Fashion / Shopping

Historic River Oaks Shopping Mecca To Be Transformed?

Houston’s Retail Wars Trigger Ambitious New Plans

BY // 12.15.15

The status quo is no longer good enough in Houston shopping. Not with the River Oaks District having roared into town and changed everything.

It’s adapt or get passed by. The venerable River Oaks Shopping Center — which dates back to 1937 — is the latest Houston shopping institution to jump on the change bandwagon. Weingarten Realty is exploring new plans for the center, including adding a residential element (condos or apartments), flashy new stores, extra parking and a revamped layout that would make the center, which is on two sides of a busy West Gray street, easier and more pleasant to walk (think more trees and open green spaces).

“As an owner of shopping centers across the nation, we are always exploring opportunities to add value to all of our properties, and River Oaks Shopping Center has tremendous opportunity,” Gerald Crump, a Weingarten senior vice president and Central Region director, said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The area of the shopping center that would be affected by the plans includes the socialite-beloved Brasserie 19 restaurant. It’s easy to imagine the new residences being built above stores, much like the most-anticipated new Grey House luxury apartments at the River Oaks District. Weingarten says its plans are “very preliminary.”

The fact that the company is releasing a statement about the development already shows the drive to get better in an increasingly crowded and competitive luxury Houston shopping market.

The Galleria is itself in the midst of $30 million luxury-wing renovation that will bring in new stores such as lingerie brand La Perla, Italian leather-goods company Tod’s, Céline and Christian Louboutin, as well as a new Saks Fifth Avenue. The River Oaks Shopping Center already boasts more than 75 stores and restaurants, including the historic River Oaks Theatre, a flagship Barnes & Noble and a host of local Houston-only shops.

It’s much larger than Hugh Potter, the legendary developer of River Oaks itself, could have envisioned when he first commissioned plans for a shopping center back in 1932. Now his center is in line for a major change — and in many ways, a new life. That’s the way of shopping in Houston today.

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