Weingarten Realty Investors is installing corner turrets, taller parapets, sandstone elements and larger signs on the historic River Oaks Shopping Center (1937, 1948) on West Gray at South Shepherd. The alterations, pictured at left, are changing the profile of the Art Deco landmark and compromising its low, streamlined design. The work is being carried out on all of the historic buildings in the center except the River Oaks Theater (1939).
In 2007, Weingarten Realty demolished one of the distinctive curved sections of the original shopping center. The extended height, new signs and, particularly, the sandstone detailing are in keeping with the appearance of the new Barnes & Noble wing built on the site of the demolished historic building.
River Oaks Shopping Center is a designated City of Houston historic landmark. Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission denied a Certificate of Appropriateness for this project, but Houston’s historic preservation ordinance allowed the City to issue permits for the work after a 90-day waiting period.
Amendments to the preservation ordinance eliminated the 90-day waiver in designated City of Houston historic districts. Individually designated landmarks that are not in historic districts can still be altered or demolished after 90 days. River Oaks Shopping Center is not located in a City of Houston historic district.
Photos: April 2011 alterations to River Oaks Shopping Center (1948 expansion, Raymond H. Brogniez), 1953-1993 W. Gray Avenue. (photos by Jim Parsons)