Galveston's Stewart Beach redevelopment options considered

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

GALVESTON, Texas - A Galveston beach frequented by generations of Texas families may be transformed into a more modern space, possibly with retail shops and high density housing. But the ultimate plan for Stewart Beach has yet to be determined.

"There are a lot of different facets of the island. The parks board, city planning, they all have ideas of what is best for our beaches," said Tom Schwenk, president of the San Jacinto Neighborhood Association.

Schwenk has a particular interest in what becomes of Stewart Beach because he lives nearby and works as a real estate broker on the island.

Stewart Beach has remained relatively unmolested by modern development for decades, but the mile-long stretch of prime real estate is now ripe for development because of revised zoning rules and a relatively healthy economy.

Ralph McMorris, a member of Galveston City Council, wants the city to purchase the private parcels of land that still exist along the coastline so Galveston can ensure it controls its own destiny in term of developing the area.

"I think the city purchasing those properties is key to protecting our beaches," McMorris said by phone.

McMorris opposes unchecked, large-scale development on or near Stewart Beach, favoring a plan he calls "South Beach," as in the famed location in the Miami, Florida, area. That plan calls for more limited, but still present, commercial development, along with a park and a boardwalk.

"I am now showing this idea to groups, and I will present it to council," McMorris said.

On Monday afternoon, McMorris could not give a definitive timeline for possible implementation of South Beach.

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