First order of business for Tilman Fertitta, now that he’s finally succeeded in turning Landry’s Restaurants back into a private company under his control (the deal closes today): announcing the demolition of Galveston’s hobbled-on-a-pier Flagship Hotel. Actually, Landry’s officials jumped the gun slightly, showing plans for a large hotel-free amusement park on the 25th St. Pier site of the shuttered hotel to Galveston’s city council yesterday. In place of the Flagship — which was built a few years after Hurricane Carla hit the island in the early sixties — yep, you guessed it: There’s gonna be a Ferris wheel. Plus: a double-decker carousel and other attractions meant to vaguely resemble the amusement park originally on the pier when it was built in 1943.
Demolishing the 225-room hotel was part of Landry’s original plans when the company bought the mermaid-sculpture-festooned property from the city for half a million in 2003. The next several years were spent trying to kick out the hotel operator, whose lease wasn’t set to expire until 2031. Landry’s reversed course after Hurricane Ike caused $7 million in damages to the hotel, eventually going to court to try to stop the operator, Daniel Yeh, from wriggling out of his lease. But 2 earlier storms ended up tossing Yeh into prison: he was eventually convicted of filing false claims to FEMA after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. And a renegotiated lease gave Landry’s control of the entire property last year.
By that time, Landry’s officials were talking about selling the property, but the mysterious prospective buyer never appeared. A year ago, the company announced new plans: it would keep the hotel, spend $15 million to renovate it, stick a Chart House restaurant inside, and build a new amusement park around it. Of those plans, only the amusement park is still standing.
The company’s plans for demolition and construction will require approvals from Galveston’s city council and zoning board. If those go through, Landry’s senior VP Jeff Cantwell tells the Daily News, work on the pier could begin before the end of the year.
- Landry’s to demolish iconic Flagship Hotel [Galveston County Daily News]
- It’s now a table for one [Houston Chronicle]
- Previously on Swamplot: Galveston’s Flagship Hotel: No Sale, Roller Coaster on the Pier: Crunch Time for the Flagship Hotel
Photo: Ellen Yeates