Airport commercial development may begin with Cajun restaurant

Judice’s Cajun Café at 2045 Texas Ave. in Bridge City

Jefferson County Commissioners approved a ground lease agreement with Al Judice on Monday, May 8, to bring a new Cajun restaurant to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Mid-County.

Al Judice, who owns Judice’s Cajun Café in Bridge City and Judice’s French Market in Port Arthur, agreed to pay an annual base fee of $5,600 for the first five years and an increased rate every five years afterwards.

“For the airport, this means we’ll see some growth in the commerce area,” said Alex Rupp, manager of Jack Brooks Regional Airport. “If we have a restaurant out here, it gives travelers options. … If someone flies in for a business meeting, they’ll have some place to eat and don’t have to go very far. It’s definitely an increase in the amenities and services available to the traveling public.”

Rupp said commissioners also amended an agreement already in place between Jefferson County, the city of Nederland and the Nederland Economic Development Corporation for up to $2 million in infrastructure improvements as well as a retail development ground lease agreement between the county and Houston-based retail developer Glow Investment Inc.

Glow Investment is developing “The Golden Square,” which will be a new entertainment and shopping complex at the Jack Brooks near the hangars. The Golden Square is part of the entire development area in front of Jack Brooks, referred to as “The Landing,” according to Kay DeCuir, executive director of the Nederland Economic Development Corporation.

Rupp said the amendment makes it clear that the interlocal agreement between the entities is specific to Glow Investment’s Golden Square project and not the entire Landing area.

Judice’s restaurant will be closer to Jerry Ware Drive near the airport sign in a different section of The Landing than The Golden Square, DeCuir said.

“Judice does not benefit from that $2 million investment that the NEDC is making for Glow,” explained Fred Jackson, assistant to Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick. “That’s a separate stand-alone investment. … So nobody is going to be spending any money to provide any infrastructure for Judice for power, sewer or anything like that. They’re going to have to carry their own weight.”

Judice’s Cajun Café, located at 2045 Texas Ave. in Bridge City, is a sit-down version of his popular Port Arthur Cajun market.

“Anybody that’s familiar with Judice’s restaurant knows that it’s quite a thriving business,” Jackson said. “We believe that Judice can add an element of growth in the economy in Nederland.”

As far as The Landing goes, the county and the airport have had a goal of developing the land in front of the airport for quite some time, Jackson said.

“We’ve seen what Port Arthur did with the area on the other side of 365 and how that’s benefited the county, but more than that, Port Arthur,” he said. “The judge and the Commissioners Court have been business friendly and want to increase our economy, employment, and sales tax revenues.”

According to DeCuir, Glow Inc. has a 360-day option period to back out of the agreement.

“Knowing how eager they are to get started, I doubt they’ll take a full year, but that was what was provided to them,” DeCuir said, adding that this is the due diligence phase for the developer. “During that time they do their environmental surveys and soil assessments and things like that.”

“Once development does start, it’s going to be in phases,” she continued. “They’re going to start looking for retail first — that includes restaurants and things like that. The retail development would probably take a year, and then they would move on to build a fountain plaza area. Then they would move onto the hotel, which will probably be another two years down the line. Within four years, they would start building the office complex. Altogether it would probably take four to six years for that entire section to be developed.”

In the meantime, water and sewer has to be developed, DeCuir said, but will not be started until Glow can no longer back out of the agreement.

DeCuir said she expects Judice’s restaurant to come in much quicker.

“Probably you’ll see construction within the next nine months,” she said.