TEXAS CITY — The walls are going up at what will within 12 months be Buc-ee’s. While drivers along Interstate 45 might wonder whether they soon will be able to grab a bag of Beaver Nuggets or stop in to use one of the sparkling clean restrooms, the store’s owner said you have to wait until summer 2014 to get your fix.
Buc-ee’s construction is on schedule, owner Beaver Aplin said Monday. City and economic officials are willing to wait, because there’s plenty of activity to keep them busy for awhile in that part of town.
Nearby Tanger Outlets is proving to be as successful if not more than originally thought. With the recent opening of Kate Spade, Max Studio and Tommy Bahama, Phase 1 of the outlet center that opened in October is about leased out.
Company officials are working to gain interest in what would be the second phase of the center, Tanger Outlets-Texas City Manager Aimee Braswell said. A formal announcement on when that next part of the center would open won’t come until the next part is 50 percent leased out.
While not there yet, during a recent address to the Rotary Club of Texas City, Braswell said to expect construction to start by the end of 2014 to the west of the current set up.
And expect something other than clothing retail to go into the next phase. Braswell said that high-end specialty item stores are part of the plan.
“We’re meeting or exceeding our expectations,” Braswell said.
The tax-free holiday just before the start of the school season showed that retail sales were strong, she said.
Tanger officials counted 32,000 cars at the center that weekend. They estimate each car had 2.8 shoppers, so that weekend it was estimated more than 89,000 went shopping.
“People are really getting to know we are out here,” Braswell said.
If the sales tax returns are any indication, lots of people not only know the store is there, but also are spending lots of money.
According to the state comptroller’s office, retail sales in Texas City totaled $464.69 million in 2012. That was an almost 10 percent increase from the previous year.
The biggest jump came in the final three months of 2012, soon after Tanger Outlets opened. In that time, the number of retail outlets in Texas City jumped from 208 to 436; and retail sales jumped from $106.18 million in the third quarter of the year to $146.33 million in October, November and December.
Texas City Mayor Matt Doyle said a sales tax rebate given to developers to build Tanger also is coming in at a higher rate than expected.
As an economic incentive to attract Tanger to Texas City, the city offered to rebate 1 cent from every cent in sales tax collected to the developer to repay for the infrastructure improvements done to build the center.
That rebate, which will total $8.5 million, was scheduled to be paid back for eight years, now appears will be paid within four or five, Doyle said.
Braswell also is excited about her neighbor to the north, especially since construction of Buc-ee’s is moving along. It’s expected to boost traffic for Tanger, but also will present a challenge.
“We are now challenged to make our restrooms as clean as Buc-ee’s,” Braswell said.
Buc-ee’s is well known for those clean restrooms, a point Aplin said sets his company apart from other travel centers.
The success of Tanger Outlets and the pending opening of Buc-ee’s are doing their part to spark more interest in developing the area along Texas City’s I-45 corridor.
There a lot of interest by restaurant companies to build on pad sites that line Tanger’s I-45 frontage, Braswell said.
As The Daily News reported last week in Laura Elder’s Biz Buzz, Cinemark is possibly looking at a spot to build a theater near the shopping center.
And there’s still hope that Webster physician Harvey E. Slusky plans to open Playland Park on 25 acres nearby will come to fruition, Doyle said. Along with amusements and rides, Playland Park would likely also include a 60-room hotel and restaurants.