Continuing threats to historic River Oaks Shopping Center

Weingarten Realty Investors has submitted requests for certificates of appropriateness to demolish one portion and significantly alter another section of the historic River Oaks Shopping Center. The Art Deco complex is a designated City of Houston Landmark, so proposed changes to the buildings must go before the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission (HAHC). The affected buildings at 1964 and 1973 West Gray Avenue (1948, Raymond H. Brogniez) were constructed during a post-World War II expansion and complemented the modernistic design of the original shopping center (1937, Nunn & McGinty).

 The 29-story residential tower proposed to replace a portion of the historic River Oaks Shopping Center building at 1964 West Gray. 

The 29-story residential tower proposed to replace a portion of the historic River Oaks Shopping Center building at 1964 West Gray. 

Weingarten Realty Investors proposes demolishing approximately 18,000 square feet of the east end of 1964 West Gray that includes the space currently occupied by Cafe Ginger and Local Pour. A 29-story apartment building and eight-level garage with ground floor retail space (pictured in the rendering at left) are planned for the site. In its request, the company states its goal in designing the garage is "to render a modern interpretation of the adjacent original art deco style shopping center."

Weingarten, which has owned the historic shopping center since 1972, cites the deteriorated state of the property and the cost of repairs in its demolition request. Similar arguments were put forward when the company demolished the northern arc of the 1937 shopping center to construct the current location of Barnes & Noble. River Oaks Shopping Center was designated a City of Houston Landmark in 2007 during the controversy that arose over that project.

 Proposed alterations to 1973 West Gray include cutting larger second-floor windows and wrapping the building's bullnose corner in limestone tiles.

Proposed alterations to 1973 West Gray include cutting larger second-floor windows and wrapping the building's bullnose corner in limestone tiles.

The second request is for proposed alterations to the commercial space on the west end of 1973 West Gray that was formerly occupied by California Pizza Kitchen. The changes (shown at right in a rendering) would include installing limestone tile on both floors of the building and significantly increasing the size of the windows on the second story.

If HAHC denies the requests for the certificates of appropriateness, Houston's historic preservation ordinance would allow the work to go forward after a 90-day waiting period. In Houston, designated historic landmarks can be demolished; protected landmarks and buildings in city-designated historic districts cannot usually be demolished.

The HAHC meeting is open to the public and begins at 3 p.m., Thursday, June 15, in the council chambers on the ground floor of City Hall Annex, 900 Bagby Street. Anyone wishing to address the HAHC must sign in before 3 p.m.