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.
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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.”
- Alabama Theater coverage [Swamplot]