Residents vs. The River Oaks Shopping Center


I’m going to enjoy a few days off from work, but couldn’t resist posting these pictures and writing about the battle that is brewing between some  River Oaks residents and the Weingarten Realty Company, which owns the River Oaks Shopping Center.

On Sunday afternoon I  saw several signs posted on the side wall of some ritzy homes that face Shepherd Drive.

The residents are protesting an  open  air wine bar and restaurant that is being built on the balcony of a  new Borders Bookstore.

The residents  believe the new business, which will be rented out for private parties and events,  would  create noise that will disturb the nearby neighborhoods. 

They also argue that it violates the city’s setback rules, because the building would be located too close to the street.

It seems the developers started the project without first obtaining approval from the city of Houston Planning Department.

The residents and the realty company are currently scheduled to attend a hearing on Thursday, January 8, at 2:30 in the afternoon. 

Weingarten rarely comments publicly about its plans, but if   you want to know more about the residents point of view you can log on to

One Response

  1. Thanks for the post, Mary. You are correct that the problem is that Weingarten has violated the law by building this entire portion of the center about 12 feet over the setback line – and setbacks are public assets.

    Here’s an update – the entire play-by-play can be found at our Facebook page as well as the website.

    Weingarten today spoke with several neighbors indicating that they are “not willing” to fully enclose a second floor wine bar that is being built in violation of Houston setback laws. We therefore are sorry to say that, despite a three week reprieve given by the planning commission to allow Weingarten time to work with its neighbors to reach an acceptable compromise, we are in for a long and possibly contentious hearing this Thursday.

    Because the entire face of this building, including its structural columns and the balcony and port-cochere all violate Houston setback laws, hundreds of neighbors and community members have banded together to demand that the building either be brought into complete compliance, or substantial compliance along with full addressing of neighborhood concerns to deal with the sound, signage, and light issues this illegal structure creates. Those changes would include, at a minimum, dimming or removing the lights at the top of the illegal structure, removing the large lit sign from the western face, and the full enclosure of the wine bar.

    Community members who live near the project have posted large signs on their property asking Weingarten and Tony’s not to violate setback laws, and to be a good neighbor. Tony Vallone will presumably be expecting these same neighbors to frequent his restaurant and wine bar.

    The variance hearing, originally scheduled for December 18, was deferred until January 8 so that Weingarten could “work with neighbors to find an acceptable solution.” However, finding a solution is elusive when neither Weingarten nor Tony’s apparently think they should have to comply with Houston’s laws, but instead should be able to get a variance based on smaller incremental changes to the project, like partially enclosing the space, or lowering the lighted sign by 1-2 feet rather than removing it.

    Hundreds of neighbors and concerned community members, as well as elected and appointed officials, have spoken clearly: we do not believe Houston should grant a variance to allow a developer to violate the law, and to sell our public setbacks to their own tenant, with no consideration given to the public. Setbacks belong to all of us – in an unzoned city, they are all we have.

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