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Mayor talks mall at Rotary Club of Baytown

June 1, 2023

What about the mall? 

That was one question Baytown Mayor Brandon Capetillo took time to address at Wednesday’s State of the City address at the Rotary Club of Baytown. 

Capetillo said one answer to what is happening with the former San Jacinto Mall site was Project Vector. He described it as a major project to redevelop the site and incorporate the surrounding areas. 

Capetillo said the city has an aggressive pre-development preliminary timeline concerning the former mall property for the next 12 months. Aside from San Jacinto Boulevard and the mall property, which Fidelis Realty Partners now owns, Capetillo said there is another 200-plus acres of land nearby. 

“Luckily, there are only a handful of true landowners with large pieces of land in that area,” Capetillo said. 

Capetillo said thanks to a recent Chapter 212 agreement made with ExxonMobil, the contract contained a $75 million advance funding opportunity for the city. 

“ExxonMobil wanted to be sure something would be brought to Baytown if they intended to make this type of investment that would benefit the entire area,” Capetillo said. 

One idea the mayor shared was a possible 12,000-seat arena. 

“We are not sure of the size yet, but one that can host large-scale sporting events,” Capetillo said. 

Capetillo said the arena could also be used for graduation ceremonies.  

Traveling around the country to places like The Star in Frisco, Texas, as well as Charlotte, North Carolina and South Carolina, Capetillo said he and some staff members have spent time looking at other venues and models to gather ideas of what would work in Baytown. 

Aside from the proposed 12,000-foot arena, Capetillo said they are also considering an 80,000-to-100,000-square-foot multi-sport arena mainly centered around volleyball and basketball. 

“We think it will ignite a lot of retailers, entertainment venues and restaurants that you have been wanting,” Capetillo said. 

Capetillo said city officials provided a presentation to principal landowners and potential partners that might be financial participators in the project’s development. He added that staff is currently awaiting proposals from several firms to provide a feasibility and market analysis for the project. 

“These can tell us the right size of the venue and what is best with what we’d like to try and attract,” Capetillo said. 

Capetillo said they have also met with Janice Burke, the Houston Sports Authority CEO, for guidance on the best type of venue for Baytown.  

“With the (FIFA World Cup) coming to Houston, we are hoping to have a venue in time for that,” Capetillo said. 

Capetillo said the Baytown venue could act as an overflow for other events in the area. 

Proposals for Project Vector are due Friday, with a contract award to follow, Capetillo said. 

A feasibility and market analysis report is anticipated by city staff by the end of August. Capetillo added that city staff is working with the Baytown/West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation and others on Requests for Quotes and Requests for Proposals to help identify a technical and financial advisory team for project implementation. 

Capetillo said the city is also conversing with Fidelis to ensure their retail development is integrated and seamless with the project. 

Another phase of the project is management. Capetillo said while the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is top-notch, they will require a management team that can oversee a large-scale project such as Project Vector. 

“We want top-tier type management. We are not there yet, but we have already seen managers for nice multi-sports venues across the country,” Capetillo said. “When we get there, it will be managed by someone that will  ensure the occupancy is utilized by those in the community and in the country.”

Capetillo said folks should start to see some new construction at the old mall site very soon.

T-36 at Baytown

Capetillo also talked about T-36, the new golf course being constructed at the former Evergreen site. He said all of the course’s holes had been staked, and the site has been cleared and grubbed, meaning excess trees, bushes and such have been removed. 

The earthwork and rough-shaping for the course’s holes are also complete, the mayor said. The tees for 12 holes have been shaped and the sand has been installed. Drainage is being installed at the holes, Capetillo said. 

The mayor said workers are also demolishing the old cart path to make way for a new path. Irrigation is also being installed. In addition, bunker edging has been completed on eight holes. The course is expected to open in the fall. 

Recently, the city announced it had selected Troon, a firm that provides golf and club-related leisure and hospitality services, to manage T-36 at Baytown. Troon Golf, the resort and daily fee division of Troon, will manage the golf operations, agronomy, food and beverage, retail, and sales and marketing for the property. The estimated time for opening the course’s restaurant and clubhouse is at the end of summer. 

Hyatt Regency hotel and convention center 

Capetillo also mentioned the recent soft opening of the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Convention Center on Bayland Island. 

“We believe it will be a major economic development project for Baytown,” Capetillo said. 

Capetillo said the new Hyatt Regency is Baytown’s first “full service” hotel with 208 rooms once it is all completed. 

Capetillo said he feels the hotel is the start of broader redevelopment of Bayland Island and the city’s south side. A grand opening is expected later in June.

By Matt Hollis, Baytown Sun