Baytown to have a new mall development at Garth Road and Interstate 10 has finally reached its end.
Council approved a new 380 economic development agreement with Fidelis Realty Partners at its Thursday meeting, paving the way for the San Jacinto Marketplace to come to fruition finally.
Alan Hassenflu, Fidelis Realty Partners president and CEO, spoke to council about the new agreement for the first time since he came in October when council met the then-proposed plan with some reservations.
“What a difference about 10 months makes,” Hassenflu said. “We intended to bring a great project to the city of Baytown. That is our goal.”
Hassenflu said Fidelis now owns all 105 acres of the property, where the old San Jacinto Mall once stood.
“We have now owned it, as of last month, seven years,” Hassenflu said. “We started out by purchasing roughly 50 acres of the project and, over a period of time, about six or so years, we purchased another 55 acres. Today, we own 105 acres and include all the tracts. We do not have to get anyone’s approval anymore, and we own all of the land.”
Hassenflu said the plan was to turn the property back into the area’s “premier shopping experience.”
“This is where the community can congregate to enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment at this inviting, spacious and aesthetically pleasing mixed-use destination including 450,000 square-feet shopping center,” Hassenflu said.
Hassenflu added the size might increase if they are able to sign up more retail merchants. The new marketplace will include dining and entertainment, indoor and outdoor eateries, personal and service uses, and a spacious community plaza called Pelican Green.
Hassenflu said Pelican Green will be a “great spot to pull up a chair or lay down a blanket to watch the kids play or simply sit back and enjoy each other’s company.”
Some potential ideas for Pelican Green include outdoor seating, a children’s play area, movie night, live entertainment, and yoga or exercise classes.
Hassenflu said he hopes the new mall area will become the gathering place for the city.
One part of the new agreement entailed Fidelis returning $3.25 million to the city. This was part of a clawback provision in the initial contract that said the developer would owe the city the money if a mall had not been developed by September 2020. Fidelis would also have been required to build a 1.2 million-square-foot indoor mall or 750,000 square feet of new retail space.
David Isaac, who has spoken out about the mall project in the past, said he mentioned the $3.25 million in the past.
“I asked about that repeatedly over months,” Isaac said. “It did come to my understanding from administration part of that claw back agreement was tied to another clause by default for us to build an indoor mall.”
Isaac thanked council for agreeing to receive the funds back and for keeping the taxpayer in mind.
Councilman Chris Presley spoke on the return of the $3.25 million.
“The developer returned $3.25 million of previous incentive dollars and the new agreement is structured so that the city is not obligated to pay any further incentive dollars until the project is completed and qualifying retailers and restaurants are open for business there,” Presley said. “I commend my colleagues on council for remaining steadfast with their insistence on a better deal. I also certainly appreciate Fidelis’ willingness to work with us and wish them much success in bringing more shopping and dining options to Baytown.”
Councilman Mike Lester said during his tenure, the mall subject has come up frequently.
“This has a been a top subject,” he said. “A lot of that drag out was not on (Fidelis’) shoulders. It was a complicated process and they pushed through that. I was a naysayer at first, but I am a convert. Fidelis stuck to their guns and brought to us a quality product. I think it will be a good product for the city.”
Councilman Charles Johnson, who had some misgivings last October about Fidelis delivering a new mall, said he had a change of heart.
“I sat up here about a year ago and said I did not have any faith in Fidelis to bring us what we were asking and what our citizens were seeking,” Johnson said. “I am going to say tonight – I have complete confidence in you. We took a lot of bites at this apple and the only thing we have left were the seeds. But with those seeds, we are going to get a place for our citizens to go and enjoy themselves.”
Hassenflu said the remaining portions of the mall will be demolished this year and that asbestos abatement is already taking place.
“It will be totally down this year. And the infrastructure for the subsurface and the surface infrastructure will commence next year with the goal of opening in Christmas 2024,” he said.
Mayor Brandon Capetillo said for him, this has been a 17-year journey.
“I went to the previous owner and nothing was happening in the mall,” Capetillo said. “We worked through that. Seven years ago, when Fidelis was able to take ownership of what was there, there were a lot of challenges beyond their control. But, here we are today.”
Glenn Airola, Fidelis co-president and COO, said between now and the end of the year, they will demolish the remaining structures of the old mall.
“That will take about four months of demo work,” Airola said. “There is some abatement work that has to be done and that will get underway in the next couple of days.”
Airola said this should be complete by late November or mid-December.
Airola added that as far as any residential developments at the mall site, nothing has been worked on that at this point.
“We are listening to the city and see what they want out there,” he said.
Airola was gracious to the city and the citizens for putting up with the delays for the new mall.
“We express our appreciation to City of Baytown and not just city council, but the citizens of Baytown, who we know are very enthusiastic about this project,” Airola said. “I thank everyone for their patience as we reach this point and we go through the ultimate development of the center.”
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