Thursday, September 20, 2007

R.O.T.* In Hell?

*stands for River Oaks Theatre. Or Roger O. Thornhill, Cary Grant's character in "North By Northwest". But for the purposes of this, the former will suffice.

I normally do not go for big political causes, unless I can use them to make some sort of cheap joke (see prev. entries with George Bush). However, this as The Dude, or George H.W. Bush would say, will not stand.

I worked, off and on, at River Oaks Theatre from 1986 through 1991. It was a job that helped inform a lot of what I consider good work/management practices (I will never hire anyone who resembles myself from 1986 through 1991), gave me far too many good friendships (no matter how poorly I behaved at the time, the people I know from then were all to a one great people) and memories, and supplied a strong grounding in the classics of independent, art, and world cinema. It also inspired that previous run-on sentence.

But now they want to pave this building (and the shopping center around it and another theater that had successfully preserved as a bookstore) paradise and put up a parking lot. And a high rise and a new shopping center that the parking lot supports.

Why care about some renovation going on in Houston? Because, besides Austin, there's very little in Texas that one can point to and go "Culture". Oh sure, native culture, but something that has history, embraces the world around it, gives generation after generation a taste of the magic of cinema, not just Hollywood, but from everywhere? Houston has, inside the loop, some great clubs, live theater, comedy, museums, opera houses, etc.

But they're being taken out, slowly but surely. And this will be done by nice guys who mean well and will talk about "making Houston come alive again" or "putting the 'boom' back in 'Boomtown'" or some line. As Albert Brooks' character in "Broadcast News" says about who the Devil really is (and I paraphrase) "(They) will look attractive and... will be nice and helpful and will never do an evil thing... (they) will just bit by little bit lower standards where (standards) are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit."

Someone put up a petition at ipetition which you can find by clicking here or on the picture above. And read what they had to say on the site below in the newfangled italics the kids are so crazy about...

Weingarten Realty Investors, which owns the landmark 1937 River Oaks Shopping Center at West Gray and Shepherd in Houston, Texas, has notified tenants in the center that it plans to demolish parts of the center, including the architecturally significant curved wings facing Shepherd Drive and the 1939 River Oaks Theater, to make room for a chain bookstore and a high-rise residential building. Houston preservationists are afraid that, if Weingarten goes through with its plans, it could also demolish the Art Deco-style Alabama Theater center at Shepherd and Alabama, which now houses a Bookstop and other retail stores. Either demolition would be a major loss for Houston, as both buildings are examples of late-1930s Art Deco design and are among a handful of viable retail buildings of their age and style in the city. The River Oaks center demolition could begin as early as 2007, based on what tenants have been told.

Landmark shopping centers in other cities, including Highland Park Village in Dallas, Country Club Plaza in Kansas City and Westwood Village in Los Angeles, not only remain viable shopping areas but are destinations in their communities because of their history, architecture and unique environments. If Weingarten is interested in increasing its revenue from River Oaks, the company should look at ways to develop the property further while preserving its historic elements intact.

Because of Houston's weak preservation laws, Weingarten will be able to move forward with the demolition with little or no legal opposition. That's why it is essential for concerned people to let Weingarten — a company that grew up in Houston — know that they oppose losing these pieces of our city's history. We plan to deliver this petition to Weingarten President and CEO Andrew M. Alexander, Barnes & Noble CEO Stephen Riggio, Mayor Bill White and City Councilwomen Ada Edwards and Anne Clutterbuck.
Take some time and sign the thing. Help some Houston kids in the future see something besides "Transformers".


Pisser said...

I will sign yer krotch R.O.T. if y'all tell yer Houston folks to vote fer mah unkle:

Tanks y'all.

(I'm pretty sure I've been there. Sad.)

your fiend, mr. jones said...

Ummmm... okay. Vote for my internet fiend's uncle.

Does this help?