With the $200 million state Highway 146 expansion project building momentum, a quirky piece of Seabrook history might cease to exist as the Texas Department of Transportation works to acquire the pink Valentine Law Firm building to make way for the project.
The 1210 Bayport Blvd. building, which has been around for 86 years, has been over the years an ice house and a bait shop before its most recent incarnation as law offices.
The building might join nearly 60 others being acquired by the transportation department for a project that is greatly changing the business landscape in Kemah and Seabrook. Most recently, Tookie’s Burgers moved its Seabrook restaurant to 406 Texas Ave. in Kemah, in the building vacated by Ichibon Japanese Seafood.
Some businesses such as Taco Bell/KFC and Seabrook House of Flowers are moving to Pelican Plaza, 3130 E. NASA Parkway to make way for the expansion.
The contract letting date for the massive road project is scheduled for July and construction is expected to begin in 2021. It will widen state Highway 146 from six lanes to 12 as well as include a new expressway bridge west of and parallel to the Seabrook-Kemah Bridge, transportation officials said.
“We’ve been on pins and needles for over a year,” attorney Michael Valentine said. “How do you plan for something like that? The relocation process has been haphazard.”
Having owned the building since 1996, it’s emotional to walk away, he said. His family experienced events such as watching fireworks on the roof of the Seabrook structure, Valentine said.
The undertaking of abandoning his pink 660-square-foot building is arduous. The law firm hasn’t found a new location, Valentine said.
“It’s mostly because we don’t know when we’re going to move,” he said. “The dates have changed.”
The transportation department has given him an offer for the building and Valentine is in negotiations for a price that suits him, he said.
By way of eminent domain, the transportation department is able to acquire private property as expansion for Highway 146 continues, officials said.
Eminent domain allows the transportation department to gain private property and transform it to public property if the construction is deemed to serve the greater good of the state.
Any worries from the community have been considered and the city of Seabrook is financially prepared as best it can be given the reported loss of businesses because of the expansion, City Manager Gayle Cook said.
“This project has been planned for over 25 years,” she said. “The city has been given updates from TxDOT from time to time.”
Although the construction affects Seabrook more than Kemah, the expansion project already has given Kemah some prime businesses, including Tookie’s Burgers, Mayor Carl Joiner said.
“We welcome Tookie’s Burgers with open arms,” he said. “We are very fortunate to get Tookie’s as the owner also has T-Bone Tom’s.”
The biggest hurdle will be living with the construction as it progresses and making sure residents are aware of what’s happening on a daily basis, Joiner said.
“Our concern is making sure people can get to Kemah during the construction and we educate,” he said.
Kemah resident Leona Pleasant said the construction is just going to complicate life for businesses and the surrounding community.
“I feel sorry for the Seabrook and Kemah merchants,” she said. “Between the traffic at Five Corners and the expansion, I am already feeling squeezed. Traffic will be the worst zoo in the area.”