Historic Macy’s downtown store to close this spring
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013 23:01
The closing of one of Houston’s oldest department stores has sparked a discussion about its historic home and the future of retail downtown.
Last week, Macy’s announced that its store on Main Street will be closing this spring, leaving questions about what will happen to the 65-year-old building in downtown Houston.
Houston Macy’s representatives declined to comment on the store’s closing, but according to a statement released by Macy’s Inc., the downtown Houston location, along with five other Macy’s stores across the country, will be closing due to underperformance. The statement also said final clearance sales would begin this week, with the store to close within the next seven to 11 weeks.
David Bush, a spokesperson for Preservation Houston, said Macy’s will no longer own the building after its lease runs out and that the building is in danger of being demolished.
Bush said that Preservation Houston, a nonprofit organization founded in 1978 to promote the preservation of Houston’s historical architectural and cultural resources, is trying to save the 65-year-old Macy’s building because of its historical importance. According to Bush, the building was designed by renowned architect Kenneth Franzheim and first opened in 1947 as Foley’s Department Store.
“This building ended up serving as the model for almost all department stores built in the U.S. after World War II,” Bush said. “It was built with no windows except for the display windows on the first floor. It’s basically the first big box.”
Bush said he is disappointed to see plans for destruction because of the building’s adaptable nature.
“It seems like there is [a] lack of imagination,” Bush said. “The building was designed to be flexible and could be easily adapted, but all we see is the building being in the way rather than having potential new uses.”
Just after the announcement of the Macy’s closure, Mayor Annise Parker created a new task force aimed not only at finding a new location for a Macy’s store downtown, but also for researching options for other department stores and major retailers downtown. Called the Downtown Retail Task Force, the group is made up of marketing professionals, real estate developers and representatives from the Houston Downtown Management District, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office.
In the statement, Parker said the group would be exploring options for expanding the number of retail stores downtown. She cited future light-rail expansions, upcoming residential projects and the downtown area’s recent growth as reasons Houston needs more retail options.
Brown College senior Bridget Casey said she would like to see more shopping downtown.
“I mostly go shopping in the village because there are a lot more stores there, but it would be nice to have more options downtown as well,” Casey said. “From the north side of campus, taking the light rail is almost more convenient than getting to the village.”
Janice Evans, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office, said the task force would begin meeting this week and the first steps would consist of identifying and addressing the current challenges retailers face downtown.
Bush said the mayor’s task force is mostly focused on finding a new location for Macy’s downtown rather than saving the building. He said Preservation Houston was exploring possibilities with developers to prevent the building from being demolished.
“We are talking to a few developers who are interested in projects like this and who have done stuff like this in other cities,” Bush said. “It’s wasteful to send the building to a landfill. It’s solidly built, and it’s an important part of the fabric downtown.”