Heaven on Earth Fire Drill

HEAVEN ON EARTH FIRE DRILL A reader figures all the Houston Fire Department units and ambulances gathered downtown around the long-vacant former Holiday Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St. on Sunday morning were there for some training exercises: “There was no incident active on the HFD Active Incidents web site, which is just a dump from their dispatch system. I monitored their radio traffic related to it as well. . . . I assume they had permission from the owner. Interesting to see this building getting some attention. I don’t think they were setting it on fire, though.” The 31-story 1971 building was also, for a time, a Days Inn; it was last known as the Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, operated through most of the nineties by an organization affiliated with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, though many residents and neighbors referred to it more affectionately as the Beirut Hilton. [Swamplot inbox; previously on Swamplot] Photo: arch-ive.org

10 Comment

  • Is the building so bad that nothing can be done with it?

    It must be if real estate is all about location, location, location. It’s one of the hottest locations in Houston.

  • @darogr: It can be demoed in a day, but word on the street is that the owner of the land is just sitting on the property waiting for a price that may never come. Pretty interesting article in the Houston Press a while back about the trials and travails of that property. Might be able to find it on their archive if you look.

  • darogr: Like so many other buildings, the city would require a new owner to do more work than is economically feasible. The good intentions of the city to makes this place A property causes it to sit as a F property.
    Hopefully we can find a solution soon that would allow some of these older places to have something done with them rather than sitting and rotting. You don’t want someone opening up shop in an unsafe building, but you also don’t want to make the rules so strict that no one bothers.
    It’s a tough one…

  • It is my understanding that the last buyer (circa 2008) lost the property and it is now banked owned.

  • I have a very good friend who works in the area for HFD. He said they were doing training on an abandoned hotel I am assuming this is it.

  • Tear that fricking pile down. But, property owners rights trump community safety & common sense in Texas. No thanks to the Texas Supreme Court.

  • @Patrick, there are ways to tear down the building that follow due process and protect property owner rights. Apparently, the City doesn’t feel the building is in bad enough shape to do that.

  • @ Jeremy,

    It sold in October 2011 to Beanmont Medical Center Hotel LLC (HCAD).

    Or, Benmont Medical Center Hotel LLC (per Harris County Clerk site)

  • Patrick: Correct, you can’t just tear down someones building. Do you really want to give the government the power to knock down your home? While there are times that can happen, it needs to be under very specific and limited circumstances. I’ve bought and renovated two properties that were pretty close to getting the wrecking ball and I’m glad it didn’t go that far.
    “common sense” is a pretty vague reason to knock down a place. And it’s just sitting there. Not really “unsafe” unless it was about to fall down. Is it ugly? Yeah, I’d say so. But that’s not against any law.
    The property has been secured. The owners are paying a giant tax bill to the city (and getting no income in return). Unless they don’t pay their taxes or the building is truly unsafe, it’ll sit there.
    It’ll be knocked down when the owners decided to sell at something closer to a market price. If someone doesn’t hit whatever price they want to sell it for, then they have the right to keep it there. Or it’ll be fixed up when the city rules allow it to happen.
    (see 3400 Montrose for more info)

  • For fun I looked it up on hcad. They’ve paid about 1/2 a million bucks in taxes over the last 5 years. $500k for just the property tax portion of their holding costs. Who knows what else they’ve had to pay. I guess they figure by holding and eating $100k+/year they’ll get a big score at some point.