Destruction marks new paths in the SE Texas retail wars

Sometimes you have to admire destruction. Certainly not the kind meant for harm such as a terrorist act or actions by combatants. Take a look at the below photo that I took today, for example:

The wrecking ball makes its early strikes on the old Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas. A new H-E-B grocery store will be built here. Foto x damn x eight feet deep
The wrecking ball makes a strike on the former Baptist Hospital in Beaumont.

This could easily pass for a hole from a cruise missile at a site of hostilities such as Syria.

But alas, this a demolition job taking place at the old Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas, located on the corner of Eleventh and College streets in Beaumont. What many call an eyesore now since the hospital moved its site down College to the east is being torn down to build a large H-E-B grocery store. When the new store is built the company will shut down its two smaller stores, one a couple of blocks south on Eleventh and another in North Beaumont on Lucas Drive, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.

Though I wouldn’t call this demolition job a beauty the destruction does help one appreciate what it takes to build a relatively large building. I say relatively, it being (for now) a six-story building. The pictured building was completed in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I would imagine it took quite a few folks to build it with likely much more difficulty than it would to construct a similar building today.

The story about the new store says that company officials indicated it will be slightly more than half the size of the H-E-B Plus located on the more affluent West End of Beaumont in the midst of the “Shopping District.”  The “Plus” is a pretty big grocery outlet and anchors a small strip shopping center. Company information indicates that the large store itself is about 124,000 square feet so perhaps the new store might end up at 75,000 square feet mas o menos. Plus many of its larger stores have areas for other retail outlets for lease so who knows how large a shopping center will be developed?

One of the biggest shopping centers in the “Golden Triangle” (Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange) which was built before the area’s first mall, Parkdale Mall, was finished in 1973 is Gateway. It is only a couple of blocks north on Eleventh Street from where the new store will stand. Gateway seems to be holding its own with Beall’s and Conn’s still going strong, plus the remodeled Jason’s Deli, which is the site of the growing chain’s very first restaurant. But a few other stores have gone hither over the years at Gateway.

How successful the new H-E-B will turn out will be interesting to watch. It will have mostly inner city patrons although it not far from either of the city’s two largest hospitals, Memorial Hermann Baptist (which was the previous Baptist Hospital) and Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital (which was previously just St. Elizabeth Hospital.)

Oh, Gateway’s outlasted the Gaylynn Shopping Center, which was a little ways up North Eleventh Street. The Gaylynn pretty much was swallowed up by St. Elizabeth. The other big shopping center on the other end of the county, in Port Arthur, remains, after Central Mall came along although that older strip center is a shadow of its past. I still remember the TV jingle for the old shopping center still hanging in there on Twin City Highway:

“Come to Jeff-Jeff-Jefferson City, where there’s everything under the sun.”

Also, it shall be a rather instructive lesson in mid-20th century-to-early 21st century retailing how Gateway Shopping Center continues in the future along with perhaps a new retail center located around the new H-E-B. I’ll try to keep an eye on how long it takes to raze the old hospital should anyone care, or not!




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