Prime time: A luxury waterfront development similar to such celebrated Florida beach communities as Seaside and WaterColor, is planned for prime West End land on the island.
Bayside at Waterman’s, on Stewart Road near Lake Como, will include 10 or 11 townhome-style units along the south side of Lake Como west of Waterman Restaurant, and priced from $1.2 million. The development also would include a larger subdivision of 120 to 140 lots for single-family homes, if all goes as planned. Todd Edwards is the owner/managing partner of this project, which will be designed to encompass tenets of “New Urbanism,” an architectural movement, which, among other things, creates livable, walkable communities in a traditional town design.
The development has been long in the making. In April 2008, Stonehenge Real Estate Investment Co., of which Edwards is a principal, acquired two parcels — 10 acres comprising the Stewart Mansion site and 16 acres of the Mary Moody Northen Amphitheater site, both adjacent to Galveston Island State Park.
Land swap: But between the two parcels was a 5-acre tract owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Stewart parcel had greenbelt easements that would have restricted building on four of the 10 acres. The amphitheater site also had restrictions, including that there be no development on the property unless it was open to the public a minimum of four days a year. Because of the restrictions, Stonehenge owned 26 acres that weren’t contiguousand only six that were developable.
But after two years of negotiating, the developers completed a land swap with the parks and wildlife department. The state received 11 acres from the amphitheater site and Stonehenge received five acres the state previously used for a maintenance facility. The developers also paid a substantial development fee and the four-acre green space restriction and four public access days requirement were lifted. The result was a project of 21 contiguous acres bordering Galveston Bay that could be developed without restrictions. Developers consider it to be the highest quality land adjacent to Galveston Bay on the West End.
Improved market: Aside from coordinating a complicated land swap, the developers had to weather the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, which struck in September 2008 and coincided with the beginnings of a deep and lingering recession. But the market is much improved, and people again are in the market for primary and vacation homes. Amenities at Bayside at Waterman’s will include concierge services, a state-of-the-art marina, a private resort pool, and, of course, waterfront views. The next hurdle for the developer is the creation of a Public Improvement District, which is a taxing entity that can finance, construct and maintain public improvements. Such districts have the authority to issue debt and to impose a levy against real and personal property within the district. The city council must approve the creation of such a district. No city money would be required and the city has no direct, indirect, moral or financial obligation. The district would finance the public improvements of the 120 to 140 homes planned for the development. The 10 or 11 townhome style units don’t hinge on the city’s approval of the district and would be built regardless, Edwards said. But development of the larger subdivision is affected by city council approval.
Mansion question: Meanwhile, the question that begs to be answered is whether the 87-year-old Stewart Mansion can be saved?
Edwards said he’d like to incorporate as much of the building as possible into the Bayside at Waterman’s development.
But whether that’s possible remains to be seen, Edwards and Michael Gaertner, the project’s architect, said. The old property, which already was weathered by the elements, was hit hard by Hurricane Ike.
George Sealy Jr. commissioned the mansion in 1926, according to the Galveston Historical Foundation. The word “mansion” is misnomer, Gaertner said. It was more of a camp house where the Stewart family wanted to spend time on the West End, Gaertner said. The property might seem by first impression large and imposing, but it doesn’t have rooms of great sizes, Gaertner said.
Calling it a mansion is a stretch, Gaertner said. The Sealy family was one of the island’s dynastic clans, powerful in business and politics. In 1944, Maco Stewart, founder of what would become Stewart Title Co., acquired the property.
The Stewart family later gave the property to the University of Texas Medical Branch, which in the late 1960s sold it to oilman and developer George Mitchell. Eventually Dick Gould and Ron Moore acquired the property. Gould and Moore had planned to develop the property as The Inn at Stewart Mansion, but instead, sold the property to Stonehenge.
“They want to save as much of it as they can and integrate it into community facilities, but at this point, I’m not really sure it can be saved,” Gaertner said.
In some places, the roof, walls and windows are gone and all that’s left is a very thin cement plaster, Gaertner said. Some members of the Stewart family are interred on the property, and the developers are considering building a small pavilion or chapel-like structure at the grave sites, Gaertner said. Stay tuned.
Are you lying down? A new mattress/furniture retailer has opened shop in Texas City. MattressLand & Furniture has opened at 2312 Palmer Highway, in a building formerly occupied by Goodwill Industries. The shop carries all types of furniture and mattresses, including Serta and Tempur-Pedic brands. Justin Yeager and Deano Merrigan own the store. Yeager and associates also are behind MattressLand Clearance Center, which opened earlier this year in La Marque at 6402 Interstate 45, in the strip center sharing a parking lot with Walmart/Sam’s Club.
Laura Elder is a reporter for The Daily News. Biz Buzz appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email your tips and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.