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.
A few more before-and-after images:
If you just loved the new Barnes and Noble and the sorta-curved enclosed-patio building where AmÃ©ricas went in that Weingarten built after tearing down the 70-year-old northwest section of the center in 2007, you’ll absolutely like these changes, because they dress up grandma to look just like her grandson, Rocco — in the strip-center clothing everyone’s wearing these days. Hey — haven’t I seen those sandstone tiles somewhere before?
Plus, just for the OMG value, it looks like these overhangs may be getting a delicate smear of don’t-park-here-red lipstick:
Luscious! The design and preservation snobs that Weingarten’s had so much fun making cringe over the last few years with various small and bizarre changes to the center (like knocking out those pesky black clay tiles from the various portions of the streetfront, and adding that gee-whiz turret overhang on top of what’s now Cafe Ginger) will soon be much relieved: Because the new stuccover promises to make those earlier changes look much more delicate and sensitive. Now, let turrets loom over every corner!
It’s all going up now.
On the shopping center’s website, Weingarten touts the “Certificate of Appropriateness” its makeover received “from the Houston Planning Department, following a review by the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission (HAHC).” Technically, that’s correct. The HAHC actually rejected Weingarten’s application in October, noting that the proposed alterations destroyed the center’s low-slung look, tacked on art moderne-ish elements to the Art Deco-style buildings, and were generally out of scale with the original. But the city’s revised preservation ordinance still requires that a certificate to proceed with changes to or demolitions of designated historic buildings be handed over anyway — if the applicant simply waits 90 days. And Weingarten’s waited almost twice that long already!
Sadly, the construction will only barely alter the River Oaks Theater — doing so might have caused some people to get upset. But getting rid of the Art Deco look on everything else around it should make it much less of a big deal to knock down the south side of the center and rebuild it with . . . say, a more appropriate Tuscan-style parking garage.