Well, I asked for Weingarten to think about ways to deal with the River Oaks and Alabama properties that don't involve a wrecking ball, so I'm glad to see that they are doing so, if only in a preliminary manner.
The fate of the buildings "is very much in flux," Drew Alexander said in his first public comment on the matter.
"We've talked to community leaders, and we're looking for those who express interest in doing something in an organized way. If there's a solution that makes sense, we're all for it."
But he acknowledged that Weingarten might raze the buildings. In the long term, the company is considering high-rise development of the two theater sites, he said.
The River Oaks Theatre's current occupant, Landmark Theatres, has time left on its lease, Alexander said. He speculated that the art-movie chain would not be able to pay market rates for the location when the lease comes up for renewal. He did not estimate what the rate would be. A residential or office tower on the site, Alexander said, "would do a lot of cool things both for the shopping center and for city life. It would be more of a 24-hour destination. You could have sidewalk dining."
A high-rise could incorporate either the theater's facade or its entire auditorium. But those options would be expensive and problematic, he said, because the high-rise would have to include a parking garage.
Weingarten would consider keeping the theater building intact, Alexander said. "If people want to raise money and continue operating it as an upscale dinner theater, with cocktails, then great," he said. "If people love to go to the Landmark River Oaks and it does well - great. Or if the building can be converted to doing something that performs well, that's great, too."
Whatever the new use, he said, it would have to bolster the shopping center's viability as a high-end destination. With several new luxury shopping centers under development, the market is extremely competitive, he said.
The renovated Alabama Theatre is the home of Bookstop, which is operated by Barnes & Noble.
Though Weingarten also is considering a high-rise for that site, the Alabama might be more easily preserved than the River Oaks because there's space behind the bookstore to build a parking garage, Alexander said.
"I have a friend who told me, 'I hope you don't undo the Bookstop,' " he said. "I said, 'Bring me a tenant who can afford the space.' "
Weingarten would also consider selling both theater sites, Alexander said. In deciding the properties' fates, Weingarten - the owner of about 300 shopping centers across the nation - is investigating tax credits for historic preservation.
"We try to be good corporate citizens," he said. "We're a public company. And that means we have fiduciary responsibilities to our shareholders."