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Baytown booming – 5 years down the road

August 20, 2017

With carefully laid plans, Baytown is hitting its stride as a new H-E-B, renovated San Jacinto mall and potential conference center are in the works. 

So what’s next for this city and what might it be like to live in Baytown five years from now? 

According to City Manger Rick Davis, Baytown is on everyone’s radar and the east side of Houston is poised for great things. 

“All the neat stuff coming to town is reflective of our growth. People have discovered the east side of the metro area as kind of, not to quote Star Trek, a final frontier and they’re willing to invest in this part,” Davis said. “I think they’ve come to realize that the waterways, the proximity to nature and the proximity to employment, along with the continued investment in the Houston Ship Channel and port cities like Baytown has just simply inspired a migration of people to the Baytown area. All of that has echoed or produced a multiplier effect in other sectors of our economy.” 

Because of growth, Baytown was able to secure projects such as the new H-E-B, conference center and hotel and renovation to the San Jacinto Mall. 

For the new H-E-B, which is slated to open this fall, it will be about 102,000 square feet and will add about 100 jobs. But since 2010 there were rumors of an H-E-B coming to town. In 2012, Baytown got a Joe V’s instead of a H-E-B store and then last year City Council confirmed it was finally coming. Projects like these don’t happen overnight, much like the renovation of San Jacinto Mall which was sold, with the intention of rehabilitation, in 2015. 

“These are all things that many people have worked on. The conference and hotel over on Bayland Island, that worked started more than 20 years ago,” said Davis. “And thus it is for our profession is we usually work on things that don’t become a reality until after we’re gone.”    

So what’s next for Baytown, what will be the next “conference center?” 

One such project is the Gene and Loretta Russell Park. The latest and greatest Baytown park will be located at Wallisville Road and North Main Street and is slated to be more than 50 acres in size. Just last week council got its first look at the master plan, which contained everything from sports fields, playgrounds, splash pad, three ponds, picnic areas, large and small dog parks, gazebo, workout stations, amphitheater, community center and recreation center. But because the park is in its infancy, all of that is subject to change once its financial approved. 

More to come in the north side of town is a proposed master plan community being developed by Friendswood Development Company. The developers will bring single-family homes on 450 lots.  

But the north side of town is not the only growth Baytown will see in the future. 

“What’s exciting about Baytown is that I see as much interest in the south end of the city as I do the north,” said Davis. “And people are going to automatically laugh at me for that but please understand this is borne out of the perspective that we’re building a hotel conference center. The most significant investment the city has ever made is going to be made in the south side of the city.” 

In addition, the city and Wells Holdings plan to develop a master planned community called Trinity Oaks, which will be bordered by the Grand Parkway and FM 2354/Tri City Beach Road. Wells holdings plans to build 384 new homes on about 90 acres, which will be priced between $250,000 and $300,000 for lots that will be 50-footand 60-foot lots. 

“I’m very optimistic at the south end of the city and I’m focused this year, for example this budget we have intentions for a master plan of the market street area all the way down to the old post office,” said Davis. “And you have to envision and you have to plan before you can start programming and funding.” 

“So this the first step to doing something on Market Street, Decker and the water front here on Goose Lake,” he added. “Akin to what we’re doing on Texas Avenue.”  

Davis and city council are committed to the south end of the city. 

The next big, and historic, project is the Brunson Theater on Texas Avenue. At the request of citizens, the City of Baytown developed a plan to save the historic theater and transform it into a tourist center and business incubator. The city also plans to fund infrastructure projects, such as parking and street maintenance, surrounding the Citizens Bank and on South Jones Street. 

“Texas Avenue will always be the heart and focal point of our community,” Davis said. ”And I’m absolutely entertaining no deviation from that.” 

In the next five years, Davis sees the city staying congruent with strategic directive No. 1 and strategic directive No. 3 of the five-year strategic plan that was developed by citizens.  

“I see us investing considerable resources and continuing to revitalize the southern end of our city,” he said. “And who knows, we may even be able to build other facilities here that will again demonstrate that commitment.” 

In the long term Davis hopes to have a master plan for the Goose Creek Trail, allowing citizens to potentially go from Bayland Island to Interstate 10. 

“I would like trail linkage to points of public interest — shopping centers and parks,” said Davis. “We’ve had discussions as to how to get the Goose Creek Trail all the way to the San Jacinto Marketplace (San Jacinto Mall).”

He also wants the trail system to hit parks and the Baytown Nature Center on Bayway. 

“Of course, the mad trails person that I am, I want to rehabilitate a trail system inside the nature park,” Davis said. “I would like to turn the old Brownwood subdivision roads into soft trails for walking, and I would like to have a circular biking trail all the around perimeter of the nature park.”   

Davis, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, also hopes Baytown can land a grant to build an educational facility that would combine the Wetlands and Nature centers. The city is looking to develop a 27,000 square foot center that would offer a wide range of educational and environmental programs along with new recreational and eco-tourism opportunities. They want to build the facility near the discontinued Westwood Little League Park. 

By: Christopher James, Baytown Sun