Alabama Theater: Preserving The Little, Charming Details

Categories: Spaced City

Threatened terrazzo
Most people seem to be happy Trader Joe's might be moving into the old Alabama Theater? Seems so. We're not foodies, so we have no idea how hip/edgy/status symbol a Trader Joe's is.

But the folks at the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance are worried that renovating the old space into an upscale grocery store might result in losing some of the unique touches that made the place special.

Especially the Wizard of Oz-esque yellow-brick-road terrazzo entrance.

"GHPA contacted the state agency after the developer's representative told Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission that the terrazzo would have to be removed to meet provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act," the group says.

Why would the terrazzo be endangered under the ADA? It has a slope slightly steeper than the law allows.

GHPA says it has some plans that could preserve the terrazzo (and a mural in the theater) and still meet legal guidelines, but they're asking for public pressure for Weingarten Realty to meet with them.

They're also urging people to contact Trader Joe's, even offering the following sample letter:

I was very happy to hear that Trader Joe's may be opening in Houston and that the store might occupy the historic Alabama Theater. Houstonians care a great deal about this building.

While I am glad to see that your company has found a viable new use for the Alabama, I am concerned about preliminary plans that call for the removal of the original terrazzo at the building's entrance and one of the murals inside the theater.

I strongly encourage you to preserve all of the significant historic elements of the theater and look forward to visiting Trader Joe's in the renovated Alabama Theater.

Or you could, you know, come up with your own wording.

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Acolvin Geo
Acolvin Geo

When this came up on Swamplot, I commented, " I can hardly wait till they trash the inside, especially the georgeous period deco muruals to make room for a stylish IKEA-esque PRODUCE sign. Said murals flanked the movie screen and were expensivly restored from when it was a beutiful movie house. (That was Bookstop’s thoughtful contribution — not their bloated sucessor, Barnes & Noble, BTW) Yes, what we need in that space is more urban hip; more “today.” More faux retro. More commercial “cool.” This is Houston. Preserve the past for posterity? Sooo yesterday. Respect artistic integrity? Ha!"


Or we could have kept going to movies at the theater, rather than head to the latest Multi-Mega-Plex with 55 screens.

The movie went out of business because the public stopped going there.

The book store went out of business because the public stopped going there.

If Trader Joe is a suitable tenant for the space (and I guess they are - it's not a dollar store), then let 'em build out as they feel appropriate.

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

I wasn't very happy to hear the Trader Joe's might be occupying the historic Alabama Theater.  Houstonians care a great deal about this building, but our elected officials could give less of a shit.  As a matter of fact, this city has a long, troubling disregard for most things historic.  Just look at what happened to the Montrose.  Grand old original homes, screw that, raze those bastards and let's put up some townhouse-by-numbers, stucco, soccer mom's wet dream.  Live  three feet from your neighbor for only $450,000!Anyway, I strongly encourage you to preserve all the significant historic elements of the theater, but I know better.  You will get rid of those elements all in the name of progress, which in this case means a hipster will get to feel the smug satisfaction of being the first to tweet how he or she was the first to score the totally boss artisan cheese of the week at the awesome new Trader Joe's.  Thanks.

Acolvin Geo
Acolvin Geo

You know nothing about the era, and why these kindof of theaters came into being or why they have been routinely axed. Hint: it Has NOTHING to do with lack of interest by the viewing public,  They were called, usually, Movie Palaces, for a reason, because they were rather grand inside at a time when folks were struggling financially, and could loose themselves for a nickle and forget their troubles in the splendor of the  these places. The palace on Alabama is rather a small scale for the style, but should be preserved. As to your mindless theory, Trader Joe's is doomed to die a pitful death as folks stop going to it. Really?


You obviously don't know a whole lot about Trader Joe's....the purveyor of '2 buck chuck'. It's kind of a bargain, laid back grocery store. They really don't go overboard with the artisan this and farm raised that. I'm excited about it in spite of not being a hipster.

At the same time I think they're 'hip' enough to know not to fuck around too much with historic architecture. Even moreso since they're new to the state and want to make a good impression.

Relax people the terrazzo will be alright.


I think you give a national chain far too much credit.

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