02/03/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEREFORE ART THOU, ALABAMA THEATER? Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet at the Alabama Theater, Upper Kirby, Houston“My elementary school class (can’t remember which grade) saw Romeo and Juliet there. The one with Olivia Hussey as Juliet. I remember the seats were velvet and rocked. If you kicked the seat in front of you really hard it sent the person’s popcorn flying for several rows.” [Tangyjoe, commenting on Former Alabama Theater’s Pastel Modernistic Forehead Browned Out]

01/31/17 5:15pm

New Paint Job for Trader Joe's, Petsmart at Former Alabama Theater, 2922 S. Shepherd Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The front of Weingarten Realty’s Alabama Shepherd Shopping Center now sports some big dark blocks on its Shepherd-facing facade, Houstorian James Glassman notes in a drive-by of the scene this afternoon. The gradated yellow vertical fluting above the movie-theater-turned-bookstore-turned-sandbox-turned-grocery store’s marquee sign (which the city’s landmark designation writeup says is made of enameled steel) has been done over in a single swath of brown, matching the shade applied above the formerly tan Petsmart facade as well. Marketing materials on Weingarten’s website for the shopping center still show the old color scheme:


Trader Joe’s Trade
07/19/12 1:22pm

FAIR WARNING: ABOUT TO MESS WITH ALABAMA THEATER MARQUEE Publicists for Weingarten Realty want Swamplot readers to know that workers about to poke into the underside of the Alabama Theater marquee aren’t dismantling it. They’ll only be replacing the lights there with new LED fixtures. Doing that will require removing the soffit panels below the Shepherd-facing sign on the soon-to-be first Houston-proper Trader Joe’s. “The marquee will look just as it does today with the only exception being new energy efficient lighting on the underside,” the shopping-center owner tells Swamplot. The work should take about 2 weeks. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Weingarten Realty

06/12/12 11:12am

The letters on the totem sign for the former Alabama Theater at the corner of S. Shepherd and West Alabama went back up yesterday. The letters were taken down late last month; they’ve since been painted and had the neon lights hiding behind them replaced. The gutted theater will soon be showing a Trader Joe’s, but the sign still spells “Alabama.”

Photos: Amanda Andriola (top), Weingarten Realty (bottom)

05/25/12 2:04pm

WEINGARTEN: WE’RE SAVING THE ALABAMA LETTERS Weingarten Realty is preparing reporters for a photo op in front of the Alabama Theater at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr. now being outfitted for a Trader Joe’s. The letters spelling “Alabama” that the company had removed earlier this week from the original tall totem sign in front of the 1939 Art Deco theater that the company recently gutted and leveled will soon be returned intact and unscrambled, a spokesperson promises. The letters are being painted and the neon lighting hidden inside them is being replaced. Expected homecoming date for the letters: sometime between June 13th and June 16th. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Jay Rascoe

05/22/12 12:44pm

Going on now: “The owner of the company taking down the Alabama theater sign letters says ‘the plan’ is to restore them and put them back,” tweets the Chron‘s Nancy Sarnoff, who was no doubt sent several urgent messages from passers-by wondering what was happening to the totem on Shepherd Dr. just north of West Alabama today. And an email property owner Weingarten Realty sent to Preservation Houston says that’s legit: “We are replacing the neon and painting the Alabama letters. In order to paint the letters we are removing them and will re install them.”


03/22/12 4:33pm

Isn’t Weingarten Realty going to preserve some of the interior of its landmarked Alabama Theater as it makes the space ready for Trader Joe’s — or if that deal somehow falls through, some other tenant? Sure: The lobby and theater ceilings are being left alone, and a decorative plaster “medallion” on the north wall is supposed to remain in place — though it’ll be stripped of some outer layers. An upper section of the balcony will also stay, along with some light fixtures in the lobby. But other than those items, the entire 1939 theater space — or rather, what’s left of it after Weingarten encased the auditorium’s preserved sloped floor in concrete last year — is being gutted, according to plans drawn up for the project by Heights Venture Architects. A permit for the conversion of the historic Art Deco building to a retail “shell” was granted by the city earlier this week.


11/11/11 5:59pm

In a late-Friday afternoon press release that doesn’t mention Trader Joe’s at all, Alabama Theater owner Weingarten Realty is announcing that the company has begun construction on the landmarked 1939 Art Deco building at 2922 S. Shepherd to “create a more desirable space for future retail tenants.” What does that mean? Apparently, removing the few elements of the interior that made the building suitable as a movie theater: The entire screen wall along with the murals flanking both sides of the screen, and the auditorium’s sloped floor.


11/04/11 1:21pm

If any ghosts of Alabama Theater moviegoers were still intent on haunting the spaces once occupied by their old seats, they’d be buried in sand by now. A Swamplot reader and theater buff shows us the current state of the building’s innards — as seen yesterday from strategic views through the front and rear glass doors. On its way to a new level and Trader Joe’s-worthy surface, the auditorium’s basement and raked floor have been transformed into what now appears to be the city’s largest indoor sandbox. (From the photos, it looks like only a single motorized sand toy gets to play in it, though.)

A new, permanent concrete floor ordered by the owners of the landmarked 1939 Art Deco building, Weingarten Realty, will replace the removable raised-floor system put in place in the early 1980s, when the theater at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr. was transformed into the Alabama Bookstop bookstore.


10/31/11 10:14am

It sure looks like it: Here’s a photo of the theater’s west parking lot, sent to Swamplot by a reader who noted that a concrete pour began on Saturday morning. Earlier this month, Weingarten received a permit for “Landlord Improvements — Infill/Leveling,” though the permit’s title doesn’t make it clear what kind of leveling the national REIT wanted to do to the landmarked structure at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr., which is expected to be transformed into Houston’s first Trader Joe’s market.

Why would Weingarten want to pour a thick layer of concrete onto the floor of its historic building — and how much demolition of the theater’s interior might be accompanying this work?


10/11/11 8:57am

According to the Greater Houston Planning Alliance, which heard the news from the Texas Historical Commission — which heard the news from the project’s architect in Dallas — current plans for turning the former Alabama Theater into a Trader Joe’s now call for the terrazzo flooring at the theater’s Shepherd Dr. entrance to be left in place. Building owner Weingarten Realty apparently still has plans to move the front doors 7 or 8 ft. further toward the street, though; according to the GHPA, an accessibility consultant has advised project architect Don Sopranzi that there is no problem with the existing floor’s slope. Weingarten received approval from the city last month to scrape up the swirly patterned flooring outside the entrance and replace it with concrete.


10/06/11 1:12pm

At a city historic commission hearing 2 weeks ago, a representative of Weingarten Realty noted that the swirly patterned terrazzo flooring at the front entrance of the former Alabama Theater was sloped a half-percent too steep to meet current accessibility standards, and therefore will have to be removed to allow Trader Joe’s to move into the space. Not a problem for the noted preservationists at Weingarten, the building’s owner — the company plans to rip out the decorative design and replace it with a brand new concrete surface for its new tenants.

Too bad for fans of the original front vestibule design of the 1939 Art Deco theater at 2922 S. Shepherd, which is listed as a protected landmark: The commission approved Weingarten’s plans. But the helpful folks at the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance decided to do a little homework for the building’s owners anyway.


09/26/11 5:13pm

Trader Joe’s hasn’t yet signed a lease for the former Alabama Theater location at 2922 S. Shepherd it’s considering for its first-ever Houston store. But the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance has scouted out a few details on what would likely stay and what would likely go in a Two Buck Chuck-ified Art Deco theater interior. Staying: the building’s mezzanine and lighting, though with “some modifications.” Going: the Shepherd-side entrance vestibule of the 1939 building, including original enameled panels and poster frames and the swirly-patterned terrazzo flooring — which is sloped too steeply to meet current ADA requirements, according to the city’s planning director. A Weingarten Realty spokesperson says current plans are to replace the terrazzo with concrete. Also, the mural shown above — which formed the right cheek of the theater’s movie screen (later the magazine section of Bookstop) — is slated for removal.

Photos: David Bush (terrazzo) and Jim Parsons (mural)

09/22/11 4:44pm

Changes to the exterior of the Alabama Theater proposed by Weingarten Realty to accommodate grocery store Trader Joe’s debut appearance in Houston were approved today by the city’s Archeological and Historical Commission. Because it’s a designated city landmark, the commission’s approval is required for changes to the building’s facades (though an alternate wait-90-days-and-you-can-do-whatever-you-want option is also available). Trader Joe’s or Weingarten’s plans to restore, alter, or strip the innards of the Art Deco building at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr., though, won’t require any commission approvals — only construction or demo permits.


09/19/11 12:49pm

Yes, Trader Joe’s wants to open what would likely be its first-ever Houston store at the long-vacant Alabama Theater at 2922 S. Shepherd Dr. — the vacant retail space last used as the home of the Alabama Bookstop. Nancy Sarnoff digs up the proposal for exterior alterations to the designated city landmark sent to the archeological and historical commission by shopping-center owner Weingarten Realty; the changes have already been approved by city staff. Included in the plans: Two big store signs on top of the marquee facing Shepherd . . . and a brand-new turret at the back entrance.