What's Next For Old Alabama Theater?

Changes are afoot for the old Alabama Theater on Shepherd Drive around Upper Kirby. Something which hasn't been welcomed ever since owners' Weingarten Realty talked about razing the 1930's Art Deco building. But what those changes are and for whom is not quite clear just yet.

The Alabama Theater began its life in 1939. Then in 1983, it became the Alabama Bookstop and large parts of the original theater was preserved in the hopes it could once again become a cinema, something which didn't materialize. When the Bookstop eventually closed in 2009 the building has been vacant. That was until the last few months. David Bush is with Preservation Houston, an organization that has been working on preserving the building for the last six years.

"About a month or so ago when the murals were taken down and the proscenium at the front of the theatre was taken down. Apparently the original ceiling medallion and the side fixtures are still there. Part of the balcony may be taken out...it's a little difficult to see what's happened so far."

The reason it's difficult to know what's going on is because while the outside of the Alabama Theater is a designated landmark, the inside is not. So any changes Weingarten Realty makes just need to be approved by the city like any other construction permit. Word is these changes are being made for a particular tenant, Trader Joe's, a fresh produce grocery store. A sales tax permit was filed by Trader Joe's at the Alabama Theater's address, but the company has not confirmed they'll be opening at this location, nor did they return our phone call. Weingarten also declined to return our calls, so it's not entirely clear what the Alabama Theater will look like when it reopens or whose name will be out front, but something is underway at 2922 South Shepherd Drive. 

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...