Happy New Year!
I am very excited to see what 2024 will bring to Baytown, I believe this is going to be a breakout year with many great announcements that will continue to make our city better, stronger, and elevate our quality of life as a community.
I look forward to the next few weeks as I attempt to update you on the issues that are important to you, our citizens and our community. In this first article, I wanted to provide some insight to the current and future status regarding the San Jacinto Marketplace, or “The Mall.”
Like many of you, the mall was certainly a great place growing up in the 80’s. It was the place where we all bought whatever we needed, watched movies, went to the arcade or just to meet up with friends. I still get citizens contact me about bringing Corndog 7, Golden Pot or Frankly Eating back to Baytown. It was 1.2 million square feet of pure enjoyment.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not asked about the mall. When I was first elected a councilman in May 2005, my district was where the mall property is located. I can tell you firsthand about the frustration and evolving timeline changes of what the mall was, what it is today and what it can become. This is something that I have worked on and will continue to work on until the San Jacinto Marketplace is a reality. However, it’s important to know the history, the challenges over the years, its current status, and future expectations.
For the past two decades, we all watched our mall deteriorate to where it was no longer an enjoyable retail center. About eight years ago, the mall property was purchased by Fidelis Partners, LLC with the plan to demolish the mall, either partially or in its entirety. At the time Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s, referred to as the anchor stores, were viable, profitable and provided us some level of shopping. In the past 10 years, the country has witnessed the overwhelming increase in e-commerce, online shopping, home delivery of groceries and the continued evolution of the modern retail shopping experience. Additionally, bankruptcies and closures of stores, on a national and local level, led to the final demise of San Jacinto Mall. Fidelis was able to acquire each of the anchor stores which resulted in the partial demolition of the mall and then last year the final demolition took place.
Around the same time, City Council entered into a new agreement with Fidelis because the original agreement for mall redevelopment became outdated and did not reflect the current retail market. The new agreement provided incentives to create a new retail commercial entertainment, restaurants and a more comprehensive modern shopping experience. The goal is to give you something similar to what you see in many areas across the state, such as The Dominion, La Cantera, Pearland Town Center, and the Woodlands Market Street. These are the concepts and mixed-use developments that attract retailers, restaurants, and businesses that we are all seeking today. The last actual “mall” that was built in the United States was in 2013 in Sarasota, Florida.
The general incentive package that has been offered to Fidelis is based around successful performance for bringing new businesses to the San Jacinto Marketplace. The accountability to receive sales tax rebates is solely the responsibility of Fidelis and what they’re able to successfully bring to Baytown. In my recent conversations with Fidelis, they have expressed excitement and look forward to new construction beginning in the fall of this year. I’m sure the main interest regarding San Jacinto Marketplace is which stores are coming and when. The exact listing of the stores and restaurants will either be released by Fidelis or by each retailer’s marketing team. What has been expressed to Fidelis, regarding the appearance and site plan, is that our citizens want a commercial development where they can get a top-tier shopping experience to include restaurants, specialty stores, and entertainment, which we all can agree is sorely needed. I can assure you that City staff and City Council are extremely engaged as this new development unfolds throughout this year. Fidelis also communicated that they plan on developing 600,000 square feet of commercial space. Additionally, this will include open space areas for families to enjoy and relax as part of their shopping experience. I look forward to 2024 and what is to come to San Jacinto Marketplace. It has certainly been a journey for all of us. However, most malls that have died a slow death rarely are resurrected in to a new shopping center of any kind.
San Jacinto Marketplace is not the only economic development project that is currently going on. You may have heard about Project Vector through the City’s magazine. Project Vector is a collective economic development effort the City is working on to bring commercial development, residential construction, youth sports facilities, sports tourism and additional options when it comes to retail, restaurants, and entertainment. These developments will happen in many areas of our city, primarily focused in the San Jacinto Boulevard area, the Evergreen, Alexander, and Bayland Island area, as well as the North Highway 146 corridor near Interstate 10. The overall goal is to attract and develop businesses that we visit in other communities. Project Vector is focused on providing a true “Live-Dine-Shop-Play” environment in Baytown. I look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition soon and over the next few years.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak to you on these important issues. Please continue to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding the other issues you would like for me to highlight.
As always, I wish you good health and many blessings.
Mayor Brandon Capetillo