Pop quiz: Could yet another vacant department store building at Mall of the Mainland get a new life?Rumor has it that College of the Mainland is studying the possibility of buying the 83,000-square-foot building that formerly housed JC Penney at the mall, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City. College of the Mainland officials weren’t available for comment. Friendswood attorney and developer Jerome Karam, who owns the mall property, declined to comment. If the rumor is true and the deal gets done, it will be another coup for the mall and Karam, who, with an out-of-state partner, in March finalized the purchase of the 451,000-square-foot property. Last year, Karam bought the 150,000-square-foot building from Macy’s, which closed its department store at the mall in 2012, but still owned the property. Since then, Palais Royal has moved its mall store to the redeveloped Macy’s building, where a 42,000-square-foot World Gym also opened earlier this year. Karam in June announced another success when he finalized the sale of 150,000-square-foot Dillard’s building at the mall to First Baptist Church of Texas City.
Mall within a mall? Meanwhile, look soon for Karam to announce news about a 45,000-square-foot antique mall at the property. Most recently, Karam confirmed he soon would open the state’s largest indoor trampoline park at the mall property. Karam has a licensing agreement to operate Altitude trampoline Park. The 45,000-square-foot park, which likely will open in January, will offer wall-to-wall trampolines, rock climbing, birthday rooms and more. And this month, Booker Huffman, former World Champion Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment champion, better known by his ring name, Booker T, will bring his Reality of Wrestling Main Headquarters to Mall of the Mainland. The wrestling academy will open Oct. 15, Huffman said.
Dickinson doings: Plans are in the works for a major event center and restaurant along FM 517 on 14 acres east of the former Dickinson Country Club.
John Hill, an owner of the now closed country club, and Roger Hrdina, president of 18th Street Productions, which owns 18th Street Pier and Restaurant in San Leon, say they plan to develop a 35,000-square-foot event facility and a 10,000-square-foot Cactus Pete restaurant, which will serve up such fare as steaks — including chicken-fried — ribs, shrimp scampi, gumbo, fresh fish and oysters. After 50 years, Dickinson Country Club closed in 2002 when investors stopped spending money on improvements after the city changed the zoning in the area in which it operated to residential. The club already was struggling when Dickinson Leisure Industries DLI, of which Hill is a principal, had acquired the property in 2000 with plans for adding an RV resort and driving range. The city had given prior approval for the RV resort, Hill said. The improvements would have been part of the new Dickinson Golf and Yacht Club resort complex, Hill said. Zoning changes made operating golf courses a nonconforming use, Hill said. With the existing 9-hole course and restaurant zoned an illegal activity, investors walked away, Hill said. Dickinson Leisure Industries sued the city, and the city settled the suit in 2004, but by then the course had been lost, Hill said.
“The result was a significant devaluing of the surrounding property totaling in the millions as might well be expected,” Hill said. But Hill isn’t interested in rehashing the past, he said. The front of the center will have an Old West motif, complete with hitching posts, horse troughs and metal awnings covering a front walkway made from old metal from the club’s golf cart barn. Obtaining financing and detailed planning could take about a year, while construction would take another. Stay tuned.
Whata-buzz: After months of construction, the new Whataburger in La Marque, 6300 Interstate 45, opened Wednesday. Whataburger replaced its 22-year-old restaurant in that mainland city with a larger one next to the existing one. The new location offers patrons direct access from I-45 and FM 2004. The new restaurant features state-of-the-art kitchen equipment and two drive-through lanes to help serve more customers faster during peak hours. And the restaurant features more parking and a dining room double in size compared with the existing La Marque eatery. Look soon for more details about a grand opening with all the festivities from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 14.
Back in play: Earlier this summer, developer Andy Vickery said his plan to transform the historical and long vacant Medical Arts Building, 302 21st St. in the island’s downtown, into a timeshare wouldn’t be realized — not by him at least. But rumor has it that a firm with a track record of developing apartment complexes is planning to buy the building and move ahead with the development of 83 units. But it likely won’t be a timeshare development. Stay tuned.
Billionaire BOI: Making the Forbes 400 list isn’t easy. And by the publication’s account, fewer U.S. billionaires made the cut this year. Admission to the list, released this week, started at a record $1.7 billion, up $150 million from a year ago. But the island-born and self-made Tilman Fertitta landed again on this list, ranked at No. 293. Fertitta is the CEO, chairman and owner of Houston-based Landry’s, a restaurant and entertainment company. His source of wealth is casinos, restaurants and entertainment venues, which he operates in Galveston, Kemah and across the nation. Fertitta first learned the food business in Galveston where he worked at his father’s seafood restaurant after school, according to his Forbes profile.
It’s back: After taking a break last year, a popular culinary event is returning to Galveston. Epicurean Evening, “A Taste of the Gulf,” is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at Moody Gardens Convention Center, Seven Hope Blvd. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Tickets are available at participating restaurants. Galveston Restaurant Association is host of the event, from which proceeds benefit the Francisco “Paco” Vargas scholarship fund benefiting local students pursuing careers in the hospitality and culinary industries. The association has made a commitment to award $100,000 in scholarships to Galveston College for its Culinary Arts/Hospitality program over four years. Sponsors include Moody National Bank, Sysco, Oak Farms Dairy and Brothers Produce. Visit www.facebook.com/events/1619019521685090/ for information about buying advance tickets at participating restaurants.
Coming soon: Read all about Snap Kitchen’s plans for a Clear Lake area site, an island jeweler’s red carpet news and much next week in Biz Buzz.