River Oaks Shopping Center - An Evolving Neighborhood Destination

River Oaks Shopping Center

It all started when...

The first commercial structures that later became what we call River Oaks Shopping Center were built in the 1930s. During the 40s, 50s and throughout the remaining years of the 20th century, the owners made extensive changes and improvements to the architecture, landscaping and accessibility of the center reflecting Houston's increasingly sophisticated tastes and high standards for both beauty and convenience.

The River Oaks Theatre was built in 1939 and is the last historic movie theater in Houston that is still used for its original purpose. It is an example of late-1930s Art Deco design. The theater has been operated by Landmark Theatres since 1976 and generally shows foreign language and independent films, as well as other "art-house" movies. In 1986, Landmark turned the one screen theatre into a three screen theatre by splitting the spacious balcony in two, now facilitating two smaller screens upstairs.

Theatre Awards

  • Presented an award for the "Preservation of a Landmark Facility as a Unique and Special Venue for Art, Vintage and Independently Produced Films" (2001) by the Museum District Alliance
  • Declared "Best Movie Theatre" (2001) by Inside Houston
  • Declared "Best Movie Theatre" (2003) by the Houston Press
  • Listed as one of the "20 Cool Things About Houston" (2006) by the Houston Chronicle
  • November 6, 2006, was officially proclaimed "River Oaks Theatre Day" by Mayor Bill White

Since WRI's acquisition of River Oaks Shopping Center in 1971, the company has invested more than $50 million in design upgrades and improvements to provide the best possible customer experience for its tenants.


River Oaks tenants and customers rank the center as “best in class.”

History of River Oaks Shopping Center Timeline


Architects: Stayton Nunn and Milton McGinty
Construction: clay brick, stucco and painted warm sand color
First Stores Opened in 1937


  • 2 Service Stations
  • Food and Liquor Stores
  • Beauty and barber shops
  • Drug Store
  • Tailor-Cleaner
  • Flower and Gift Shops
  • Electric Supply Store
  • Women’s Clothing
  • Offices


Second phase constructed in 1948 on either side of the next block east (Where Gap and Events are currently located)
Architects: William G. Farrington Co.
Designer: Ray Brogniez


Post World War center declined
Low mix of tenants
Construction: neon and awnings added


Center acquired by Weingarten in 1971
Weingarten Grocery Store constructed

1975 Remodel

Architect: Eugene Aubry of S.I. Morris Architects
Construction: White paint applied to stucco and brick, Black Silk-Screened signs added to match black tile
Palm trees trucked in from Florida installed along West Gray


Clocks added over 1964 and 1973 West Gray Buildings in 1988
Architects: Suzanne LaBarthe and John Rodgers
Focus on making center pedestrian friendly


La Griglia opens 1992, Architects Kirksey-Meyers


Northwest corner of shopping center redeveloped with two story retail building and four story parking garage
Architect: Altoon Porter
Team Members include: RSM Design, SWA Group and Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting


Façade updated to display larger signage area for retailers.