GALVESTON

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.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

(12) comments

Stephen Murphy

Basically, they're going after two businesses - Lapalapa and 10 and Under. Dolphin World would be another, but they closed down a couple of months ago.

Richard Moore

This is a perfectly reasonable ordinance - preserve and accentuate the historical ambiance of The Strand and visitors and shoppers will keep coming!

Joe Flores

YEAH MON ...so true !!

David Schuler

Good idea, but worthless because of the exception process. After a year of angst and special requests and controversial votes, everything will be right back to where it is now, and Galveston will have yet another useless ordinance, just like bicycle lights.

Joe Flores

agree and there should be no exception process !!

Connie Patterson

Folks will claim that the Landmark Commission is targeting certain business b/c they object to their merchandise and that is patently false. Historic Tourism is the life blood of the Historic Strand Area. The next closest example of this kind of architecture is New Orleans. There was a time back in the 70’s when the Strand was desolate and abandoned. Through preservation efforts the Strand has been revitalized. The L.C. efforts are to protect those structures and the aesthetics of the Strand Area to foster continued economic vitality. The PRIMARY draw to the Strand area is the historic architecture, that tourism support is vital to businesses (quaint shops, restaurants,novelty stores) and those businesses employ local residents. Without it, businesses close, jobs are lost and the Strand will fall into decline.Think about that! Connie

Comment deleted.
Joe Flores

totally disagree ... and I have been here longer than anybody ... This ordinance is way overdue !! have a great day

Gary Miller

Fewer people spending more money? Junk shops selling tourist junk? Does the Strand district produce enough sales tax to merit special consideration?

Joe Flores

YES SIR !!

Comment deleted.
Brenda Bock

No matter what is done, I will continue to frequent Lapalapa. This store is my favorite place to hang on the Stand - nice folks, excellent drinks, & cool clothes.

Wayne Holt

It sure would be nice to see business owners, downtown residents and VISITORS be more responsible with trash and litter cleanup while they're at it. The City's Streets Dept. has some very dedicated people working at it--I've seen them (hat tip to Gregory from Streets)-- but keeping up with litter downtown is a huge task, and we shouldn't just expect the City to do 100% of the heavy lifting. It's encouraging that there are discussions going on about how to make the downtown architectural presence the best it can be and hopefully we can resolve it in a positive way. In the meantime, the best architectural features are marred by unsightly trash blowing all over downtown. Let's try to help in our own way...and I would support having enhanced enforcement of anti-littering laws made the norm.

Charlotte O'rourke

https://365thingsinhouston.com/2014/12/02/dickens-on-the-strand-2014-galveston-historical-society/ Now, what is blocking the beautiful, historical buildings on the Strand and causing degradation complaints? T- shirts- you say? LOL

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