New restaurants planned for Texas City, developer acquires downtown Galveston building
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By LAURA ELDER The Daily News

Smoke signals: Is this a chain in the making? Owners of Texas Pit Stop BBQ have agreed to open a restaurant in Mainland City Centre, formerly known as Mall of the Mainland, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City.

The Mainland City Centre site would make three for the Garza family, which owns Texas Pit Stop BBQ, 2216 Interstate 45 in La Marque, and another at 6612 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston. Those restaurants are known for serving competition-worthy barbecue. Owner Arnold Garza was the head cook of the cook-off team known as Los Vaqueros, which won many trophies and awards for barbecue.

Garza and family are still deciding whether to call their third restaurant Texas Pit Stop BBQ or something different to better reflect a menu that, along with all the popular barbecue items, would include such homestyle fare as smoked meatloaf, chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, fried catfish, chicken-fried steak, fried pork chops and more, he said.

Jerome Karam, owner of Mainland City Centre, plans to have the buildout for the restaurant ready by October. But there’s much work to do, said Garza, who has been in talks with Karam for a year about the restaurant. Garza at first worried the restaurant would be too near Texas Pit Stop in La Marque but said he was won over after learning of the plans for Mainland City Centre, where Karam is adding large entertainment and recreational attractions, including Aerodium Indoor Skydiving, along with a 65,000-square-foot race track with overpasses and underpasses.

Karam has revamped the 600,000-square-foot property he owns — Sears still owns its former building — with a mix of retail and recreational tenants that include Palais Royal, World Gym and Altitude Trampoline Park, to name a few, and is planning a massive exterior upgrade that would include water fountains, splash pads and other water elements.

Karam intends to take advantage of the outdoors and the sizable parking lot to have more events, including outdoor concerts, crawfish boils, holiday events and more, he said. Garza’s restaurant would feature outdoor seating where patrons can watch the outdoor activities.

Karam plans to negotiate leases with four other restaurants to join Garza’s concept in what would be an official food court, he said. More restaurant announcements will be forthcoming, Karam said. Karam is working to attract an Italian/pizzeria concept, Cajun and a breakfast concept to the center, based on feedback from Texas City residents, he said. The food court buildout should go quickly, said Karam, who earlier this year bought out his partner and became the sole owner of the mall and is working to redefine and rebrand the property to a lifestyle center and family entertainment destination.

“We’re not dragging our feet,” Karam said. “We’re building them out this year.”

Cruise news: Meanwhile, JMK5 Cruise Ship Parking, a company owned by the ever-busy Karam, has opened a 632-space surface lot for cruise passenger parking at 33rd and Church streets in Galveston. The parking lot is at the Falstaff Brewery building Karam has converted to a storage facility and also a rooftop event venue Events @ The Tasting Room. It’s also where Karam is planning a hotel development.

The parking venture represents the largest surface lot by a single private owner — his private competitors have several partners — and he also competes with the publicly owned Port of Galveston, which operates roughly 4,000 cruise passenger parking spaces. Karam is capitalizing on the dramatic growth of the island’s cruise industry, he said. The island is home to the top cruise ports in North America. The island port hit a millionth-cruise-passenger milestone last year.

In 2019, the port and Royal Caribbean signed an agreement for the cruise line to invest $100 million in a third cruise terminal at Pier 10. Construction will begin this year.

SP+ will manage the parking lot, which also will serve as valet parking for the event center and planned hotel, Karam said.

Roadkill? Readers are wondering what happened to Capital One and the Chevron station, both previously operating at the southwest intersection of FM 646 and Interstate 45 in League City. Some locals are speculating that I-45 construction or the prospect of a Grand Parkway alignment — or both — were behind the closures. Representatives from both companies couldn’t be reached for comment.

All the I-45 roadwork made access a little awkward but not impossible for Chevron, which closed months ago at 1809 W. FM 646. But access to Capital One, 1815 W. FM 646, wasn’t hindered as much by it the construction. Still, it’s likely the Grand Parkway would have greatly affected both businesses, League City officials say.

The Texas Department of Transportation hasn’t determined whether that site would be part of the Grand Parkway alignment but it’s definitely in the realm of possibility, said spokesman Danny Perez.

The Grand Parkway, or state Highway 99, is an unfinished loop around the greater Houston area under construction since 1994. Segment B of the project calls for a highway stretching from Interstate 45 at state Highway 646 to state Highway 35 in Alvin, officials said. The department intends to expand Grand Parkway through Galveston County.

Bank withdrawal: Meanwhile, Capital One, which still has a League City branch at 231 S. FM 270, has aggressively been closing branches and gathering the bulk of new deposits online, according to an analysis by Sandler O’Neill & Partners.

The McLean, Virginia-based Capital One, with roughly $373 billion of assets, has shuttered more than half of its branches over the past decade, including nearly 50 in the second quarter last year alone, according to the analysis. It now has fewer than 500 branches in eight states and the District of Columbia.

Done deal: After weeks of rumors, a developer has finalized the acquisition of the former JSC Federal Credit Union building, 2121 Market St. in the island’s downtown.

The credit union sold the 16,810-square-foot banking facility and office building to Dualmont LLC. Bob Gulley of Moody Rambin represented the seller. Kelli McClure of Berkshire Hathaway represented Dualmont, of which her husband, Jimmy McClure is a principal.

The McClures own fishing pier and restaurant Jimmy’s on the Pier, 9001 Seawall Blvd. and have acquired and restored other downtown island buildings for commercial use. They haven’t returned repeated phone calls about the credit union building. Rumors have it they plan to demolish it and building condominiums on the site. Stay tuned.

Mailbag: An inquiring reader asked: What is all the construction going on that is next to the Kiddie Academy at 2010 E. League City Parkway?

Answer: Not much has changed since Biz Buzz last posed this question to League City officials in August. City officials say there’s nothing immediately planned, although property owners have secured a permit for access for future development, said David Hoover, director of planning and development for League City. The site is zoned commercial, but owners haven’t yet sought permits for a specific development. Stay tuned.

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