Macy's To Relocate To Remain In Downtown Houston

flickr image by jayRaz
The new year marks a change in downtown department store shopping, as Macy's announced it will close its doors in early spring. It is one of six stores the Cincinnati-based retailer will close this year. While Macy's shops for a new downtown location, preservationists are disappointed the structure will be demolished.

The downtown Macy's store at the corner of Main and Dallas, opened in 1947 as Foley's, the first major department store built in the country after WWII.

"It was built to be a very flexible building, all of the display cases could move. It really was the model for the modern American department store."

David Bush is with Preservation Houston. He says the Foley's store attracted national attention when it opened, and because it represented a new way of shopping in the country, the building was constructed to last.

"According to the Secretary of the Interior's standards for historic preservation, what's worthy of preservation includes buildings that are designed by prominent architect, and this was a Kennth Franzheim building, which is a prominent architect, is one that served as a model for other buildings and this definitely did, or is an outstanding example of its style, and this one is. So it qualifies under a lot of areas, plus it's 50 years old or older."

Unfortunately, the property owner is planning to demolish the current site to make way for a commercial office building. Bob Eury is executive director of the Houston Downtown Management District. He says Mayor Annise Parker quickly announced a new retail task force to help Macy's and other retail outlets stay downtown.

"The challenge I think we face going forward and the task force that's working on this thing is, really finding both either new construction or redevelopment options, where we can really come up with very competitive retail, urban retail space. Downtown actually has a lot of retail in it, but its sort of sprinkled around in a lot of locations, and good shopping retail has to be proximal to other opportunities. I mean, that's the way it works."

Foleys
Opened in October of 1947, the new Foley's was built as a six-story building. Image taken from Department Store Museum blog

The mayor's task force includes Eury and other local retail and development experts. He says they're building an urban product in the heart of Houston that must cater to multiple markets.

"We're meeting residents; we're meeting workers; we're meeting visitors. They all have needs. We haven't discussed this, but one need certainly in all of this still is parking. That is another piece of the puzzle that our task force has to be really working on in trying to solve. Because even in the central city, you still have to be able to park easily, because you're probably not gonna walk, and parking has to work for you."

He says that Macy's realizes that a new smaller store might be a better fit for downtown. 

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Pat Hernandez

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Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...