Change of address: The name of the game last week for Hurricane Harvey-flooded businesses was to get back up and running as quickly as possible, boosting commercial leasing activity as many sought new retail and office space.
Among those businesses was the popular Kim’s Performing Arts Center, 3503 Interstate 45 in Dickinson, which was severely flooded. But owners Kimberly Hennigan and daughter Kaylee didn’t miss a beat. Last week, they signed a lease for 7,500 square feet on the west side of the former Macy’s building at Mall of the Mainland, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City. The Hennigans have been teaching dance and gymnastics for 10 years. On Monday, they plan to have some classes and will build up as they get equipment, they said. The Hennigans, who take students ages 3 and up, are hoping to offer some normalcy.
“We want kids back into normal routines,” Kimberly Hennigan said. “It makes them happier dancing without having to see all the sadness.”
Friendswood attorney and developer Jerome Karam, who has redeveloped the mall, on Thursday said he was fielding a lot of calls for space there as people whose businesses were flooded sought new commercial space.
“The phones are ringing off the hook,” Karam said.
Bulldozer buzz: Meanwhile, readers were buzzing last week about a bulldozer at the site of the former Falstaff Brewery, 3303 Market St., in Galveston. Karam also is behind redevelopment of the Falstaff site and crews are preparing it for several projects, including a climate-controlled storage facility, which will be built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. That facility will rise in the six-story building at the Falstaff site.
Karam, as previously buzzed, plans to develop a 90-room boutique hotel in the 11-story building at the site.
And last year, Premier Parking agreed to buy 100,000 square feet of the property for cruise-ship passenger parking. The boutique hotel would cater to cruise-ship passengers, Karam has said.
The Falstaff Brewery building, constructed in 1905, changed hands several times before the brewery closed in 1981.
Karam acquired the dilapidated 313,000-square-foot brewery in June 2015.
Inn again: Meanwhile, hospitality activity continues its hot streak on the island. For starters, the Mermaid & Dolphin Inn, 1103 33rd St., has a new owner. An Austin group plans to renovate the property and return it to use as a bed-and-breakfast.
Late last year, the Galveston City Council rejected plans for a substance abuse rehabilitation facility to open at the Mermaid & Dolphin, which is in a residential neighborhood.
V.J. Tramonte of Joe Tramonte Realty had the listing. Hudson Holmes of the same agency represented the buyers.
Resort report: A California group has acquired Casper’s Resort, 1002 11th St., in Galveston. The property includes eight units. Word has it the new owners, who plan to use the property for short- and long-term rentals, already has gotten a lot of interest from Harvey flood victims needing temporary places to stay while they rebuild. Hudson Holmes of Joe Tramonte Realty represented the sellers. A Houston agent represented the buyer.
Coming soon: What’s the status of historic island property The Victorian Inn Bed & Breakfast, 511 17th St.? Find out next week in Biz Buzz.
Byrd watching: Island businessman Dennis Byrd is going bigger with his planned hotel in the 3200 block of Seawall Blvd. Originally, he had planned 106 rooms for the proposed Holiday Inn Express, but has increased the number to 134. He’s working to secure permits for the $15 million development, which also will include a parking garage.
The Holiday Inn Express will mark Byrd’s second hotel. In February 2014, he and equity partners bought the former Galveston Beach Hotel on Seawall Boulevard, renovated it and reopened it in 2015 as a DoubleTree by Hilton. Byrd also owns restaurant The Spot and other venues at 3204 Seawall Blvd. The island didn’t sustain the flood damage that mainland cities did during Harvey, and Galveston businesses are working to get out the message they’re up and running.
Byrd was one of the first to build after Hurricane Ike in 2008, when he added a nightclub at his entertainment complex.
“It is what’s most important,” Byrd said. “We can lead with compassion, and we’re compassionate about our neighboring communities. We want our community back open for business and it is. And we’ll do everything we can to assist our sister communities as part of the recovery process.”
Room service: An unconfirmed but intriguing rumor is making the rounds that the new owners of the former Texas A&M University Fort Crockett campus on the island plans to develop a boutique hotel at the site.
The building, 5005 Ave. U, went on the market in 2015, the same year the Galveston Economic Development Partnership left for new downtown offices. New owners acquired it earlier this year. The 59,000-square-foot building is on 3 acres. Stay tuned.
What’s that? Inquiring readers want to know about that development rising at 6608 Interstate 45 in La Marque, next to Panda Express. City officials report it’s for a 15,056-square-foot strip center. Capital Retail Properties is the developer. Officials with that firm did not immediately respond to Buzz inquiries. Stay tuned.
Hot dish: In big dining news for the island, Chef Luigi Ferré has joined Galveston Restaurant Group. Ferré owned the former Luigi’s Ristorante Italiano on The Strand. He closed that restaurant in 2013 — much to the sadness of locals — to open a Houston restaurant. Galveston Restaurant Group has named Ferré executive chef of Nonno Tony’s Seafood Kitchen on Pier 21.
“Luigi was ready to return to the island and we were more than happy for him to join Galveston Restaurant Group, and Nonno Tony’s offered the perfect opportunity,” said Danny Hart, chief of operations for the Galveston Restaurant Group.
Created by Johnny Smecca, Joey Smecca and Hart, Galveston Restaurant Group opened its first restaurant, Saltwater Grill, in 1998 in the island’s downtown. Along with Nonno Tony’s and Saltwater Grill, the group owns The Gumbo Diner, Papa’s Pizza, Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant, Sky Bar Steak & Sushi and Taquilo’s Tex-Mex Cantina, which have all made post-Harvey returns.