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Year busy for businesses in Bay Area

December 20, 2018

The Bay Area’s growing population and favorable customer demographics led to major business developments in 2018 and plans for others..

Among new businesses was a Costco that opened in Webster, causing a ripple effect among area businesses even before it opened. Also drawing widespread interest was University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s 15-year lease to take control of a Webster hospital that abruptly closed in May due to financial concerns.

A longtime focus on establishing the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport took steps forward, with Houston’s City Council approving more than $18.8 million to develop infrastructure for the project to attract aerospace companies that can invent, develop and manufacture space technologies.

Costco in Webster

A city of Webster official has predicted that a Costco that opened in October at 1310 Jasmine in Webster near Interstate 45 will draw about 1 million retail shoppers annually.

The 150,000-square-foot store on the southbound side of Interstate 45 is the ninth store by the company to come to the Houston area.

“This is one of the biggest retail projects in our city’s history,” Betsy Giusto, the city of Webster’s economic development director, proclaimed before the store opened.

“The store will be the region’s go-to destination for just about anything residents and businesses need and want,” Giusto said in making her prediction for 1 million shoppers to the location each year.

She said shoppers would travel to Webster from many area communities, including Galveston, downtown Houston, Alvin, Friendswood, Pasadena and Texas City.

In a ripple effect, Walmart and H-E-B on FM 646 did renovations expansive enough to warrant ribbon-cutting events.

“As they say, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’” said Steve Paterson, president and CEO of the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce.

UTMB hospital planned

UTMB Clear Lake Campus Hospital conducted job fairs in November to staff its new campus on the site of the former Bay Area Regional Medical Center, a 191-bed hospital in Webster that suddenly closed in May, causing 900 employees to lose their jobs. The UTMB hospital is expected to open in the spring.

At a series of job fairs, UTMB sought to recruit staff members including former Bay Area Regional Medical Center workers and new nursing graduates.

The hospital system expects to pay an estimated $210 million over the course of the lease for the hospital.

UTMB negotiated the lease directly with Carter Validus Mission Critical, a Florida-based real estate investment management company that in 2014 acquired a 60 percent interest in Bay Area Regional Medical Center and will continue to own the building.

The Bay Area Regional Medical Center hospital closed May 4 after opening four years earlier and spending $200 million in construction and operation. CEO Stephen K. Jones Jr. told employees in an email provided to the Houston Chronicle that the company “was not able to overcome significant hurdles with managed-care companies.”

Former employees of Bay Area Regional Medical Center have a class action lawsuit pending against the former hospital.

Spaceport plans

Houston City Council in October approved more than $18.8 million for the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport to begin developing streets, water, wastewater, electrical power distribution facilities and other infrastructure for a facility that

The work will set the stage to attract aerospace companies that can invent, develop and manufacture space technologies.

Clear Lake-based Intuitive Machines so far is the only business to open a location at the spaceport’s Houston Aerospace Support Center.

After the Houston Spaceport narrowly lost out in 2017 to Huntsville, Ala. on landing a rocket engine manufacturing facility, the Spaceport entered talks with San Jacinto College to open a location to create a pipeline of talent for future companies.

City Council will consider adding a proposed Ellington Bypass near the airport the city’s transportation plan. Proponents of the project such as District E City Councilman Dave Martin believe it would improve access to the future spaceport and that its inclusion in the transportation plan would thwart potential development of a facility for oil storage tanks.

The proposed road would extend from Texas 3 to Interstate 45 and be north of FM 2351.

Marketplace at Ninety-Six

League City Mayor Pat Hallisey is touting plans for the Marketplace at Ninety-Six, a $40 million 38-acre retail project under construction that will include office buildings, a 14,820-square foot pharmacy, 63,626 square feet of retail development and 66,000 square feet of business offices. The planned anchor for the NewQuest properties development will be a 123,000-square foot Kroger store.

“I’m excited to have four years to try to get this almost to fruition, so that people of this community can reap the benefits of it,” he said.

“We are currently leasing and building Phase 2, which is the land south of League City Parkway,” NewQuest spokeswoman Rebecca Le said.

The build out will include more than 208,000 square feet of space to be leased to retailers and as offices.

Already signed are Dollar Tree, Ace Hardware and Banfield Pet Hospital, Le said.

“This center is centered around existing residential communities and we are able to provide their daily needs without residents needing to get on Interstate 45,” she said.

The estimated completion date for the second phase is the first quarter of 2020.

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