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Alabama Theater interior demolition


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Frmo the GHPA:

Weingarten Realty plans Alabama Theater interior demolition; Contact Staples today

Weingarten Realty is taking bids for the interior demolition of the former Alabama Theater, 2922 S. Shepherd. According to Swamplot.com, plans prepared by Heights Venture Architects show major alterations to the floor ceiling and walls, including removal of the medallions, murals and Art Deco detailing pcitured here. The tenant will reportedly be Staples, the office supply retailer.

GHPA is contacting Staples to ask the company to maintain the Alabama’s distinctive interior design. Staples’ statement of corporate responsibility includes a commitment to environmental excellence. GHPA will remind company officials that historic preservation reflects a commitment to the environment.

GHPA is encouraging Houstonians to express their support for preserving the Alabama by contacting Staples’ community relations officer Joy Errico at joy.errico@staples.com or 508-253-7957 and corporate operations officer Owen Davis at owen.davis@staples.com or 508-253-8468. It is generally more effective to focus on businesses who are hoping to attract customers and generate community goodwill than the developer who has already found a tenant.

Although Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission has designated the Alabama Theater (1939) a City of Houston Historic Landmark, the designation only applies to the building’s facade. If the proposed work on the Alabama goes forward, the result will be another version of the now-vacant Hollywood Video outlet in the former Tower Theater (1936) on Westheimer at Yoakum, a gutted big box store with a theater marquee on the façade.

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So only the exterior of buildings designated as historic landmarks count?

It would be impractical to keep the interior as a bookstore/Theater setup. Bookstores are going away and lord knows how long it would take for someone to buy up the theater to show movies.

I just hope they spare the murals and the interior finishes.

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It was doing fine as a book store until Weingarten hooked them up with a Barnes and Noble in the new development, bringing yet another Starbucks to the corner of Shepherd and West Gray. I'm quite sure that when the River Oaks theater gets bulldozed that it will be replaced with a fourth Starbucks.

Edited by kylejack
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http://culturemap.com/newsdetail/03-24-10-update-the-alabama-theater-caught-in-demolition-swirl-confirms/

An official at Heights Venture Architects told CultureMap this morning that the company did submit plans detailing a near total interior demolition of the Alabama at the specific request of Weingarten (the company that owns the vacant building).
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What's going to happen to all the interior details/ artifacts?

I just love that lobby entrance w/ staircase. Hate to see the interior gutted, but surprised it's stood untouched so long in this city.

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I heard the Weingarten rep speak about River Oaks theater at a neartown meeting-- it was guy new to the city and couldn't answer too many questions because he kept admitting he was too new to the situation to know all the details and answers-and there were a lot of questions thrown out at that meeting- mostly it was all about Weingarten hoping some organization came forward to "save" the theater or whatever ------------------------------------------

I guess this will be the same stance that is taken now?

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Not a fan of that bifurcated parking lot or 1st generation apron site designs. Given the compactness of the street to facade scale; my solution would be to raze the entire property, expand the Shepard ROW, and then build a 100 year building worthy of preservation efforts. This idea of saving the architectural "skin" for the "skin"s sake is asinine busy body logic. Look at the Tower theater, explain to me how that preserves any 1st generation modern legacy? The most notable aspect is the window sealed face and it's abortive c-section entry. To clarify, architecture is about space not frilly decorations.

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Not a fan of that bifurcated parking lot or 1st generation apron site designs. Given the compactness of the street to facade scale; my solution would be to raze the entire property, expand the Shepard ROW, and then build a 100 year building worthy of preservation efforts. This idea of saving the architectural "skin" for the "skin"s sake is asinine busy body logic. Look at the Tower theater, explain to me how that preserves any 1st generation modern legacy? The most notable aspect is the window sealed face and it's abortive c-section entry. To clarify, architecture is about space not frilly decorations.

porTENT is right and, unfortunately in this case, the interior is the space. William Randolph Hearst moved entire rooms from their former European castles to San Simeon but he had LOTS of money.

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Alamo Drafthouse's official response to the Facebook group:

"First and foremost we are flattered and very appreciative of the "Put Alamo Drafthouse in Houston's Alabama Street Theater" fans for their support of the Alamo. In terms of the Alabama, we agree wholeheartedly with the group's members that it would make an excellent Alamo locat...ion and space. Several months ago, we had a number of discussions with Weingarten in regards to bringing an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to the Alabama, unfortunately at the time, we were not able to come to an agreement with them. We've recently reengaged with Weingarten on that subject and we'll be sure to keep you posted on the progress of these discussions.

It would be a shame to see the Alabama destroyed, and if there is a way to save it we want to take a lead in doing so."

(Neil Michaelsen, President of Triple Tap Ventures, which owns the two existing Houston area Alamo's and has the development rights for any future Houston Alamo Drafthouse locations)

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I have not been in that area in a while, is the pet store still operating in the northern end of the building? And if so, will there be enough space to accommodate 2 screens? I'm sure if this is to be negotiated a significant amount of off site parking will have to be contracted and it will probably not be very cheap. Seeing the shenanigans pulled by the Fairview street bars and their parking contract situation, I would be very wary of providing more than 50% of parking off site. Egress will be a major issue as well and will likely be cause for some radical renovations; not to mention kitchen fire ratings, external grease trap location, etc.

Edited by infinite_jim
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I have not been in that area in a while, is the pet store still operating in the northern end of the building? And if so, will there be enough space to accommodate 2 screens? I'm sure if this is to be negotiated a significant amount of off site parking will have to be contracted and it will probably not be very cheap. Seeing the shenanigans pulled by the Fairview street bars and their parking contract situation, I would be very wary of providing more than 50% of parking off site. Egress will be a major issue as well and will likely be cause for some radical renovations; not to mention kitchen fire ratings, external grease trap location, etc.

I thought that you went to UH architecture school. You realize that they don't want you to think in terms of realistic constraints, right?

+1

Edited by TheNiche
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I think parking will be sufficient. Don't forget about the lot in the back as well. There's a couple hundred spaces to service the two facilities, and they would operate mostly on different timelines, weekends being the major exception. As to offsite parking, there's not really any available in this area.

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Back when it was Butera's and Cactus Music and Whole Foods and The Empire Strikes Back and Rocky Horror, I don't remember parking being a problem. All of those things drew pretty good crowds.

What's changed? I am fully willing to believe that my perception and memory are imperfect, but I did spend a lot of time in that area in the 1979-1984 era.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 4 years later...

Tige, I'd imagine it was more a matter of preventing the joyous mayhem that would have ensued if there were shopping carts rolling wildly towards the western end of the store.

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I haven't been inside this, but a colleague at my firm said that they did a pretty good job of keeping a good portion of the interior. Honestly at least it's getting some use instead of falling apart like so many of the old theaters in the area. Maybe after some more densification then we might see a conversion back to its original state.

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I never saw the inside of the Alabama as a movie theater. I saw it when it was a bookstore. I grew up with a few of the old theaters, so I can say that it was, at the time I frequented it, sympathetically re-purposed. The entrance was beautiful. I haven't seen it since it changed owners. 

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The changes made to the Alabama to repurpose it as the Bookstop were for the most part reversible with minimal effort - they didn't even take the screen down. Not so with the changes made to repurpose it as Trader Joe's - the concrete pour that leveled the floor is the biggest one. If it were ever to be repurposed back to its original use as a theater, which I don't see happening any time soon, it would probably have to be done along the lines of the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where an interior "jewel box" was built up within the shell of the original 1920s-vintage structure. 

 

960x540.jpg

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The changes made to the Alabama to repurpose it as the Bookstop were for the most part reversible with minimal effort - they didn't even take the screen down. Not so with the changes made to repurpose it as Trader Joe's - the concrete pour that leveled the floor is the biggest one. If it were ever to be repurposed back to its original use as a theater, which I don't see happening any time soon, it would probably have to be done along the lines of the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where an interior "jewel box" was built up within the shell of the original 1920s-vintage structure. 

 

960x540.jpg

Wow this is a flashback to my childhood. This is exactly where I saw Grease with 3 of my cousins. They were selling all kinds of Grease merchandise. I bought a comb.. the cashier thought I was asking for a coke

Edited by djrage
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  • 3 weeks later...

I had read that one of the features that Weingarten destroyed they claimed wasn't an original 1920s part of the theater, which sounds dubious (an excuse to have it ruined). But I also heard that the oldest theaters (dunno about the Alabama) didn't even have sloped floors, at least not at the rate that the Alabama had. Of course, I wasn't alive when the Alabama was built or even saw it when it was the Bookstop. I did some buy some cookie butter, candied ginger, and chocolate covered espresso beans there yesterday, though.

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  • 6 years later...

The movie theaters I experienced as a kid in the '60's had sloped ramps. You entered through doors from a straight back wall and walked down. The Broadway and Santa Rosa theaters come to mind. The Santa Rosa had a balcony with stairs. I remember the circular lobby couch, port hole windows in the doors, thick carpeted stairs, and double "love seats" on some of the aisle ends.

 

The Alabama seemed grander to me than the Santa Rosa. I only visited it when it was the Bookstop. The restoration company did a good job. They retained many of the original features. The stairs, balcony, and screen were still there. I vaguely remember a sloped aisle in the book shelves area. Too bad it all disappeared with the recent transformation. 

 

The Gulfgate Twin Cinemas had those sloping aisles, but no balconies.The original screens and theater areas were huge. The color scheme included bright white, deep red and royal blue colors. The outside covered ticket booth area had painted red concrete floors. The stained glass lobby was beautiful.

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23 hours ago, NenaE said:

The Gulfgate Twin Cinemas had those sloping aisles, but no balconies.The original screens and theater areas were huge. The color scheme included bright white, deep red and royal blue colors. The outside covered ticket booth area had painted red concrete floors. The stained glass lobby was beautiful.

 

Those old General Cinema theaters were very nice. The Northline and Meyerland twins were built around the same time as the Gulfgate and all three shared the same design and similar fixtures. I'm biased toward the Northline twin as it was the site of my very first moviegoing experience when I was 3 or 4 years old, and I saw a lot of movies there in the ensuing years until its eventual closure.

 

 

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