Weingarten gives River Oaks TLC

For some real estate companies in Houston, renovation, redevelopment and refurbishment is an ongoing process. Consider Weingarten Realty, Investors (WRI), a real estate investment trust that is one of the largest retail developers in the southwest, and the tender loving care it has lavished on the River Oaks Shopping Center over the past three decades.

The 283,000 sq. ft. center -- said to be the second oldest in the country -- was developed in 1937 with an art deco architectural style featuring black and white tile, aluminum accents and neon lights. For decades, the center prospered but eventually fell into disrepair. WRI bought the property in the early 1970s, completely refurbished it and brought in a new mix of tenants.

But WRI’s redevelopment has never stopped. The company continually renovates the property and annually brings in new retailers as the needs of consumers in the affluent River Oaks neighborhood change.

Two years ago, Kroger sought to expand its 35,000-sq. ft. store to its "Signature" concept. WRI agreed not only to undertake the Kroger redevelopment but also to renovate the entire east section of the center. The result was a 57,000-sq. ft. state-of-the-art store for Kroger and an award-winning refurbishment of this section of the center.

Seeking to offer an eclectic tenant mix of shops, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and hip night spots, WRI continually updates and expands the center's tenant base, said Patty Bender, vice president of WRI. One of the center’s latest tenant additions was Sur La Table, a unique kitchenware store.

"WRI has had an ongoing renovation program at River Oaks Shopping Center since we bought the property in 1974," Bender said. "We continually seek to not only upgrade the property, but to add new and exciting tenants such as Sur La Table, which leased space that formerly was a drug store."

WRI’s plan to persist in updating River Oaks appears to be working, say those in the industry. Ed Page, a principal in the Houston real estate firm of Boyd Page, says WRI is doing an "excellent job of keeping shopping centers up to date and is one of the best at keeping in tune with evolving lifestyle retailers and attracting them into their shopping centers."

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