COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ENDING FEDERAL FLOOD INSURANCE SUBSIDIES COULD DO FOR GALVESTON “Biggert-Watters would have destroyed the home market in many of Galveston’s West End beach communities. My wife and I were looking at homes just as the revised rate plan went into effect in late 2013. The quote I received for JUST FLOOD INSURANCE on a $250K house was $40,000 per year. As long as the government allows federally backed mortgages in these areas, they will have to subsidize the insurance rates. It really is that simple. If the rates aren’t subsidized, the market will collapse for these homes. It will be a vicious circle. Those that need a mortgage to afford a home won’t be able to afford insurance. Those who own a home with a mortgage won’t be able to afford insurance. Homes will only be marketable to cash buyers who can self-insure. How much would you pay for a home that you could only market via an owner-financed or cash transaction? A property that would essentially be unmarketable to buyers via traditional mortgage.” [Mike Honcho, commenting on Comment of the Day: Why You Can Get Flood Insurance in Houston] Illustration: Lulu
A developer out of California plans to begin building a 100-acre beachfront community along the Bluewater Highway on Follet’s Island, southwest of Galveston Island, next month. Developed by Salt Water Resorts, the so-called Seahorse Beach Club and Residences will sit across Christmas Bay from the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. A rendering of the 9,000-sq.-ft. eponymous beach club, above, shows a few of the planned amenities: pools, fitness center, spa, a bar, and 2 restaurants.
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BUILDING A MONUMENT TO GATED FLOOD CONTROL AND TOURISM Protecting the Ship Channel during an Ike-like (or worse) storm surge has led some to propose a big dike, others a big gate. But UH professor of urban planning Tom Colbert doesn’t see why we couldn’t trouble ourselves to make such protection a real sight to see too: “Colbert likes the idea of . . . connecting the Centennial Gate and its levees to the proposed Lone Star National Recreation Area, undeveloped land that would both attract ecotourists and slow floodwaters,” reports the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray: “I remembered one drawing I’d seen in [Colbert’s] PowerPoint show: Happy tourists, paddling kayaks past the Hartman Bridge, on one of the byways out of the big ships’ path, waterbirds and wetlands all around. Colbert motioned southeast, toward the Ship Channel’s mouth, toward Barbours Cut, the other possible location for the floodgate. There, he said, the levees would cross the channel’s water, connecting the Ship Channel’s artificial islands — made from dirt dredged from the channel — to the shore. Enough room could be left on top of the levee for a hiking path or even for car access; for the first time, it would be possible for people to get to the Atkinson Island Wildlife Management Area — a bird mecca on manmade land — without a boat. You could even, he notes, build a tourist destination atop one of those islands: He proposes a monument to Houston, the gateway to North America, the place where nature meets industry. In some drawings, just to give people the idea, he plunks the Statue of Liberty atop a Ship Channel island.” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of Fred Hartman Bridge: Chuck Wilkson
SOME REAL-LIFE OCCUPANTS FOR GALVESTON’S LONG-ABANDONED BREWERY? The endangered historic Falstaff Brewery that once harbored a bunch of scared architecture students in a horror flick might become a real refuge for Galvestonians looking for cheap housing — or so Culturemap’s Tyler Rudick seems to think, divining a hint about Dallas developer Matthews Southwest’s plans for the property from the very title of the rep he interviews: “Company officials are unable to reveal the full details until a purchase is finalized,” cautions Rudick. “But [we] spoke with current project leader Scott Galbraith, whose position as Matthews Southwest’s vice president of affordable income development suggests the company’s larger plans for the complex.” Perhaps, but Galbraith is also quick to point out that Matthews Southwest is keeping its options open while studying the site; previous environmental investigations have found plenty of asbestos in the 313,000-sq.-ft. building and soil contamination around it. [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia
GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION CLOSES ON BISHOP’S PALACE With the Moody Foundation’s $1.5 million donation as a nice starter, the Galveston Historical Foundation was able to raise the rest of the $3 million it needed to buy the 1892 Bishop’s Palace from the Catholic archdiocese and keep it open as a museum. Designed by Nicholas Clayton for Col. Walter Gresham, the 17,420-sq.-ft. Victorian mansion at the corner of 14th and Broadway had housed clergy since 1921 before the foundation opened it up for tours. The Houston Chronicle reports that the archdiocese plans to use the windfall to renovate the St. Mary’s Basilica, also in in Galveston, while the foundation “plans to restore the roof, the front of the building and do repainting [and] other general repairs” to the Palace. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Galveston Historical Foundation
UNLOADING GALVESTON’S BISHOP’S PALACE The Galveston-Houston Archdiocese has put up for sale the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, a.k.a. Gresham’s Castle, at 14th and Broadway. The price? $3 million. But the archdiocese isn’t going to let just anyone buy the 17,420-sq.-ft. Victorian clergy digs-turned-museum — at least not for a while: “The Galveston Historical Foundation has an exclusive right until the end of this month to raise . . . the money or the archdiocese can open the sale to all comers,” reports the Houston Chronicle. Foundation director W. Dwayne Jones tells the Chronicle that they’ve already raised $2.3 million. And why the sale? “Jones said the archdiocese has been looking to get out of the museum business for a while. ‘They are in the business of saving souls.'” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Galveston Historical Foundation
HOW ITALIAN ARTISTS GET STUCK IN GALVESTON Art writer Debra Barrera gets the inside scoop on some of the banana-peel art put up by Italian artist Davide Savorani for this past weekend’s exhibition at the Galveston Artist Residency compound at the corner of 25th St. and Ships Mechanic Row: “Savorani explains The Can’t Get Away Club as part of the nature of living in a place like Galveston; the calm sea breeze, the cheap booze, and endless reasons to never return to a big city can keep people stuck. Each year promises are made, ‘Maybe next year I will move to Houston . . . Maybe I will finally start that popcorn ball franchise.’ From Firenze, a small town in the north of Italy himself, Savorani is familiar with this syndrome and decided to immerse himself in Galveston: ‘I came here with nothing and I wanted to try to understand the city. Something I experienced was this idea of a place where you really face yourself.'” And face others who are celebrating, apparently, Barrera continues: “What I admired most about both Savorani and [his assistant, Michelangelo] Miccolis was their ability to immerse themselves in a completely foreign place and use materials that were part of their daily lives. In the studio, when I asked about a strand of plastic beads hanging on the wall, Miccolis remarked, ‘Yes! We were at some parade and they were just throwing them! We kept grabbing at the air! This is what the city gave us; why not make art out of it?’” [Glasstire] Self-portrait at cottages between 28th and Winnie: Michelangelo Miccolis
HOTEL GALVEZ BAR AND GRILL TO BE RENOVATED, RENAMED A new look, new menu, and new name are coming to Bernardo’s at Hotel Galvez on Seawall Blvd., says hotel owner Mitchell Historic Properties: To be adventurously rechristened Galvez Bar & Grill, the space will become twice as big after the renovations. The hotel’s lobby will also be redone: Though the wicker furniture isn’t going away, a new floor made out of a tile mosaic will be installed where sandy-footed guests enter. Though Bernardo’s will be shuttered for 2 months for the upgrades, hotel owners are hoping the space will be ready for Memorial Day, when the island’s tourist season begins. [Mitchell Historic Properties] Photo: Flickr user Equina27
Pelicans are symbols of self-sacrifice, said to pierce their own breast with their own beak to feed their young their blood. But the birds also have real big gullets — fitting, then, as the name of this 4,000-sq.-ft. restaurant under construction at 7819 Broadway in Galveston.
But the restaurant is just one part of the Pelican Rest Marina project developed by Harry Schulz. Across Offatts Bayou from Moody Gardens, the marina’s already operating as a fuel dock and weigh station. And construction is expected to begin soon on seaside condos:
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