From the largest man-made lagoon ever to be built in Texas to a shocking closure of a fairly new hospital, business buzz was big in 2018. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Market waves: Dickinson’s Economic Development Corp. announced plans for a public market on state Highway 3 in the same vein of the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, where shoppers can buy things such as seafood, flowers or handcrafted soaps. The public market, which would cost from $9 million to $12 million to build, is planned for the former site of the now demolished Dickinson Independent School District building near city hall.
Raise your stein: A year after King’s Bierhaus announced it would open a League City restaurant, the Houston-based concept promised a spring opening. But King’s Bierhaus, which is known for German/American cuisines and German and Texas drafts, would encounter delays in building its 828 W. FM 646 venue, changing its opening-day status throughout the year after it decided mid-construction to expand. King’s Bierhaus most recently said it would open in mid-January or early February.
Upping the ante: Texas prohibits most forms of gambling, but that didn’t stop Barry Hailey, Donnie Childress and Cory Ondo from opening Vault Poker Club, 2002 Strand in Galveston.
By keeping the establishment private and membership-based and by not taking the rake, which is the commission fee taken by a card room operating a poker game, Vault Poker Club is able to avoid running afoul of state gaming rules, Hailey said.
Hatching plans: Texas City officials confirmed popular poultry products purveyor Chick-fil-A had submitted a site plan for 3440 Palmer Highway, which meant it would replace Baytown Seafood.
Room service: Crews successfully removed asbestos and cleaned up the former Falstaff Brewery site, 3303 Church St. in Galveston, which cleared the way for a 90-room boutique hotel planned by Friendswood attorney developer Jerome Karam plans to develop there.
Along with the hotel, Karam is developing a climate-controlled storage facility at the Falstaff site and plans an event center on the fifth floor of the storage facility, in what was the former site of the Falstaff Brewery tasting room.
Smokin’ news: Five long months after Hurricane Harvey badly flooded its building, Dickinson Bar-B-Que & Steakhouse, 2111 FM 517, reopened.
Goodbye to Goodwill: Goodwill Houston announced plans to close its Texas City Goodwill Select Store and Donation Center at Palmer Plaza in the 3400 block of Palmer Highway.
Goodwill, which sells pre-owned clothing and merchandise and had been serving Texas City since the 1960s, cited an inability to reach a lease agreement with its landlord.
Home to roost: Island businesswoman Alicia Cahill completed the transformation of a 10,000-square-foot building, 2402 Market St., which she acquired to house her popular store The Kitchen Chick, which sells tools essential to cooks, kitchenware and accessories and offers popular cooking classes.
Mudbug mission: Crews were about a month away from completing a massive crawfish and shrimp processing facility on Dike Road in Texas City.
Jason and Joleen Cogburn, owners of Boyd’s One Stop, known for bait, fresh seafood and crawfish, along with the popular Boyd’s Cajun Grill Express, are behind the 30,000-square-foot facility built to accommodate what has become Texas’ largest crawfish wholesaler. The building is directly behind Boyd’s One Stop, 227 Dike Road.
The Cogburns own 12 acres behind Boyd’s One Stop and plan to build in phases a new bait camp and a restaurant, along with gas pumps and boat storage on the site.
Still on track: Responding to Biz Buzz inquiries, developers of Texas City theme park Adventure Pointe said the project was still on track and they were planning a late-year opening. While there have been signs of progress at the site in Texas City, activity seems to have slowed, leaving readers to wonder.
Dr. Harvey Slusky, the developer, announced the project more than five years ago.
“Development and construction of the park is still underway,” Lisa Slusky said in an email. “We are pushing for a late-year opening.” But Adventure Pointe at the time of this writing seemed no closer to opening.
The park’s main historical reference will be a collection of trains that belonged to Slusky’s father, Louis Slusky, who operated Playland Park in Houston from the late 1940s to 1969, and in Galveston from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.
Bank notes: Icon Bank confirmed it was the prevailing bidder in a foreclosure sale of multiple tracts, lots and property at luxury West End island development Bayside at Waterman’s, which includes the newly renovated Stewart Mansion.
The properties are on 21 acres along the shores of Lake Como near the Galveston Country Club. Bayside at Watermans’ first phase included 11 waterfront town houses, a private deck and swimming pool and 67 covered boat slips. Privately-owned houses weren’t included in the foreclosure.
Medical alert: After months of construction, Hospitality Health ER opened at 4222 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston. The ER venture is the first to open on a former Fort Crockett military housing complex that for years had been home to a group of dilapidated buildings. In late 2016, the company bought 1.9 acres at the complex to build the 24/7 emergency room.
As the Crow flies: Dallas-based development firm Trammell Crow Co.’s negotiations to buy two tracts between 57th and 54th streets north of Broadway for a sizable Galveston retail development negotiations fell through.
Trammell Crow had been negotiating to buy an 11.39-acre parcel between 55th and 57th streets off Broadway from Lowe’s Home Improvement and a nearby 3.8-acre tract at Broadway and 54th Street that had belonged to the county, city officials had confirmed last year.
Trammell Crow at the time declined to comment about its change of plans. But one plausible reason is that Trammell Crow couldn’t secure a large retail tenant it had hoped would anchor the project, said Robert Boemer, director of Galveston County’s legal department.
Retail detail: After months of rumors and much speculation, Houston development firm Edifis Group divulged details about plans for the 98,816-square-foot Palmer Plaza shopping center in the 3400 block of Palmer Highway in Texas City.
Edifis confirmed reports that grocer Aldi, retailer Ross Dress for Less and fast-food eatery Chick-fil-A planned to open in the center. Existing tenant Dollar Tree would move within the shopping center.
Edifis Group acquired Palmer Plaza shopping center in 2016. The center was built in 1987.
Shock to system: Operators of Bay Area Regional Hospital in Webster announced the facility would close, laying off 900 people. Medistar Corp. had invested $200 million in developing the nine-story, 375,000-square-foot acute-care hospital, 200 Blossom St. in Webster. The hospital opened in 2014. In August, the University of Texas Medical Branch announced it had signed a long-term lease for the hospital building.
Lingerie and lattes: In what was a first for the county, Trevor Lohr and business partner Juan Martinez opened Double Cups, a shop at 241 S. Egret Bay Blvd. in League City where baristas serve coffee beverages in bikinis or lacy little numbers. The shop caused much buzz before closing in September after owners said they couldn’t resolve an air-conditioning problem with the landlord.
Land lines: Luxury waterfront community Harborwalk, which in September fended off a foreclosure sale of various parcels and properties, got a new owner and a debt-free future for the first time in its existence after Paul Leviner, the new owner, paid cash.
The acquisition included the restaurant building formerly occupied by Floyd’s on the Water, all marina slips and expansion rights, along with real estate opposite the marina to provide for more parking and future needs. But in October, Leviner closed access to the marina, swimming pool and other amenities, asserting the Flamingo Isles Municipal Utility District refused to dredge the harbor for months.
Smokin’ buzz: La Marque city officials announced Dickey’s Barbecue Pit planned a 2,165-square-foot restaurant in the La Marque Crossing shopping center, at the corner of I-45 and FM 1764.
Coffee coup: La Marque city officials announced Art of Coffee would be the first tenant at 401 Laurel St., a building in the La Marque Renaissance District. Jimmy Sims and Bill Minak also own Art of Coffee in Kemah.
Tex tattle: Texadelphia Bar & Grill, which serves Philadelphia cheesesteaks with a Tex-Mex twist, announced it would open an eatery at 1228 Seawall Blvd. in the site left vacant in December 2016 by Ocean Grille & Beach Bar. Texadelphia has since opened.
Whata-bummer: Texas-based Whataburger confirmed it would not reopen its restaurant at 3300 Interstate 45, after the building housing it was badly damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Room service: Crews began preparing to build a 134-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites in the 3200 block of Seawall Blvd. in Galveston. Island businessman Dennis Byrd is behind the $15 million development, which will include a parking garage. But in August, Byrd had to stop construction of the hotel after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and county officials raised concerns about how the project might affect the Galveston seawall, the miles long barrier that protects part of the island from storm surge. In October, Byrd said the issue was resolved and work had resumed, though the delay cost him $100,000.
Moveable feasts: Texas City residents planning to dine at Lee’s Oriental Buffet, 3501 Palmer Highway, were surprised to find it closed. Before the year ended, Baytown Seafood, previously at 3440 Palmer Highway, moved into the space formerly occupied by Lee’s. Baytown Seafood moved to make way for Chick-fil-A, which is underway.
Meanwhile, owners of Lee’s Oriental Buffet plan a comeback by opening Yum Yum Chow in the building formerly occupied by Ryan’s, a buffet and steak concept that closed its 2310 FM 2004 store in Texas City in February 2016.
Rooftop report: In the first signs of a rise in single-family rentals in the county, crews began work on roughly 150 houses on 40 acres in Saltgrass Crossing Section No. 2 in La Marque. The development, with access at Saltgrass Springs Lane off FM 2004 and Saltgrass Point Boulevard off FM 1765, is unusual because the new houses will be for lease. Houston-based Camillo Properties is behind the development.
Takeout tattle: Island-born billionaire Tilman Fertitta steered his latest acquisition into Galveston — food delivery startup Waitr. The Waitr app lets people order from a Galveston restaurant, then sends a Waitr driver to deliver the food to a house or business for a flat $5 fee.
Martini with a twist: Movement at the Martini Theatre building in the island’s downtown caused a stir. Crews were working the old 990-seat movie theater’s roof and painting the exterior of the building at 21st and Church streets.
Owner Michael Martini was improving the building and planned to also restore the marquee. Crews also were renovating the 2,000-square-foot strip center that’s part of the theater, attracting the interest of restaurateurs, although no deals had been made.
Michael Martini later said he didn’t want to sell the 1937 art deco-style building and was exploring a plan to transform it into a sports museum to honor Texas athletes and also his sister, Anita Martini, a well-known sports broadcaster who died of cancer at age 54 in 1993.
Check-in lane: A year after Hurricane Harvey badly flooded Ziegler’s Foods, 2308 FM 517 in Dickinson, owners said it was their intention to reopen the grocery store.
“We found out the hard way that what we thought we had insurance coverage on becomes a battle to get a settlement on, as I’m sure many others have experienced. We are still trying to settle with the insurance company,” said Pam Tracy, whose family owns Ziegler’s Foods. Ziegler’s Foods has a history in Dickinson dating back to 1974.
Winds of change: Owners of the 130,000-square-foot Tradewinds Shopping Center, on the northeast corner of Palmer Highway and 21st Street in Texas City, confirmed that Harbor Freight Tools wouldn’t be moving into the center. Harbor Freight, which sells hand tools, generators, power tools and more, had been interested, but decided to seek another unspecified site, officials said.
Building buy: Longtime Galveston facility Transitional Learning Center, founded by billionaire Robert L. Moody Sr. and which specializes in post-acute brain injury care, confirmed it acquired a 43,000-square-foot building in Nassau Bay with plans to move. When renovations are complete in about a year, the Transitional Learning Center will move its corporate office, residential program and about 100 employees from its island facility to the 1275 Space Park Drive building.
When that occurs, the 48,000-square-foot building at 1528 Postoffice St., which has housed the Transitional Learning Center since 1982, will go on the market.
But TideWay, a program of the Transitional Learning Center at 6444 Central City Blvd. on the island, will continue to operate in Galveston, officials said.
Little Birdie told me: La Marque officials announced Birdies Eatery, which owners Robert and Tina Steinhaus describe as an American fusion, golf-themed restaurant and hangout, would this winter join the tenant lineup at downtown Renaissance District building, 401 Laurel St. The owners bill the restaurant as eco-friendly with a mission to buy from local vendors and to serve farm-to-table food.
Wholesale truth: In a retail event area shoppers had long awaited, Costco Wholesale opened, marking the biggest retail project in Webster’s history. Costco, which sells everything from food to furniture, opened its 157,000-square-foot store at 1310 Jasmine Ave., on the northwest corner of Interstate 45 and West Jasmine Avenue, just south of Baybrook Mall.
Crystal clear: Developers made a big splash by announcing plans for a 70-acre mixed-use entertainment destination planned for Lago Mar, including a 12-acre crystal clear lagoon that would be the largest of its kind in Texas City. The development, scheduled for completion in 2020, will offer private areas for residents and also public access, with several beaches planned, along with condominiums and townhomes.
The development also will include the The Breezeway Boardwalk on the public side, which could feature as many as 30 restaurants and entertainment destinations.
Title tattle: After 15 years and much legal work, title to the Gerland’s Food Fair building, 2402 45th St. in Galveston, was cleared, reported Michael Martini, one of the owners. That’s no small feat considering sale of the property, which many neighbors and city officials consider an eyesore, has long been hindered by ownership disputes. At one point, 23 people claimed ownership. That number was whittled down to three, Martini said.
Shop talk: Hundreds of shoppers descended on Aldi for the grocery store’s opening in Palmer Plaza, 3442 Palmer Highway in Texas City. Aldi, which operates a store in Kemah, bills itself as offering a more streamlined, simple approach to shopping with a few select national brands and its own private label.
Ready for takeoff: Enterprising island brothers Billy, John and Todd Sullivan acquired the 100,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by the Lone Star Flight Museum, 2002 Terminal Drive in Galveston.
The brothers, through their company 6702 Broadway Ltd., acquired the building from the Lone Star Flight Museum, which in 2017 closed its island museum to open one at Ellington Airport in Houston.
While 6702 Broadway Ltd. acquired the building, it’s leasing the land under it from Scholes International Airport. Airport land, which belongs to the city, is available for long-term lease, not for sale. The Sullivans took over the museum’s remaining lease term of 31 years with a monthly lease payment of $1,468.78, city officials said.