Weingarten Realty Investors, which owns the landmark 1937 River Oaks Shopping Center at West Gray and Shepherd in Houston, Texas, has notified tenants in the center that it plans to demolish parts of the center, including the architecturally significant curved wings facing Shepherd Drive and the 1939 River Oaks Theater, to make room for a chain bookstore and a high-rise residential building. Houston preservationists are afraid that, if Weingarten goes through with its plans, it could also demolish the Art Deco-style Alabama Theater center at Shepherd and Alabama, which now houses a Bookstop and other retail stores. Either demolition would be a major loss for Houston, as both buildings are examples of late-1930s Art Deco design and are among a handful of viable retail buildings of their age and style in the city. The River Oaks center demolition could begin as early as 2007, based on what tenants have been told.
Landmark shopping centers in other cities, including Highland Park Village in Dallas, Country Club Plaza in Kansas City and Westwood Village in Los Angeles, not only remain viable shopping areas but are destinations in their communities because of their history, architecture and unique environments. If Weingarten is interested in increasing its revenue from River Oaks, the company should look at ways to develop the property further while preserving its historic elements intact.
Because of Houston's weak preservation laws, Weingarten will be able to move forward with the demolition with little or no legal opposition. That's why it is essential for concerned people to let Weingarten — a company that grew up in Houston — know that they oppose losing these pieces of our city's history. We plan to deliver this petition to Weingarten President and CEO Andrew M. Alexander, Barnes & Noble CEO Stephen Riggio, Mayor Bill White and City Councilwomen Ada Edwards and Anne Clutterbuck.
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This petition is co-sponsored by Houstonist, a website about Houston (http://www.houstonist.com), and Greater Houston Preservation Alliance (http://www.ghpa.org)
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NEWS: "Curtain could close on Houston landmarks," Houston Chronicle, 7/22/06 http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/metropolitan/4064372 "River Oaks Shopping Center could be on Weingarten's hit list," Houstonist, 7/22/06 http://www.houstonist.com/archives/2006/07/22/river_oaks_shop.php "RIP, River Oaks Theater" Off the Kuff, 7/22/06 http://www.offthekuff.com/mt/archives/007677.html "River Oaks Theatre to Be Razed for (wait for it...) Barnes & Noble," JeffBalke.com, 7/22/06 http://www.jeffbalke.com/index.phpentry=entry060722-111610 "Group: Three Houston landmark buildings in danger of demolition," blogHouston, 7/23/06 http://www.bloghouston.net/item/3763 "Save the River Oaks/Alabama Theaters," Houston Photobloggers, 7/23/06 http://houston.photobloggers.org/2006/07/save_the_river_.html "Endangered Species" Bayou City History, 7/23/06 http://bayoucityhistory.blogspot.com/2006/07/endangered-species.html "I shed a tear for the River Oaks Theater and West Alabama Bookstop," mikemcguff blog, 7/24/06 http://mikemcguff.blogspot.com/2006/07/i-shed-tear-for-river-oaks-theater-and.html Secret Comics post, 7/24/06 http://secretcomics.typepad.com/secret_comics/2006/07/of_little_inter.html "Bulldozing the Past," Blue Bayou, 7/25/06 http://blogs.chron.com/bluebayou/2006/07/bulldozing_the_past.html "Houstonians Sign Petitions to Save Historic Shopping Center," KUHF, 7/27/06 http://www.kuhf.org/site/News2JServSessionIdr005=hut45notq1.app1b&page=NewsArticle&id=17225&news_iv_ctrl=1521 "Battle begins over Houston landmark's potential destruction," KHOU, 7/27/06 http://www.khou.com/topstories/stories/khou060726_cd_riveroaks10.827f76d.html "Thousands join fight for River Oaks center," Houston Chronicle, 7/28/06 http://chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/metropolitan/4077994 "Rumors surround historic theater and shopping center," KTRK, 7/28/06 http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/storysection=local&id=4410651 "Theater fight might be preview of coming attractions," KHOU, 7/28/06 http://www.khou.com/topstories/stories/khou060728_mh_riveroakstheater.a37ea.html "River Oaks threat creates huge outcry and growing support," Houstonist, 7/28/06 http://www.houstonist.com/archives/2006/07/28/river_oaks_thre_1.php "Icon's supporters turn to City Council," Houston Chronicle, 8/2/06 http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/metropolitan/4088344 "A page of history in danger at the Alabama Theatre," Houston Chronicle, 8/7/06 http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/ent/4098093 "Fighting the Wrecking Ball to Save Houston Landmarks," The New York Times, 8/12/06 http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/08/12/us/12preserve.html "Preservationists, REIT Tussle Over Fate of Houston Landmark," The Wall Street Journal, 8/16/06 http://www.emailthis.clickability.com/et/emailThisclickMap=viewThis&etMailToID=986039348 ---------- LINKS: River Oaks Shopping Center http://www.riveroaksshoppingcenter.com Alabama Theatre at Cinema Treasures http://cinematreasures.org/theater/1462 Weingarten Realty Investors http://www.weingarten.com Greater Houston Preservation Alliance http://www.ghpa.org Save the River Oaks! http://riveroaks.arch-ive.org
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