Page 28 - Apr2017

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and south by Water Street (now Harborside Drive) and Church Street. Where
once was housed a prosperous banking, shopping, and commercial district,
was now a lackluster cluster of buildings that had been but all but ignored.
In 1967, a nonprofit organization was formed called the Galveston Central
Area, Inc., a research and development entity geared towards helping
the forgotten areas of downtown keep in step with the other citywide
improvements. Neil Nathan, chairman of the GCA’s beautification committee,
devised a plan to raise the profile of Postoffice Street, and in May 1970
construction began on Central Plaza.
The concept was a popular one of the time, although Galveston was one
of the first cities in Texas to implement the creation of an outdoor
shopping mall in the center of downtown. By closing off the 2200 block
of Postoffice Street to automobiles, visitors and shoppers would not be
bothered by traffic, noise, or crowded sidewalks, and would instead
be free to leisurely roam.
The mall was constructed right on top of the street, and what was
once an uninspiring block of retail stores suddenly became a haven
of lush landscaping with trees and shrubs, flowers, water fountains,
and even a manmade stream that
flowed through the center. Whereas
in most cities the municipality would
foot the bill for such an endeavor,
Galveston’s Central Plaza was unique
in that the city only gave a minor
contribution to the project, and the
majority of it was financed by the
businesses on the block, who also
agreed to maintain the plaza.
Many of the businesses of Central
Plaza had been in Galveston since at
least the 1940s and were enthusiastic
about the project, and most even
executed their own interior remodels
concurrent with its opening. The original stores
of the plaza included Eiband’s, a staple Galveston
department store that opened in 1895, E.S. Levy
& Co. that dated back to 1877, and an early J.C.
Penney.
Their neighbors were two stores called Nathan’s,
one for women and another for “lads and
lassies;” two shoe stores, Factory Outlet Shoes
and Shoearama; two men’s stores, Pye Walter,
Inc. and Paul’s Men’s Shop; jewelry retailers
Thebault’s Jewelry and Salzmann; and there was
even an optometrist office and a Walgreen’s that
included both a drug store and a diner.
In addition to financially contributing to the
project, Eiband’s donated the two waterfalls
situated at either end of the plaza, and all of the
businesses collectively donated over $1,000 in
gift certificates and a trip for two to Monterrey,
Mexico, for raffle prizes for the grand opening
celebration.
Central Plaza officially opened on Wednesday,
October 21, 1970, and over 1,000 people
attended the opening night ceremonies.
Galveston Mayor Eddie Schreiber dedicated the
new venture to “the future of Galveston,” and by
the following Monday, the
Galveston Daily News
had already
deemed it
proof “that
vision
pays off.”
Central Plaza in front of Eibands, c. 1971
The contruction of the second phase of Central Plaza
extended the plaza length from 21st to 23rd Street.
Past & Present |
Galveston Lost
28 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
APRIL 2017