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Bayland Island groundbreaking 10 days away

September 4, 2021

City manager: ‘We are very excited and have sent out hundreds of invitations’

To say it has been a long time coming is an understatement. Still, city officials have sanctioned Sept. 15 as the date they will break ground on the long-awaited Bayland Island hotel/convention center project. 

City Manager Rick Davis had previously spoke about a September date to kick off construction on the project officially. At a special Baytown Municipal Development District meeting this week, he made it official. “We are very excited and have sent out hundreds of invitations for our groundbreaking,” Davis said. 

The ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 15 on Bayland Island. 

Among the special guests expected to attend the groundbreaking ceremony is U.S. Congressman Brian Babin. Davis added members of the city’s legislative delegation will attend. 

“It is going to be a great day for our city, and we are looking forward to it,” Davis said. 

Davis said closing on the bonds that will help fund the project should happen Friday. 

“I’ve already pre-signed about 450 of my signatures, which is about how many there are,” Davis said. “I checked with the city attorney today. We do have a final closing call, and I will check in on it. But I think it is a done deal. We’ll let the attorneys and the finance people just handle it from here. We will then get to mobilize at the end of the September/first week of October, and they’ll be out there blowing and going.”

During the life of the project, there were some brand names changes. In 2016, the city was partnering with Hilton. Following that, they made an agreement with Marriott International. But the agreement with the hotel chain ended, paving the way for a third brand – now the Hyatt Regency. 

The hotel is supposed to be a luxury place to stay. It is expected people from all over the world will come to the hotel, which will go by the Hyatt Regency Baytown-Houston hotel. 

Its location on Bayland Island will give any client a view of the Fred Hartman Bridge, considered a gateway into the Houston Ship Channel. 

There have been plans to build something like a hotel on Bayland Island for decades. 

The city began negotiations with hotel groups in 2015 by hiring consultants for a plan of action. That same year, a city-commissioned study indicated a hotel-convention center project was feasible but would take some incentives to attract a developer. In very rough numbers, such a development would cost about $45 million to build. 

There have been numerous timelines since then, but all were pushed back.

In 2017, consultants laid out an ambitious timeline to bring the hotel and conference center to the island by December 2019. In July of that year, council green-lighted the first steps toward having a hotel/conference center at Bayland Island. 

Council voted to transfer $2 million in Unforeseen/New Initiatives from the 2016-17 budget toward the hotel/conference center as seed money. 

In September 2018, the city manager said they planned to do a ceremonial groundbreaking for the full-service upscale hotel around the end of November or early December. 

In March 2019, the city said construction could begin in late June, and the hotel could be open by late December 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and that caused delays. 

The city purchased Bayland Island’s 31 acres for parkland in 1970. In 1991, voters approved $4.7 million in bonds for the development of the marina.

In 2003, the city unsuccessfully tried to unload the property.

The first option included purchasing a restaurant facility that sat on the property and the 40-year ground lease where the restaurant stood on for a minimum bid of $100,000. There were no bids.

Under the second option, the city would sell Bayland Island in its entirety, plus the marina for a minimum of $3.7 million. Again, nobody placed a bid at that time. 

By Matt Hollis, Baytown Sun