painted in colors reminiscent of the original Balinese Room with contrast derived from the railings, glass and other architectural features of the building. The roof would be a modified hipped roof with the Polynesian upturns at the hips and other decorative elements.”

That’s pretty much it, at least for now. More descriptive details will surely come in the future, as the project moves through the city’s permitting process, something the developers say they hope begins by the end of the year.

(5) comments

Steve Fouga

Thanks for posting the screen shot, Mr Ferguson. It looks very different from what I imagined -- more compact. I imagined something long, like the original. I guess it's much cheaper to build in shallower water...

Bill Broussard

Gaetner surely must be embarassed about how his career as an architect has turned out. Once he was a reasonable architect. Nothing Frank Lloyd Wright you understand but....reasonable.

Now,he's just a mediocre lobbyist. The last building he represented, the M hotel, kicked him off the project the minute he got Council approval and their SUP to build.

We have a funny town. In the 1900's Nicholas Clayton built the town and set design standards that are known across the untied states. In the 2000, Michael Gaetner destroyed the town

Ellen Morrison

A mediocre lobbyist - for getting property values increased for resale purposes, I would say. Change the zoning, get an SUP, resell the property - he's your guy!

And council after council just nods their collective head and lets him do it.

Steve Fouga

Isn't the problem that Galveston can't decide what it wants to be? Miami, Charleston, or Amarillo?

Can't anyone see that tall structures look right on the far east end and on most of the west end, but not in the middle? Tall structures look good south of Seawall Blvd, but not north? To me this is obvious, but I understand there are factors other than what looks right. Still, the city needs to have an agreed-to plan, and stick to it.

Ellen Morrison

The COG has that plan - but never sticks to it.

There shouldn't be the quantity (and quality, come to think of it) of SUP requests and variances issued, but that magic money flag keeps on waving.

A notable contrast is that Port Aransas has taken a stand against development. It will be interesting to compare the 2 communities in 20 years...

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