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Galvez Mall 1980s renovation and aftermath


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As documented with text and photographs in earlier postings, the interior and exterior of Galvez Mall (Galveston TX) was cosmetically renovated circa mid-1980s as part of a plan to convert it from a general purpose to a more upscale retail facility. These renovations were (in my opinion) well executed, but ultimately ineffective for the stated goal of attracting tenants. The then general manager of Galvez Mall attributed this to a severe economic recession during 1986 & 1987.

Although there were no nationwide economic recessions during this time period, there was a severe and prolonged economic recession in the greater Houston area beginning in the early 1980s and bottoming out in 1987. The recession was was due to the collapse of petroleum prices and the consequent high unemployment rate. The Houston economy did not return to its pre-recession level until early 1990.  

To summarize: Galvez Mall opened in 1968 as a general purpose retail shopping mall with a mixture or large medium, & small retail stores, and a triple-screen movie theater. In circa 1986 it was sold and cosmetically renovated to attract more upscale tenants. In late 1994, Houston-based developer Steve Fincher (dba Baxstep Investments) purchased the mall, renamed it THE ISLAND, and attempted (without success) to market it as an outlet mall for retailers who sold discontinued and overstocked merchandise. Some taxing authorities (but not Galveston County) provided a 5-year tax abatement to this developer. Beall's (the last major tenant) left in March 1996 leaving only two smaller retail tenants. The Island Fellowship Church operated at the former Beall's location until mid 1997. Another non-retail tenant, Galveston County Model Railroad Club set up a working model train layout and held meetings inside the mall until sometime in 1995. The mall became derelict (probably during the latter months of 1997) until its demolition in 2000. The land is now occupied by two large stores, Home Depot and Target (each with its own building), as well as a several smaller stores arranged in a strip.  

 

 

Edited by k5jri radio
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You obviously weren't living in Texas in the 80s. The recession the GM of Galvez was referring to was the oil bust of the mid-80s that really hit the Houston-area economy hard. Nobody who lived in Houston in the mid 80s, no matter how young, would forget what it was like. I was just a kid, but lost a lot of friends as their dads lost their jobs and had to move elsewhere for work. The price of oil bottomed out at $12.51/bbl in 1986. That, along with the savings and loan crisis of the mid-late 80s, which was worse in Texas than anywhere else. At least half of the failed S&Ls were based in Texas. Real estate prices plummeted. Our state fell into a deep recession. Downtown Houston was a ghost town at this time, office occupancy rates plummeted. We were just starting to come out of it around the time we hosted the economic summit in 1990.

 

1986 proved to be a watershed year for Houston, cleaving Old Houston from the Modern Houston we live in today. So many venerable old Houston institutions, especially those that catered to affluent oil-rich Texans, were casualties of the oil bust, that much of Houston’s unique culture and heritage died and was replaced by a more generic Large American City culture.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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No, I did not live in Texas in the 1980s. Then and now I lived in Florida where low oil prices tend to boost the economy. Lower oil prices per bbl mean there is cheaper gasoline, aviation fuel, and related petroleum products. Just the thing to boost tourism, Florida's biggest industry. After tourism, agriculture, health care and insurance are next biggest industries..

I stand by my statement that there were no nationwide economic recessions during most of the 1980s (1982 to 1990). I did state state the disclaimer "unless this was a local condition peculiar to the area." What you are describing is just that, a local condition peculiar to the area. It was reasonable for the then GM of the Galvez Mall to assume the majority of those reading his posting on a HAIF (present or former Houston area residents) would be familiar with the lengthy recession in and around the Houston area.

In the mid-1980s, I was offered a transfer from the Jacksonville FL location to the Houston location of GE ICES (Instrumentation Communication Electronic Services) Calibration Lab. To the best of my recollection, nothing was said during the interview process about economic recession conditions or other problems with the Houston area economy. I decided not to take the transfer offer and sometimes wondered if I had made a wrong career decision. Your vivid description of the economic disaster in the greater Houston area brought home to me the personal disaster I avoided by not accepting that transfer offer..

Several members of my family (myself included) are heirs to land in southeast Louisiana with, according to the consulting geologist, a high likelihood of producing significant amounts of oil and gas. His firm had secured about half the outside investment needed to start drilling when the pandemic took hold and led to our current nationwide downturn.

Edited by k5jri radio
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19 hours ago, k5jri radio said:

I did state state the disclaimer "unless this was a local condition peculiar to the area." What you are describing is just that, a local condition peculiar to the area. The then GM of the Galvez Mall would have improved his posting had he described the recession as a local condition in and around the greater Houston area. 

 

In the former Galvez GM's defense, this is houstonarchitecture.com, it is targeted to a pretty specific local audience, ie mostly Houston residents. Even transplants usually learn about the 80s oil crunch and its effects on the city from neighbors, friends, coworkers, etc. after having lived here a while. So it wasn't unreasonable of him to assume that visitors to this page would know what he was talking about.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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Its also possible that an outsider like myself will continue to learn about Houston, past and present. Per your quote, from what I see in driveways, marinas, and Naval Station Mayport, lots of people around here feel that way.

 

  

Edited by k5jri radio
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