Suite spot: After more than a year of renovations, Ami and Georgia Meyer Barzilay have transformed a long-vacant hotel space into nine boutique office suites in a venture called Urban Works, 601 Ninth Ave. N. in Texas City.

The transformation of the former hotel space is complete, save for a few minor touches, and it opens at a time when more companies and employees are rethinking office space in the age of pandemic.

Many companies are realizing working from home can be a temporary solution but isn’t sustainable when it comes to productivity, meeting clients and building business credibility and stability, according to commercial real estate trackers.

Also, some employees might not have room to work from home or find too many distractions there, Georgia Barzilay said.

Such office suites, with Wi-Fi and turnkey packaging, are ideal for people traveling to Texas City for plant or refinery business and needing an office from which to work, she said.

Already, Mainland Insurance has leased one of the nine available office suites in Urban Works, which also offers a communal lobby. Tenants can lease the suites furnished or unfurnished, the Barzilays said.

The offices are in what was originally the Harper Hotel, which was on the upper floor of the 1913 structure formerly known as the Livingston & Ellis Building.

Ami Barzilay oversaw renovations of the hotel space on the second floor of the building, which had been vacant for more than 50 years. The exposed brick is original to the building, as are the wood floors.

Georgia Barzilay, a key player in the transformation of Texas City’s revitalized 6th Street, acquired the building in 2014 where she redeveloped commercial space and moved the popular Karat Creations Jewelry, which she co-owns with Bonnie Baty, while also opening home décor and furnishings shop Urban Gypsies on 6th, along with Salons on Sixth there.

Other tenants include Campeche Coffee Etc, Friendly Loan Service and Better Variety Medical.

Urban Works office suites are ready for lease. The Barzilays also are developing condominiums on the top floor of the building. Stay tuned.

Talk of the block: One of the island’s most notable historic commercial buildings has new owners. Ali and Yasmin Udawala have acquired the Mensing Building, 2120 Strand in Galveston’s historic downtown.

The acquisition adds to the Udawalas’ downtown building portfolio, making them owners of the entire 2100 block of Strand. The 1882 building originally housed The Mensing Brothers and Co. Gustave and William Mensing moved to Galveston in 1868 and formed a firm of cotton factors in 1873.

“One of the large upstairs rooms was used for a cotton sample room, where cotton factors displayed their samples, and the season’s crops were auctioned off. The structure is stuccoed to resemble stone, and the lower floor is treated as an arcade with round arches springing from brick piers. Originally, it was topped by a large pediment, and urns decorated the cornice,” according to

Today the building is home to retailers, including bar Lapalapa, gift shop Pelican Island, convenience store Strand Refreshments and boutique Texas Cowgirl. The building also features apartments on the top floor. The Udawalas acquired the building from BFRE Mensing LLC and will honor the existing leases, Yasmin Udawala said.

Karen Flowers and David Bridgwater of Joe Tramonte Realty represented the seller.

Eric Tucker of Joe Tramonte Realty represented Joya Hospitality LLC, of which the Udawalas are principals.

Deep dish: Inquiring readers are hungry for news about the opening of MOD Super Fast Pizza, 3402 Palmer Highway in Texas City. The Bellevue, Washington-based artisan-style pizza chain is planning a spring opening, possibly in late March, but it was too early for a precise date, spokeswoman Charlotte Wayte said.

The fast-casual chain earlier this month applied with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for a wine and beer retailer’s permit for the eatery, which will employ about 25 people, Wayte said. The chain, founded in Seattle in 2008, has 490 locations systemwide and is known for pizza and salads with any combination of more than 30 toppings. The company also has been named America’s fastest-growing chain restaurant by Technomic for four years running. Stay tuned.

Tabloid tattle: Island-born billionaire and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta found himself in tabloid territory this week for his support of President Donald Trump., mostly known for gossipy celebrity and entertainment news, reported this:

James Harden and many others in the Rockets’ org. all want OUT of Houston ... and it’s all reportedly because the team’s owner is a big Donald Trump supporter.

“NBA insider Ric Bucher dropped the bombshell revelation on ‘The Odd Couple’ podcast this week ... saying Tilman Fertitta’s ties to the Republican party and Trump have created a massive divide in the org.

“According to Bucher ... players and staffers have disagreed so heavily with Tilman’s donations to the Trump campaign — it’s created a straight-up ‘revolt.’”

Landry’s officials defended Fertitta’s support of Trump, mainly by pointing out that the sole owner and CEO of Fertitta Entertainment, Inc., which owns the restaurant giant Landry’s Inc., the Houston Rockets, and the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos, often crosses the aisles in his financial political support.

“Throughout his business career, Tilman Fertitta has supported many individuals in public service,” a Landry’s spokesperson said in a statement. “He has hosted numerous fundraisers for President Bill Clinton and hosted President George W. Bush in his home. Last year, he hosted a fundraiser for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee as well as supported his longtime friend, Mark Kelly, now U.S. senator-elect of Arizona. He also contributed to President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign. As a respected business leader recognized across the country, Fertitta supports many Democrats, as well as Republicans.”

Fertitta, longtime friend of the president, contributed more than $70,000 to Trump since 2019, according to Business Insider.

Some unnamed sources say Fertitta and other business owners like Trump’s “business-friendly” economic policies, including the overhaul of the tax code that passed in 2017.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248;

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Emilio Nicolas

Fertitta's donations are obviously non-partisan. One could argue he is supporting his business interests, but in supporting certain candidates, one could also argue he is promoting public interests as well. I wish he had not supported Trump, but then, it's none of my business.

Welcome to the discussion.

Real Names required. No pseudonyms or partial names allowed. Stand behind what you post.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.