Tornado Came in Like a Wrecking Ball

Except for a few shops, Preston Oaks center buildings expected to come down

A few weeks after the Oct. 20 tornado demolished their restaurant, the Preston-Royal team at Fish City Grill got together to reconnect and heal.

“Our team is doing better, getting settled at other locations, and they appreciate all your prayers and concerns,” the restaurant said on its Facebook page. “We are all looking forward to the day when we can reopen the restaurant and reconnect with the neighborhood.”

It has been a common refrain among many of the shops and restaurants in the Preston Oaks Shopping Center, which occupies the southeast corner of Preston and Royal. When the EF3 tornado struck that night, it did some of its worst work on that corner, shearing off roofs, scattering parked cars, and crumbling walls.

“We have been told that the part of the building that we are in will be torn down and rebuilt,” said Fish City Grill CEO Bill Bayne. “It will take up to 12 months before the landlord will turn our space back over to us.”

“Hopefully, it will take about three more months after that to reopen,” he added. 

“I really miss the people who work for me, and I miss the customers I’ve known since I was a kid.” — Frank Nuccio

Preston Oaks owner, Regency Centers, is now beginning the process of demolition and meeting with displaced tenants, said company spokesman Eric Davidson.

“Right now, our focus is on coordinating with our tenants for the upcoming reconstruction work,” he said. “Unfortunately, much of the site has been destroyed due to the tornado damage and will have to be demolished.”

Except for McDonald’s, Central Market, and the building that houses White House Black Market, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Neighborhood Services, and Viewpoint Bank, most of the shopping center will be demolished and rebuilt, Davidson said. Demolition will likely start soon.

“There are still many steps we have to take, but we are working hard to make sure we are doing things safely and efficiently,” he added.

Marco’s Pizza owner Frank Nuccio, whose family has been at Preston and Royal for more than 50 years, said tenants expected– for the first time – to gain access to their decimated locations on Dec. 12, when their landlord would also meet with them to discuss next steps. 

“There’s so much history in that shopping center, and it will suck to be closed for a year,” he said. “But hopefully, when we come back, I’ll have a way better location and more visibility, too.”

Nuccio said that he’s had lots of suggestions on potential temporary storefronts, but none have been ideal.

“I had dinner the other night with some customers who want me to do a pop-up store that’s open on Sundays,” he said. “I’ve got some options, but I really want to see what the shopping center says.”

“We’ve been a restaurant there for 57 years,” Nuccio said. “I really miss the people who work for me, and I miss the customers I’ve known since I was a kid. I’ve grown up seeing the same customers every week, and I really miss that.”

 

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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