FREEPORT — Residents are finally beginning to see dirt turn on a lofty project that has been almost five years in the making.
Crews should complete construction on a 230,000-square-foot industrial warehouse on Freeport’s long-vacant urban renewal tract by the third or fourth quarter of next year, developer Clinton Wong said.
Olin Corp. will consolidate its local operations in that warehouse, Wong said.
“It’s going to be their main office,” said Wong, president of Skymark Development, a Houston-based real estate development and management company.
Work is complete on a detention pond, Wong said, and crews currently are running underground utility lines.
“You can see a lot of activities taking place,” he said.
Wong currently is in talks with another user who wants to purchase a larger site on the 327-acre plot between Velasco Boulevard and Skinner Street, the developer said.
Wong plans to build a right of way that will connect one end of the park to the other, taking passersby all the way to FM 523 and opening up possibilities for further development, he said.
“Once we get that opened up, there is going to be a lot more interest in that area,” Wong said.
Wong also hopes to start developing land adjacent to Brazosport High School for residential purposes within the next month or two, he said.
“That’s still in the works,” Wong said. “Hopefully early in the new year.”
The city began working to acquire all of the 3,500 lots that make up the Urban Renewal Zone in 1966, finally accomplishing that goal in July 2012.
Wong approached City Council later that year about plans to put $160 million worth of infrastructure improvements on the long-vacant tract of land, which he proposed turning into the Freeport Enterprise Park and dividing into light industrial and residential uses.
Light industrial includes facilities geared toward light manufacturing of products such as shoes, clothes and furniture, Wong has said.
Wong’s initial proposal also included 125 single-family homes, which would bring about $10 million in new development, according to his plans.
In January 2013, Wong purchased the entire tract from the city for $1.2 million — $100,000 more than the property’s appraised value of $1.1 million, then-City Manager Jeff Pynes said.
Council members finalized the proposal by approving a Chapter 380 agreement with Skymark in June 2014, meaning there was nothing left for the city to do but wait. A Chapter 380 agreement is authorized by the state and allows the city to use economic development incentives to encourage potential developers to build within their limits.
Both residents and city officials were vocal about their frustration as years passed by with no tangible progress on the project.
First-term Mayor Troy Brimage would have liked to see part of the land developed for housing, but he is excited to see progress nonetheless, he said.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Brimage, a former president of the city’s economic development corporation. “Since the decision was made to sell it to a developer that was going to develop it as an industrial area, I think brand-new warehousing is a great thing.”
Industrial warehousing likely will spur further residential and commercial development in a city strapped for both, Brimage said.
“I think this will be a domino effect where we see a lot more warehousing and industrial buildings follow,” he said. “I think it’s going to create more jobs in this area and therefore people are going to see the opportunity that Freeport has to offer in the housing sector.”