Port Arthur News: New life breathed into closed businesses in Groves

New life breathed into closed businesses in Groves

By Mary Meaux

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Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

GROVES — The wheels of progress are turning for four vacant businesses in Groves.

The properties include the former Super Kmart, former Wachovia Bank, former Renaissance Hospital and former Fred Miller’s that have new owners or have a contract of some sort in place, Groves City Manager and Groves Economic Development Corp. Director D. Sosa said.

Here’s a look at the properties and possibilities:

The former Super Kmart in the 4400 block of Twin City Highway in Groves may once again be used as a warehouse.
Mary Meaux/The News

  • Former Super Kmart property: The former retail store sits vacant in the 4400 block of Twin City Highway in Groves separated from highway frontage businesses by a wrought iron fence.

Early last year an investment group made a lofty presentation to the City Council, hoping to gain enough financing and investors to create a medical center, assisted living community, extended stay hotel and more. Their plan, however, did not materialize.

Sosa said there is a contract for the property and it appears it will once again be used as a warehouse.

Last year Flowserve was leasing an 80,000-square-foot area and other small tenants have been on site.

The most successful was Bechtel, a construction company, that used the inside as a warehouse and outside as a laydown yard during the Motiva expansion.

Sosa was asked about the pros and cons of the property becoming a warehouse again.

“Right now, as far as the best use, I’d like to see it return to retail but to be real, that’s not going to happen. So if you look at good use of that property, it’s in the center of Mid County and easily accessible for major refineries,” he said.

The benefit to the city comes in the form of taxes. On Jan. 1 of each year the taxable value of the personal property inside the warehouse is tabulated and when Bechtel was there the city saw about $300,000 in revenue because the business had to pay ad valorem for the property inside and property taxes on the building and grounds.

Sosa didn’t say whom the contract for the property is penned with.

The once bustling store closed in 2003 along with a host of other Kmart stores when its distribution center was shut down.

  • The former Wachovia Bank building: The property consists of a one-story building attached to a six-story building in the 4000 block of Twin City Highway in Groves.

Sosa said he has been in contact with the property manager and the property is under contract though he doesn’t have any details on how the property will be used.

“It’s our understanding that the building would have to be taken down because of damage from (Hurricane) Rita,” he said. “The framework of the building is twisted and it is braced now. We understand it can’t be repaired so it has to be torn down or dismantled; there is nothing wrong with the first floor.”

The property is zoned for commercial use and the only business it can’t be use for is heavy manufacturing. But retail, warehouse, office space, fast food or any other commercial application could go there.

From 2005, when Hurricane Rita hit, to Nov. 18, 2010, Wells Fargo occupied the bottom floor of the original multi-story bank, then moved to the newly constructed bank adjacent to them.

  • The former Renaissance Hospital: Vacant for upward of five years now, the former Renaissance Hospital located at 5500 39th St. in Groves got new owners in fall 2017. The new owners are The Medical Center of Southeast Texas.

Katie Celli, director of marketing and public relations for The Medical Center, said plans for the property are in the development phase.

Sosa said he is waiting to sit down and talk with the new owners and hear their plans, which could include making a stand-alone emergency room.

  • The former Fred Miller’s Outdoor Equipment: The vacant building at 5600 39th St., Groves, was sought by the owner of a Port Neches restaurant looking to expand. The new owner is currently waiting to talk to adjacent property owners at this time.

Groves EDC

Sosa provided information to board members about the four properties and a new business, 3D Rental, although none of the businesses have asked for any incentives from the GEDC.

GEDC is a reimbursement type EDC.

“The EDC always comes in after the fact when businesses apply for EDC assistance,” he said. “Incentives, such as to the parking area or lighting, are tied to the property. Every EDC incentive, when it’s all said and done, stays with the property if the owners sell it or go out of business so all of the EDC investment stays with the property.”

Funding for the GEDC comes from sales tax where 1 percent goes to the city and a half-cent goes to the EDC. So, of the $2.1 million the city plans to collect from sales tax, $1.4 million goes to the city and $700,000 goes to the EDC.

Here to stay

 Sales tax has been strong in Groves, even through the loss of Kmart and with Walmart located just inside Port Arthur city limits.

Since March 2004, some 79 new businesses have opened and remain in operation in Groves. The businesses contribute to the local economy and city/EDC sales tax, he said.

drew reilley