The city’s landmark commission is scheduled Monday to vote on an ordinance that would ban shops in The Strand and Mechanic Historic District from hanging merchandise or items over the doors or exterior features of historic buildings.
The rule would apply to The Strand between 20th and 25th streets and to parts of Mechanic Street within the historic district, according to the proposed ordinance.
It would affect T-shirts, signs or other merchandise that hang on exterior doors or obscures from view exterior architectural features of the building.
An architectural feature could be a cast iron column, cornice, name plate or brick surface, according to the proposed ordinance language.
The rule wouldn’t prohibit display of goods in a window, according to the ordinance.
It’s an attempt to better expose the exterior architectural features of downtown buildings, which draw people to the island, landmark commission Chairman Tom Schwenk said.
“We’re talking about preserving the integrity of the building,” Schwenk said.
It’s a conversation that many people in the community have had for years, Landmark Commissioner Doug McLean said.
But it has taken years to develop a proposed ordinance the legal department felt comfortable with, McLean said.
“The ordinance is really intended to eliminate anything on the outside of historic buildings that take away from the architectural details,” McLean said.
It’s a change Sameer Ali would like to see, he said.
Ali manages Signature Souvenirs, 2029 The Strand, a shop his father owns, he said.
“It preserves the history of the buildings,” Ali said. “Instead of covering the walls, you can actually get a feel of how it was back in the days.”
The shop doesn’t hang any merchandise on its doors and walls outside, Ali said.
But placing merchandise in front of a store can help draw customers inside, said Kristi Derocher, manager at apparel and drink store Lapalapa, 2120 The Strand.
“The more you can put at the front of your store to get them to come in, the better,” Derocher said.
People can see the historic nature of the shop’s doors even with the merchandise on it and comment on how beautiful the doors look, Derocher said.
This ordinance wouldn’t apply to tables, signs or other items placed on the sidewalks, said Catherine Gorman, city historic preservation officer.
Placing items on the sidewalk requires a separate permit, she said.
People who want to hang items on exterior doors and walls in this historic district would be able to apply for a certificate of appropriateness, she said.
The landmark commission reviews such permits.
“I’m a little mixed on this topic,” Gorman said. “There’s no permanent damage to the building.”
But there’s an economic incentive to present an unobstructed view of historic buildings, said Trey Click, president of the Historic Downtown Galveston Partnership.
Visitors come to see the architecture of The Strand and people coming to look at historic features often spend more than other tourists, Click said.
Galveston tourism promoters have been advocating for a tourism plan that draws people who will spend more, rather than more people to Galveston.
The ordinance wouldn’t regulate the kind of merchandise businesses place in windows, Click said.
“We should be proud of our treasures here,” Click said. “We should want to show that off the best way that we can.”
The Galveston City Council will make the final decision on whether this proposal becomes a rule, Gorman said. If the ordinance moves forward, the council will likely review it in August, Gorman said.