MEARY MEAUX — Port Neches Riverfront development move is ready for more

Published 12:06 am Friday, September 2, 2022

Years ago Port Neches leaders decided to do something with the 80-plus acres of land along the riverfront that today holds a popular eatery that’s ever evolving and the beginnings of the future.

I’ve been writing about riverfront development in Port Neches since approximately 2002, not long after the city acquired the former Coastal Marine property adjacent to Port Neches Riverfront Park.

In April 2004, the city’s Construction Board of Adjustment and Appeals gave Transglobal Solutions, the other industrial site there, a year to dismantle the deserted refining unit. TGS also was cited with several city code violations as well as fire code safety violations under the International Property Maintenance Code.

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And in 2005 the city bought the TGS property for $5 million.

I remember touring the former TGS acreage, peeking into an empty tank there and writing about the cleanup of both properties to bring it to residential standards, which are more stringent than for commercial property.

There were community meetings for input, and a master plan was created then later revisited and tweaked.

And just when it looked like something was going to happen, along came Hurricane Ike in 2008, followed by an economic downturn.

Interest in the property faded, and plans for development were placed on the back burner.

Then in 2013, businessman Bert Lamson approached the Port Neches Riverfront Development Authority, then the city council with the idea for Neches River Wheelhouse. The eatery, which has several other owners, opened in 2014 and has continued to grow.

Since opening, The Wheelhouse expanded to include a palapa, then that was expanded.

Most recently is the new upstairs area where patrons and sit, have a drink and watch the view of the river. And if social media comments are any indication of the popularity, then the newest addition is already a success.

There’s also a subdivision under construction at the far end of the acreage not far from the cemetery. These high-end homes will afford a view of the waterway plus amenities.

As for future development, that’s another story.

The city is in discussions with four separate businesses; Iguana Joe’s, a two-story restaurant by Obana Reality and Rippeon Properties; Neches Point, which will be a food court with several eateries and a retail portion; and an unnamed project.

There’s hopes and promises from those business leaders saying they will go forward with their plans, adding the pandemic coupled with the increase in building materials led to a delay.

The potential for success is there. A sidewalk and decorative lighting are already in place, and the city is working on traffic patterns.

Hopefully these up-and-coming riverfront businesses take a cue from The Wheelhouse’s success and take a chance.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.