The Alabama Theatre's original entrance can be preserved, according to the Texas Historical Commission, if only the developer is willing to work with them.
The historic Alabama Theatre, which has sat empty since 2009, is set to become the site of a new Trader Joe's grocery store. While fans of the grocer are elated, there are concerns about how to best preserve the interior of one of Houston's last remaining art deco theaters.
Built in 1939, the Alabama has remained relatively intact through its tenure as a Barnes & Noble Bookstop.
Initial plans to update the exterior of the building have been approved by the Houston Archaeological and Historical commission, but the THC is now saying that the theater's original terrazzo — a decorative marble floor treatment — might not have to be removed as originally thought.
In a press release that went out Thursday to Greater Houston Preservation Alliance members, the GHPA revealed that the THC had crafted an alternative to removing the terrazzo by applying for a variance in light of the Alabama's eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
The developer, local Weingarten Realty, has previously told the GHPA that the terrazzo would have to be removed to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards — the act says that a building's entrance can have no more than a 2 percent slope; the theater's entrance is 2.5 percent.
At the GHPA's request, the THC has provided information about the possible variance both to Weingarten and to the architect, Dallas-based Don Sopranzi. The THC has also offered to consult with the builders and assist in the variance application.