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By Dave Rogers
For the Record 

Orange aims abatements at medical complex


Last updated 2/9/2021 at 8:04pm

City aims abatements at medical complex

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Mum’s the official word, but look for some news coming up soon about the Eagle Point project, maybe even the long-needed Gisela Houseman Medical Complex.

In June of 2019, three months before Tropical Storm Imelda hit Orange County, Houseman donated 20 acres of land at Eagle Point on which to build offices and surgical suites for up to 20 doctors and a “mini-hospital” with eight to 20 beds with an ER and urgent care.

Local physician Dr. Marty Rutledge announced he had recruited health care pros to bring specialized medicine to Eagle Point, a strip of land southeast of the intersection of Interstate 10 and US Route 62.

It would include a surgical center, an imaging center, an infusion center and a cancer center, Rutledge said.

Plans were for the medical center to open in 2021, after 15 months for engineering and construction.

Then Imelda, the fifth-wettest storm on record, hit and brought major flooding to Southeast Texas. It was followed in early 2020 by the new coronavirus pandemic and shutdowns of businesses across the country.

Plans for Eagle Point have been on hold for a while.

But the closed executive session at the end of the Orange City Council’s Tuesday meeting included appearances by Gisela Houseman, Shawn Sparrow of Houseman Corp. and County Judge John Gothia, none of whom would comment on anything as they left council chambers.

A woman answering the telephone at Rutledge’s clinic said the doctor was not authorized to speak on the Eagle Point plans.

The public agenda for Tuesday’s non-public executive session was titled “Deliberation Regarding Economic Development Negotiations: and also said “deliberation regarding real estate development project proposal … regarding Eagle Point Parkway.”

The exact same executive item appeared on the agenda for the council’s Jan. 26 meeting.

Eagle Point Parkway was the name of a four-lane boulevard the EDC board and city council agreed in 2018 to spend up to $425,000 building.

No construction has begun.

In its previous meeting Jan. 26, city council approved a resolution to participate in a tax abatement reinvestment zone and ordinance designating a reinvestment zone at Eagle Point.

Creating a reinvestment zone is the first step to being able to grant tax abatements.

In this week’s meeting, council took the next step, “ratifying guidelines and criteria for granting tax abatements … effective until January 2023.”

One person who did grant an interview after the meeting was Orange restauranteur Jake Lemoine and he confirmed that his vision for a “Boardwalk Grille” next to the Port of Orange has been dashed.

Lemoine terminated his $100-a-year lease with the city on property at 5th and Division Streets because of the unexpected progress of the Coastal Spine project, which includes plans to build a levee where his restaurant was set to be located.

“We were told that this [levee] project would take 25 years at least to build,” Lemoine said. “That levee is going to leave the City of Orange with zero waterfront property.”

It got worse for Lemoine:

“We actually closed on the loan just two weeks before they announced they’d got the rest of the funding to build the levee,” he said.

While Lemoine doesn’t need the loan, “I have to pay all the closing costs and fees, basically $47,000 for nothing.”

The building that was home to Lemoine’s temporary eatery on the opposite side of 5th Street was damaged in Hurricane Laura last August and Lemoine has been getting by since on catering jobs and selling his specialty crawfish.

But Lemoine didn’t cancel his EDC deal for $200,000 of infrastructure improvements. He got the council to OK extending that deal through September of this year.

He said he’s got his eye on a different location – at Eagle Point.

“I’m looking at buying property in the project with the new hospital,” he said. “I’ll probably have to change the name since the “Boardwalk Grille” would be funny without a boardwalk.”


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