Lowe's land goes to auction

Property owned by Lowe’s Home Improvement recently went up for auction. Lowe’s long ago abandoned plans to build a store on the land between 55th and 57th streets just north of Broadway in Galveston.

Lowe-down: Who bid last week on the prime parcel between 55th and 57th streets in Galveston that was once the planned site for a Lowe’s Home Improvement store? That’s the multi-million dollar question.

Lowe’s, which years ago abandoned plans to build an island store, hired Hilco Real Estate to help it sell the property. The parcel went up for auction with a sealed bid deadline of May 16.

“I can confirm that the property went to auction last week and we are currently evaluating several offers,” Lowe’s spokesman Steve Salazar said. Lowe’s isn’t divulging names of potential buyers.

But there’s intriguing speculation making the rounds that the county made a bid for the land with the idea of adding office space for the Galveston County Criminal Justice Center, which is north of the 10.16 acres Lowe’s hopes to sell.

That speculation might not be too wide of the mark. The past two Galveston County Commissioners Court agendas for regular meetings have included notices of executive sessions about “Property located at 54th and Broadway.” Texas code allows government officials to deliberate the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property out of public view and earshot when open discussion would undermine their bargaining position.

Bob Boemer, director of the county’s legal department, declined to comment about whether the county had bid on the property.

The city and county have long wanted to see a commercially viable development on the property. But interested retail developers have come and gone.

Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe’s Home Improvement had big plans for the parcel, paying $3.1 million in October 2011 for what was then county-owned land with the intention to build a 117,000-square-foot store. Lowe’s abandoned those plans the same year, however, citing frail economic conditions.

Under terms of the purchase agreement with the county, Lowe’s had 120 days to commence construction or the county had the right to buy back the land for the same price Lowe’s paid. But the county’s option on the prime tract expired in 2013.

The county at the time was reluctant to buy back the land for fear a speculator would make an offer on the property and sit on it for years until it was ripe for development, Commissioner Ken Clark said at the time, adding that the more reasonable course would be to wait for Lowe’s to build. Stay tuned.

Change of Trueheart: A historically notable building in Galveston’s downtown is on the market. After years of evaluation, the board of directors of the Junior League of Galveston County is selling the Trueheart-Adriance Building, 212 22nd St.

Prominent Victorian-era island architect Nicholas Clayton designed the building, which was constructed in 1882. The Junior League acquired it in 1969 and rehabilitated it in 1971.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but best serves the building and the organization, said Terry Lynn Jones, president of the Junior League.

“Our biggest goal is to find a buyer that will love this building and put it to good use for the whole community to enjoy and appreciate,” Jones said in a letter to members.

The Junior League, which promotes volunteerism, isn’t able to convene full meetings of its membership in the building because there isn’t enough room, Jones said. But the organization doesn’t have immediate plans to buy another building, and will lease space when needed for events and storage, Jones said. The organization also is working to balance committee meetings between the north and south county to fairly accommodate its 300 members, Jones said.

In this fiscal year, the organization spent about $30,000 on building insurance, security, utilities, upkeep and repairs, Jones said in the letter. That money would be better spent in the community, Jones said.

The Junior League of Galveston County was the first organization to commit its talent, effort and money toward the purchase of a historic property in The Strand District, which in the 1970s saw the beginning of restorations and repurposing of old buildings that continues today. The Junior League plans to dedicate a plaque at the building to remind everyone of the history and its efforts, Jones said.

The organization has enlisted V.J. Tramonte of Joe Tramonte Realty to sell the building, she said.

The building originally housed the real estate offices of H.M. Trueheart & Co.

Caffeine buzz: Latte lovers on the island’s West End soon will have a new place to get their caffeine fix. Sai Yerragudi is securing permits, including one for wine, to open Je Mocha Bean, 16708 San Luis Pass Road in Jamaica Beach. Along with coffee and a wine bar, Je Mocha Bean will offer ice cream and gelato, said Yerragudi, who four months ago opened Gymaica Fitness in the same shopping center where Je Mocha Bean is underway. Opening of Je Mocha Bean is about a month away.

Target practice: The Target store in Clear Lake Shores, 255 Marina Bay Drive, is among more than 1,000 that will have a new look by the end of 2020, as part of the retailer’s most ambitious store redesign to date. Upgraded exterior signage is part of the makeover, as is modernized design elements and more technology and digital services to keep up with the times and the fast-shifting way people shop. But beyond that, details were elusive.

“As renovations at the store have not yet started, I don’t have any additional details to share,” Target spokeswoman Liz Hancock said. “There are many considerations and factors that influence a remodel project’s timing, scope and specific details during the planning process, so we can provide more information once construction is underway. Across the country, we’ll be choosing elements to create customized concepts to meet the needs of local guests.”

In an Amazon world, big-box stores are rethinking physical space, making it easier and more inviting for shoppers, while also offering more digital and online services, industry observers say.

Last year, Target told investors it would spend $7 billion to redesign stores, extend its exclusive brands and lower prices. It also opened smaller stores in big cities such as New York and near college campuses and is working to enhance its online business, including buying Shipt in 2017 to speed up same-day delivery, according to CNN Business.

Earlier this month, Target launched the brand’s Drive Up service at its Galveston store, 6128 Broadway.

And shoppers around Galveston County likely can expect makeovers of Target stores.

Buzz blooper: A Biz Buzz item last week should have said Gus’ Restaurant is at 3402 Palmer Highway in Texas City.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

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