In June, I noted a Swamplot post that said the Alabama Bookstop would be closing soon, but that property owner Weingarten would not be demolishing the existing building. We now have a reported date for the Bookstop to close up shop.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers will close its Bookstop location in the revered Alabama Theater, 2922 South Shepherd, on Sept. 15 and reopen Sept. 16 in a new store tailor-made for a larger audience just up the street in the River Oaks Shopping Center at West Gray Avenue.
The new store brings more books, music and DVD sections, an expanded children’s area and a full-service Barnes & Noble Café to the well-heeled neighborhoods that surround it.
Manager Jacques Oppinger, a native of the Inner Loop community, envisions a shared customer base and media tie-ins with the neighboring River Oaks Theater.
But the announcement inevitably leaves Houston’s preservationists, who rallied to save the River Oaks Theater from demolition as part of that shopping center’s redevelopment, wondering what sort of transformation might befall the Alabama Theater.
A new tenant has not been found, said Brooke Harvey, leasing director for Weingarten Realty Investors, which owns the River Oaks and Alabama Shepherd shopping centers where both of the old marquee theaters are located.
Until then, he can’t speculate about how the cavernous, art deco interior, which retains its balcony and terraced first floor, might be used going forward.
“We love the building. We’re just leasing it as is,” Harvey said.
“We have no plans to make any changes. You just won’t be buying books in there.”
That’s about as encouraging as one could hope, especially the bit about the River Oaks Theater. If both of these buildings survive in their present form and have some reasonable assurance they will continue to exist as they are, that will be a huge victory for preservation. Thanks to 29-95 for the catch.
UPDATE: Swamplot has more.