Weingarten Decommissions the Alabama Theater: Is Trader Joe’s Out of the Picture?

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.


The building’s previous tenant, Bookstop, had taken great pains to preserve the sloped auditorium under a raised-floor system. As Swamplot reported last week, Weingarten isn’t fussing over it this time; the auditorium space has been covered with fill dirt so construction crews can bury the whole thing permanently in concrete. The press release claims the screen wall and murals were removed “due to structural issues.” A spokesperson for Weingarten has promised to provide a more detailed explanation of what that means early next week. The murals, the release claims, are not original to the building.

Also happening indoors at the vacant retail space many onlookers had been hoping would become Houston’s first Trader Joe’s market: asbestos abatement. And there’s this promise: “Weingarten plans to maintain and preserve as many portions of the interior architectural elements as possible, including the mezzanine, the terrazzo flooring at the Shepherd entrance and the ceiling’s architectural elements, including paint.”

Does this news mean that Trader Joe’s won’t be leasing the space after all? “We are working with several potential tenants but nothing is definite yet,” the company spokesperson tells Swamplot. “We will release that information as soon as a lease is signed.”

Photo: Flickr user photine [license]

14 Comment

  • Wow. What a witch to we messed with like this.
    As my mother used to say: “God bless their pointed litle heads.”

  • Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot…….

  • But where will I ever buy organic chocolate covered cranberries!?

  • I’m shocked – shocked, I tell you! – to find Weingarten being secretive about this!

  • unscrupulous, Weingarten has no soul.

  • The murals weren’t original to the building? Whaaaa?

  • Maybe Trader Joe’s came to the same conclusion as a lot of swamplot’s readers that there’s too many grocery stores in the area?

  • I smelled a rat named Drew Alexander when the “for lease” signs on the front never came down. That spinning sound we’ve been hearing is probably poor Joseph Weingarten in his grave.

  • Very, very, very odd. Did trader joe’s really go public with the historical commission filings without having a lease signed? Would Weingarten really walk away from Trader Joe’s? Who else would want the space and have the $$$ to outbid Trader Joe’s? Do I smell a national drug store chain?

  • How about a branch bank?

    Severe shortage.

    I hope this place remains unleased for 10 years.

  • Of course the murals weren’t original. The theater had to be constructed first. Maybe if they were load-bearing murals Weingarten’s lawyers would not have approved that language.

    Can’t wait to never patronize the CVS or Chase or Subway that moves in.

  • Crazy. We need more stores to support the future development in the area.

  • First, it’s hard for any retailer to reuse the space because of the sloped floors. Most retailers of that size are corporate deals that need to lay out per their existing prototype and shelves don’t sit well on an incline. Secondly, Weingarten refuses to give up the right to remodel the center, and therefore I am willing to bet Trader Joe’s dropped the deal because nobody wants to put in TI dollars if they can be demo’d per the Weingarten lease.

  • Sheesh! I thought we already covered the sloped floor Issue:
    BookStop successfully produced sound, level floors for its fixtures and traffic.
    A new user could do similarly.
    BookStop had several levels; a new user could have just one level.