Designation Won't Stop Demolition

In a largely symbolic move, Houston City Council designated the River Oaks and Alabama shopping centers as historic landmarks. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The effort to get the designation was stepped up after it was learned that the River Oaks shopping center was going to be torn down. Preservationist say the structure, built in the 1930s, is an architecturally significant piece of Houston's history. Greater Houston Preservation Alliance Program Director David Bush says the action by City Council will not stop demolition for River Oaks.

"For the Alabama Theater and the River Oaks Theater, what it means is that the buildings just can't disappear overnight. There is a process in place now where the developer will have to notify the city about any plans for those buildings that would result in significant changes or demolition."

Bush says the new designation only helps with time to find alternatives in future cases. Bush says those alternatives are limited.

"Finding another buyer for the property, coming up with a plan that would include preservation of the buildings, anything that would mitigate demolition."

Bush still has hope for the other structures that received the designation at council.

"Both the theaters are still occupied, the Alabama Theater will be impacted when the new Barnes and Noble opens on the side of the River Oaks shopping center because then the Bookstop would close and then the Alabama Theater would be up on the chopping block. The River Oaks Theater still has a three year lease agreement with Landmark Theaters for its operations so there is some time to work out some alternatives for those properties."

Houston Mayor Bill White says the city has already started to identify possible properties for designation, independent of the ordinance passing council.

"It looked like about 30 t0 50 properties to me. That has gone through some process of an expert committee and probably ought to have some designation."

In other business, City Council delayed a vote concerning the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation. A deal had been reached to sell the roughly six and a half acres on West Dallas for $6 million. The issue will come back before council next week. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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