By CONNOR BEHRENS The Daily News
Texas City commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved rezoning a site that would allow a developer to transform the vacant J.C. Penney building on the Mall of the Mainland property into an indoor mini-warehouse storage facility.
The development will rid Texas City of another vacant building and would represent another evolution of a property that had years before begun to struggle. The storage development also will include a business center offering such services as printing and photocopies.
Friendswood attorney and developer Jerome Karam plans to convert about 76,000 square feet of the 84,000-square-foot J.C. Penney shell at Mall of the Mainland, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, into climate-controlled storage. Printing and photocopy services also will be available at the development, Karam said.
Karam brought the storage project to city commissioners more than a year ago, but the project stalled and his permission lapsed. Rezoning the project allows Karam to extend the existing building out into the parking lot.
Karam, who bought the 451,000-square-foot mall in March 2015, envisioned part of the property being used as storage facility when he was working with business partner Robin Parsley. But Karam and Parsley are no longer business partners in the venture, and Karam will develop the storage facilities on his own.
With nancing of the storage development secured, renovations of the J.C. Penney building will advance, Karam said.
Hurricane Harvey flooding damaged several storage facilities in the county, creating a demand, Karam said.
“With us doing this deal, this will further demonstrate the need and the
marketability of this mall and the repurposing of this mall,” he said. “It further proves that this mall is desirable, and it should give other retailers encouragement.”
Texas City Commissioner Bruce Clawson said the development was good for the mall, which until Karam acquired it, was troubled.
“It really does repurpose an existing building,” he said. “This gentleman has done well with the mall. I am actually delighted it’s not some closed building that looks awful. He seems to have found a way to repurpose all those buildings.”
Karam deserves credit for what he has done to the previously dilapidated Mall of the Mainland site, Mayor Matt Doyle said.
“He continues to try and improve on it,” he said. “I think he has done a ne job.”
The city could use another storage facility, Doyle said.
“People spend a lot of money storing stuff,” he said. “I will tell you, those things amaze me.”
In 2014, Mall of the Mainland closed after a 23-year run. Coastline Retail Center Inc., which gained control of the mall through foreclosure and related litigation, closed the interior common areas of the shopping center, which had struggled for years to attract staple stores and shoppers.
The closure, however, did not affect Sears, which owns its own building, Palais Royal or Cinemark. Leases for other stores were terminated.
In an initiative that filled another vacant department store, Karam has redeveloped the former Macy’s space to include Palais Royal, a 42,000-square-foot World Gym and the 15,000-square-foot Tuscany Village Salon, to name a few. He’s developed executive suits and a trampoline park at the mall, among other additions.
J.C. Penney left the mall in 2006 to operate at Baybrook Mall.