But the 11-3 vote was largely symbolic, and does nothing to prevent demolition of the beloved Art Deco structures. Workers spent Wednesday shutting down utilities on the north-western end of the River Oaks Community Shopping Center. Demolition of the crescent-shaped building, which was built in 1937 and most recently included a Blackeyed Pea restaurant and a Jamba Juice among its tenants, could begin as soon as Thursday.
The other structures covered by the vote, including the movie theaters, are now protected from demolition for at least 90 days.
"It's kind of bittersweet," said Lynn Edmundson, executive director of Historic Houston. "It's made the general public very aware of how weak our ordinance is."
The property owners, Weingarten Realty Investors, received a permit late Wednesday afternoon to begin sewer disconnection work. After the city inspects that work, the company may apply for a demolition permit.
Wednesday's designation means that Weingarten faces a 90-day waiting period if it wishes to tear down the River Oaks Theater or the Alabama Theater or Shopping Center.
"It doesn't keep these landmarks from being demolished," said Sarah Gish, founder of Save Our Landmarks, a Houston group. But the delay creates time for dialogue between preservationists and property owners. Gish thinks Weingarten should try to build around the Art Deco buildings.
"There's got to be some common ground," Gish said. "The River Oaks Theater is the only historic movie theater still operating in Houston."
But that's not important right now. I know that what City Council did, though it was the best they could do, was basically nothing. And I figure one good basically meaningless gesture deserves another. As such, I've done the aughts-decade equivalent of starting a petition, which is to say I've created a Facebook group called I Will Not Shop At The West Gray Barnes & Noble, whose purpose is, I trust, self-explanatory. If you stand with me on this, especially if you live in or have a connection to the Houston area, I'd be much obliged if you'd join the group, and maybe let a few other people know about it, too. Who knows, maybe we'll get enough members to make them a little nervous. It's the least we can do.Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 08, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston