PA approves tax abatement for Lamar dorms

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016


Over the objections of Port Arthur District 1 City Councilman Raymond Scott Jr., Port Arthur City Council approved a tax abatement for Seahawk Landing, LLC, clearing the way for dormitories to be constructed at Lamar State College-Port Arthur.

The 10-year abatement is payable at $17,700 per year to the dorm’s developer to help offset building costs.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Itex Group LLC, a Port Arthur based development company, was selected by the Texas State University System board of regents in May 2014 to build and manage Seahawk Landing, a 146-unit privatized housing unit.

Since then, Itex has formed the corporation Seahawk Landing, LLC to build the Lamar dorms, which will be called Seahawk Landing.

Estimated cost of the project is $6.6 million.

Scott said he was not against the dorms being built at Lamar, and, in fact, was the only sitting Councilman who went to Austin to make a case for getting a law changed that would allow the dorms to be built with the assistance of funding from the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Texas legislators approved House Bill 2473, which allows the PAEDC to spend approximately $5 million sales and use tax revenue on a variety of projects, including student housing.

The EDC awarded a $1 million grant to the developer, and agreed to provide a no-interest loan for another million.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Scott said he thought the developer had already received enough taxpayer dollars to offset construction costs, and did not need more from the city.

“We have already given them $2 million on a $6 million project, “Scott said. “How much money are we going to give to the developer? My concern is, ‘When do we stop.’”

District 6 Councilman Osman Swati said when the Board of Regents solicited Requests for Qualifications, it was mentioned the city planned to provide a 10-year abatement.

Only one developer successfully completed all the qualifications required by the state, Swati said.

“I don’t think we have the option to go around and shop for another developer,” Swati said.

Scott said he was concerned about spending taxpayer money.

“How much money do we need to give this company? We are not obligated to give them this tax abatement,” Scott said.

Swati said the city should move forward and grant the abatement with haste.

“No on ones to come and develop anything into downtown Port Arthur,” Swati said. “I think we need to jump on it and apologize to them (the developer) for taking so long.”

Seahawk Landing will be built on a 2.2-acre tract along Lakeshore Drive between Woodrow Wilson school and Lamar’s Music Hall. The dorms will be built on the waterfront side, overlooking the ship channel.

Lamar-Port Arthur will give the developer a 30-year ground lease. The company will build, own and manage the student housing until the lease expires.

At that time, the dorms will become the property of the college.

The college’s criteria was to keep the rental rate down so student’s would be able to afford on-campus housing — something the college has not had for 60 years.

City Council passed the abatement by a vote of 7-2 with Scott and District 4 Councilman Stephen Mosely voting against the measure.

On Monday, Jefferson County Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to extend a tax abatement to Seahawk Landing, LLC.


Twitter: skooncePANews