Biggest business stories of 2015

December 31, 2015

g agreement to operate Altitude Trampoline Park, a 45,000-square-foot venue underway at the mall.

April: Construction crews began turning dirt at the site where hunting, fishing and camping gear retailer Cabela’s will rise. Sidney, Neb.-based Cabela’s Inc. plans a 72,000-square-foot store and archery range at the Interstate 45 and Big League Dreams Parkway site. Officials had hoped for a fall opening but earlier this year pushed the date to March 2016.

April: Crews broke ground on an $11 million dollar vehicle processing center at Pier 10 in Galveston that promises to funnel thousands of new BMWs through the island port and potentially attract the attention of other automakers who might do business there.

The processing center is a public-private partnership between the Port of Galveston and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, which specializes in automotive shipping. Wallenius will sublet the facility from the port.

May: Crews officially began construction of a $10 million showroom and repair facility that will drive McRee Ford from an unincorporated part of the county into the Dickinson city limits.

The 85,000-square-foot development — next to the existing McRee Ford, 2800 I-45 — will include a showroom and repair facility under one roof.

June: New car sales in the region zoomed to their highest for any June on record.

Houston region auto dealers, which include those in Galveston County, posted retail sales of 30,393 vehicles in June, compared with 27,574 the year before, a 10.2 percent rise, according to the Houston Automobile Dealers Association. Total sales in June, which include retail sales to individual consumers and fleet sales to companies and governments, rose 3.9 percent to 34,424, the association reported. The June numbers helped to steer second quarter sales — retail and fleet — to 103,231, a 3.8 percent increase compared with last year and the best since 2001, the association said.

June: Friendswood developer and attorney Jerome Karam made news again, this time adding the island’s Falstaff Brewery, 3303 Church St., to his growing portfolio.

Acquisition of the long-vacant brewery brought redevelopment of the blighted site closer to reality and is a hopeful sign the area north of Broadway might see a revival, as some islanders have long hoped.

Karam plans to eventually develop a boutique hotel, student condominiums and commercial spaces at the site. But the immediate plan is to develop lots for cruise-ship passengers to park their cars.

July: After months of intrigue, island-born billionaire Tilman Fertitta unveiled The Villas at The San Luis Resort — five suites at the San Luis Resort, 5222 Seawall Blvd. on the island. While not the largest of his Galveston developments, The Villas at The San Luis Resort marks Fertitta’s most luxurious for the seaport city. The suites, 800 square feet each, are aimed at the rarefied traveler.

July: The Port of Galveston’s governing board gave the consent for staff to spend up to $1.3 million to procure a tent, portable restrooms and make some permanent improvements to get Cruise Ship Terminal No. 2 ready for the arrival of passenger liner Liberty of the Seas, which began sailing here in November.

The port was under the gun to provide temporary and permanent measures at Cruise Terminal No. 2 to meet contractual obligations to both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines and to ensure passengers will be comfortable as they wait to board ships. Design snags had delayed renovations to Cruise Terminal No. 2 and cruise line companies weren’t happy about it.

August: In a development that will bring world-renowned cancer treatment closer to county residents, MD Anderson said it would build a 135,000-square-foot outpatient center at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Victory Lakes campus in League City.

The treatment center, expected to open by 2018 and representing a $112 million investment, will mark the first-ever clinical collaboration between the sister institutions, while strengthening the medical branch’s ever growing League City presence. Both organizations are part of the University of Texas system.

September: After 18 months of negotiation with Texas City officials, H-E-B opened a new grocery store in the mainland city.

The 57,600-square-foot store at the corner of state Highway 146 and Palmer Highway in Texas City, at the site of the old Kmart building, replaced the nearly 25-year-old H-E-B grocery store at 918 21st St. and is nearly double the size.

The city agreed to give H-E-B a sales-tax rebate of $1.452 million over 15 years.

October: Work advanced on the proposed Adventure Pointe Amusement Park in Texas City when crews began preparing the land for development. The park 5500-5600 I-45, just south of the Tanger Outlet, is expected to include a theme park, hospitality center with restaurants, retail and hotel accommodations, along with a concert venue.

October: The Port of Galveston celebrated the 15-year-anniversary of Carnival Cruise Lines vessel Celebration making its inaugural voyage from the island, launching what would become one of the most important industries for the Port of Galveston.

November: The Port of Galveston welcomed the largest cruise ship ever to homeport on the island — Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas. The passenger liner is 1,111 feet long and 184 feet wide.

November: Baybrook Mall unveiled the first phase of its 555,000-square-foot expansion with more than 30 retailers, 10 restaurants and entertainment and hospitality venues.

December: Tilman Fertitta made news again, with his representatives confirming he would open the seaport city’s first Chick-fil-A Express.

Fertitta, who owns hospitality, gaming and entertainment company Landry’s Inc., plans to open Chick-fil-A Express across from the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, 2501 Seawall Blvd.

Reach reporter Laura Elder at 409-683-5248 or laura.elder@galvnews.com

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