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Houston Post Oak Boulevard highlighted in national documentary

Post Oak Boulevard, Houston's mecca for upscale shopping, dining and entertainment, used to be full of horse-hitched wagons and symbolized Houston's westward expansion from downtown. Few Houstonians likely know that San Felipe Trail once served as a route for westward-seeking families and soldiers during the Texas Revolution, or that Westheimer Road was named after the Texas businessman M.L. Westheimer, who owned a farm on the trail.

PBS's latest documentary, "Post Oak Boulevard: A Texas Legacy," highlights these historical tidbits and more. The documentary is the 16th of its kind from Houston Public Media and includes more than 20 interviews from Houston commercial behemoths such as Gerald Hines, Giorgio Borlenghi and Robert Sakowitz. Hines, Borlenghi, Sakowitz and dozens of historic Houston dealmakers attended the premiere of "Post Oak Boulevard: A Texas Legacy" on June 20 at Williams Tower in Uptown.

The documentary is just under an hour long and dives deep into the area's rich history. The origins of iconic Bayou City families are revealed – the Carrabba family, for example, started when someone from the family acquired land at the current-day site of West Alabama and Sage Road for a vegetable farm. Uptown's earliest retail developments are touched upon, too, including the opening of the Sakowitz store at Westheimer and Post Oak in 1959.

Perhaps the area's most game-changing development was The Galleria, though, which Hines built in 1970. Most notably, the mall featured a floor-level ice rink; one commercial real estate developer noted that "you could barely see the rink" when it opened because it was so crowded. The mall lured its anchor — Neiman Marcus — because Hines gave the Dallas retailer the Galleria land for free, Hines said in the documentary.

Today, the Galleria mall, owned by Simon Property Group, is getting a $250 million makeover that includes a new, 200,000-square-foot flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store and 51fifteen Restaurant and Lounge, which opened in April.

The documentary briefly mentions the continual improvement of Post Oak Boulevard, including the controversial Uptown bus lane project, which will start construction July 7. The rapid transit bus lane endeavor, dubbed The Boulevard Project, involves a three-year rebuild of the street and the addition of a Metro bus lane. The project has been hotly contested since its inception. The project is causing "concern and panic" among Uptown retailers, one longtime Uptown business owner said. Earlier this week, a neighborhood group urged the city of Houston to issue a moratorium on new high-rise development in Uptown.

By Cara Smith


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