12/21/15 11:30am

YOU MAY YET HAVE YOUR CHANCE TO LIVE ON TOP OF THE SUR LA TABLE BY THE RIVER OAKS THEATER River Oaks Shopping Center rooftops Senior Leasing VP Gerald Crump of Weingarten Realty Investors told Nancy Sarnoff of the Chronicle last week that even bigger changes are likely on their way to the River Oaks Shopping Center section on the north side of W. Gray between McDuffie and Driscoll, currently housing Sur La Table, Brasserie 19, and Cafe Ginger, among others (shown here from above, facing a distant Kroger’s). Still-nebulous plans for revamping the space include incorporating residential units, more retail or more parking. Any changes to the center, which is designated a historic landmark by the City, would need the nominal thumbs-up of the Houston Architectural and Historic Commission — though need for that approval can be bypassed by letting a 90-day waiting period expire, David Bush of Preservation Houston told Sarnoff. Crump says that the company will work to communicate plans to the surrounding community as they develop, but also tells Sarnoff that “as an owner and developer, you have to remain relevant”. The redo, whatever shape it eventually takes, could take that shape as early as 2019. [Houston Chronicle, previously on Swamplot] Photo: bjoelio via Swamplot Flickr pool

02/18/15 1:00pm

Proposed Oaks on Shepherd Shopping Center, 4000 N. Shepherd Dr., Independence Heights, Houston

Proposed Oaks on Shepherd Shopping Center, 4000 N. Shepherd Dr., Independence Heights, Houston

Update, 2/19: Weingarten says the brochure was a “vision book” that was released to the public in error.

“The time is right for redevelopment” of the Sears at 4000 N. Shepherd Dr., declares a brochure published online earlier this week by Weingarten Realty. The brochure, which appears to be part of a proposal to Sears, which owns the 11.7-acre western portion of the site, says the REIT plans to partner with the retailer to turn the sleepy department store and the Pine Forest Business Park directly to its east into a “wonderfully connected and designed retail shopping destination for Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and neighborhoods around it,” including a new grocery store and restaurants.

No site plan is included in the presentation, but Weingarten notes that it plans to keep “the 2nd longest operating Houston Sears” open in some form throughout the redevelopment. “Weingarten’s vision is to acquire adjacent land,” then “temporarily relocate Sears into an existing building” — the Family Bingo Center at 641 W. Crosstimbers — before scraping and redoing the whole site.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Oaks on Shepherd
01/10/13 1:40pm

ONE FINAL FIESTA FIESTA It’s adios for the 60-year-old Heights market — Bridgewood Properties is building a 4-story senior-living complex in its place — but there will be one more flicker before the lights go out: Bridgewood President Jim Gray tells the Leader he pushed back the start of construction “so that the Houston Heights Association could hold its annual Candlelight Dinner & Auction … the Heights’ premier social function.” Gray adds: “It seemed like the right thing to do.” [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

08/21/12 3:01pm

Weingarten Realty has at last sold the 2.08-acre parcel under the Fiesta Mart on Studewood at 14th St. — to a Houston developer of assisted-living and independent-living complexes. Bridgewood Properties, the company behind the Village of Meyerland complex under construction at 4141 N. Braeswood Blvd. near Stella Link on the site of the former Rutlege Apartments and the Village at the Woodlands Waterway, plans to build a 4-story, 80-unit building in place of the grocery store — with independent-living apartments on the top floor, a bottom floor for “memory care” patients, and 2 floors of assisted-living units sandwiched in between. Fiesta’s lease expires in January; Bridgewood plans to begin building a “Craftsman style” structure in its place shortly thereafter, which should take 16 to 18 months to finish.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

07/19/12 1:22pm

FAIR WARNING: ABOUT TO MESS WITH ALABAMA THEATER MARQUEE Publicists for Weingarten Realty want Swamplot readers to know that workers about to poke into the underside of the Alabama Theater marquee aren’t dismantling it. They’ll only be replacing the lights there with new LED fixtures. Doing that will require removing the soffit panels below the Shepherd-facing sign on the soon-to-be first Houston-proper Trader Joe’s. “The marquee will look just as it does today with the only exception being new energy efficient lighting on the underside,” the shopping-center owner tells Swamplot. The work should take about 2 weeks. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Weingarten Realty

03/22/12 4:33pm

Isn’t Weingarten Realty going to preserve some of the interior of its landmarked Alabama Theater as it makes the space ready for Trader Joe’s — or if that deal somehow falls through, some other tenant? Sure: The lobby and theater ceilings are being left alone, and a decorative plaster “medallion” on the north wall is supposed to remain in place — though it’ll be stripped of some outer layers. An upper section of the balcony will also stay, along with some light fixtures in the lobby. But other than those items, the entire 1939 theater space — or rather, what’s left of it after Weingarten encased the auditorium’s preserved sloped floor in concrete last year — is being gutted, according to plans drawn up for the project by Heights Venture Architects. A permit for the conversion of the historic Art Deco building to a retail “shell” was granted by the city earlier this week.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

11/11/11 5:59pm

In a late-Friday afternoon press release that doesn’t mention Trader Joe’s at all, Alabama Theater owner Weingarten Realty is announcing that the company has begun construction on the landmarked 1939 Art Deco building at 2922 S. Shepherd to “create a more desirable space for future retail tenants.” What does that mean? Apparently, removing the few elements of the interior that made the building suitable as a movie theater: The entire screen wall along with the murals flanking both sides of the screen, and the auditorium’s sloped floor.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

11/04/11 1:21pm

If any ghosts of Alabama Theater moviegoers were still intent on haunting the spaces once occupied by their old seats, they’d be buried in sand by now. A Swamplot reader and theater buff shows us the current state of the building’s innards — as seen yesterday from strategic views through the front and rear glass doors. On its way to a new level and Trader Joe’s-worthy surface, the auditorium’s basement and raked floor have been transformed into what now appears to be the city’s largest indoor sandbox. (From the photos, it looks like only a single motorized sand toy gets to play in it, though.)

A new, permanent concrete floor ordered by the owners of the landmarked 1939 Art Deco building, Weingarten Realty, will replace the removable raised-floor system put in place in the early 1980s, when the theater at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr. was transformed into the Alabama Bookstop bookstore.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

10/11/11 8:57am

According to the Greater Houston Planning Alliance, which heard the news from the Texas Historical Commission — which heard the news from the project’s architect in Dallas — current plans for turning the former Alabama Theater into a Trader Joe’s now call for the terrazzo flooring at the theater’s Shepherd Dr. entrance to be left in place. Building owner Weingarten Realty apparently still has plans to move the front doors 7 or 8 ft. further toward the street, though; according to the GHPA, an accessibility consultant has advised project architect Don Sopranzi that there is no problem with the existing floor’s slope. Weingarten received approval from the city last month to scrape up the swirly patterned flooring outside the entrance and replace it with concrete.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

10/06/11 1:12pm

At a city historic commission hearing 2 weeks ago, a representative of Weingarten Realty noted that the swirly patterned terrazzo flooring at the front entrance of the former Alabama Theater was sloped a half-percent too steep to meet current accessibility standards, and therefore will have to be removed to allow Trader Joe’s to move into the space. Not a problem for the noted preservationists at Weingarten, the building’s owner — the company plans to rip out the decorative design and replace it with a brand new concrete surface for its new tenants.

Too bad for fans of the original front vestibule design of the 1939 Art Deco theater at 2922 S. Shepherd, which is listed as a protected landmark: The commission approved Weingarten’s plans. But the helpful folks at the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance decided to do a little homework for the building’s owners anyway.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

09/22/11 4:44pm

Changes to the exterior of the Alabama Theater proposed by Weingarten Realty to accommodate grocery store Trader Joe’s debut appearance in Houston were approved today by the city’s Archeological and Historical Commission. Because it’s a designated city landmark, the commission’s approval is required for changes to the building’s facades (though an alternate wait-90-days-and-you-can-do-whatever-you-want option is also available). Trader Joe’s or Weingarten’s plans to restore, alter, or strip the innards of the Art Deco building at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr., though, won’t require any commission approvals — only construction or demo permits.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

09/19/11 12:49pm

Yes, Trader Joe’s wants to open what would likely be its first-ever Houston store at the long-vacant Alabama Theater at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr. — the vacant retail space last used as the home of the Alabama Bookstop. Nancy Sarnoff digs up the proposal for exterior alterations to the designated city landmark sent to the archeological and historical commission by shopping-center owner Weingarten Realty; the changes have already been approved by city staff. Included in the plans: Two big store signs on top of the marquee facing Shepherd . . . and a brand-new turret at the back entrance.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

08/03/11 12:51pm

A TRADER JOE’S IN THE ALABAMA THEATER? 3 months ago, Trader Joe’s announced plans to build 10 stores in Texas. But where? A little bird tells Nancy Sarnoff that the California-born grocer is exploring the possibility of taking the vacant Bookstop space in the former Alabama Theater on South Shepherd Dr. No official comment from Weingarten Realty or Trader Joe’s, but Sarnoff notes the theater space’s listed 14,000-or-so sq. ft. is right in the target range for a Trader Joe’s store. The space has been vacant for almost 2 years. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Chris Adams

04/28/11 11:41am

C’mon, we all know what the problem’s been with the old Art Deco River Oaks Shopping Center on West Gray, just east of Shepherd: The place was too black-and-white, the signs were too damn small, and it didn’t have enough turrets. Hey, nothing a little forehead lift and a generous slathering of EIFS can’t fix! Got some can’t-sell brick up there? Time for a little arch-ee-textural adjustment! It’ll look just like stucco — with all those control joints you love, plus they’ll be painting the new glop a nice Pearland-y mustard color. All that and a new wash of beige paint over the rest of the place should make folks driving in from newer suburbs feel more at home when they visit — and may have the added bonus of attracting a few of those nail salons and check-cashing outlets the place has been so sorely missing.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

04/21/11 5:42pm

LANDMARK FOR SALE Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban, whose company 2929 Entertainment has owned Landmark Theatres since 2003, is putting the arthouse cinema chain up for sale by auction — along with its sister independent-film distribution company, Magnolia Pictures. Landmark operates 55 cinemas with 245 screens in 21 cities. In Houston, Landmark leases the art deco 1939-vintage River Oaks Theatre at 2009 West Gray — from Weingarten Realty. Offers are expected to come in as early as next week, but Cuban tells Bloomberg News he is only “testing the waters . . . We won’t sell unless the offer is very, very compelling.” [Art Attack] Photo: Flickr user Loren-zo