Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes

Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston

Artist and regular neck craner Bob Russell took a moment this week to capture the various works currently on display to Pierce Elevated drivers on the south side of the 30-story highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy. (former host of a variety of hotels and Vedic teaching initiatives before the building entered its more recent era of abandonment and creeping decrepitude). The uptick in broken windows in the last few months doesn’t appear to have much of a connection to the most recent plans for the stripping and remodeling of the building back into some flavor of hotel, as proposed this time around by SFK Development. As far as other signs of change, the name scrawled across the facade’s central panels has been edited since another tipster’s drive-by back in February:


Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston

Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston

Photos: Bob Russell (top), Swamplot inbox (bottom 2)

24 Comment

  • Would make a great large scale crossword puzzle. Let’s get someone on that!

  • Teardown!!

  • There are many things that annoy me about Houston (bad air, bad sidewalks, bad roads, bubba trucks – it’s actually a really long list that’s best left to Twitter) but THIS building is probably in the Top 5. It’s like a black eye on the city and I don’t understand how the city hasn’t demanded SOMEONE – current owner or otherwise – demolish this horrible thing in the sake of making Houston better. This space would serve the city’s residents and workers better as an open lot with green space.

  • I check on it from time to time, as of last week the crews that were working on it look like they have bailed, there still is a junk container on one side but all the workers and gear are gone, the gate to the parking garage has been pushed in what looks like a car rammed it at an apartment complex or something, same old story someone had a vision, and quickly once they got in there, realized it was a dead end street, it really does just need to be demolished.


  • Well I happen to be a fan of mid-century hotel architecture and in my opinion this building is a period piece that ought to be designated as a historical landmark. Given its history as the former world headquarters for the Maharishi organization, it certainly qualifies for designation under current statutes as well as the pending State legislation. The current property owners should have their property rights summarily reduced and they shouldn’t have any say in the matter. Nor should they be compensated. Potential future users of this scarce urban land should look elsewhere. Why? Aesthetics. Oh, and because we should selectively cherry-pick elements of our history to honor while pretending the other stuff didn’t happen or wasn’t popular when it did. And one other thing, because I say so. Honestly, if I want something and can get away with it then that’s justice enough. I am a preservationist and I am entitled. You totally need to take me seriously.

  • Downtown’s #1 eyesore and unfortunately in a prominent place. Tear down. Mid-price hotel. Residential. You’d think the land was too valuable to have something like that taking up space.

  • I used to stare at this thing and the old Savoy every day for 4+ years when I worked at the EM building on Bell, and always wondered about playing a game of Battleship with it to sink the damn thing for good.

  • The building is an eyesore, to be sure. As I understand it, the floor to floor height is too low to make it feasible to do much with it. New condos and upscale hotels need high ceilings (9′ at least) AND central air, which takes another 4 of interstitial space. Then you have a 6″ (rounding up) slab and another 6″ for lights and your minimum floor to floor is 14′ for most new buildings. I could be mixing up my downtown buildings, but this one stays vacant because it only has a 12′ floor to floor (or is it 11′?)
    Through-wall air conditioning can solve the problem, but that’s not acceptable in high end hotels and condos, which is what they’re after downtown.
    It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I’m not convinced someone’s going to jump on the building anytime soon. The best we might hope for is to turn the thing into a giant installation-art piece? Or advertising? Help subsidize structural repairs and cleaning up the facade? Low income housing is a possibility but high rises mean elevators and housing authorities are hit or miss when it comes to taking care of those.

  • If anything, this eyesore shows how unregulated free markets in real estate can do so much more harm than any tiny measure to preserve a few buildings for their architectural and historical significance. Unlike most human endeavors, real estate is one of the few ways people can take a big poop in the middle of a community with impunity. Besides being an eyesore, vacant buildings are a magnet for vagrants and crime. They bring down property values of neighboring buildings. But, unless the building is on the verge of falling over (and the local authorities can get service of process on some far flung owner), there is nothing that can be done about it. It is a classic case of cost externalities that definitively show that the only thing “free” about free markets is the freedom of the guy with a big bag of money to negatively impact a community by leaving perfectly good real estate to rot while clearing forests for new development.

  • Old School, no one plans to build or buy an empty building and let it sit there. Deals go bad, the economy changes, things change. I suspect someone is losing a lot of money on this building, whether they have realized it or not. No amount of central planning (as you seem to suggest) can fix such things.

  • @ ZAW: Economic realities be damned. Mid-century hotels are our cherished heritage. The local government and its constituents and business interests and their customers should all bow to my superior aesthetic sensibilities. That is their purpose in existing in this universe. I am a preservationist.
    @ Old School: Right on! That rich dude who collects derelict properties and develops over forests is such a poopy-head. I met him once and he literally had poop oozing from his ears. He was totally not a figure of speech in an ill-considered online rant. He really ought to develop prairies because prairies are aesthetically inferior to forests. It’s people like you and I that get it. We are preservationists.

  • This building has changed hands multiple times in the past 15 years or so, presumably because somebody thought there was value in it, either speculative, or via redevelopment, but every time those plans seem to fall through. I can’t imagine that each time this building changed hands, it was bought by somebody that didn’t conduct any due diligence. You often get an inspection when you buy a house, I would think you would get an inspection including some kind of structural/engineering report, plus a lot more on a 300+ foot, 30 story building.

    In the past few years, it seems that some of the recent owners have at least been taking the effort and making progress to keep the vagrants/criminals out, abate the graffiti, board up the broken windows and clear out the old mattresses and other junk from the floors. As much as I would prefer to see a building like this having some kind of economic use/value in its function, as long as it is not inviting of crime/danger, I don’t have issue with a building just sitting there, that is the owner’s prerogative. Remember the Sheraton-Lincoln hotel? It sat vacant for years, graffiti-less and fully windowed, no one would have given it a second thought driving by.

    In the past few months, the graffiti has exploded and more and more windows are being broken out. I don’t know what happens when you smash a window 300 feet in the air, but I’m pretty sure those pieces come raining down near and around the building and onto the street. The owners need to do their part to keep the building secured and to prevent the criminal activity and prosecute the trespassers and vandals, otherwise they are no better than the owners of the Southwest Inn.

  • That building is ugly – and has been a blight for decades. Now that Cesar Perez has shown the way, we should paint the owner’s name on the side for all to see who is responsible for this shameful thing.

  • Sorry Niche but this building was completed around 1971 or 1972 if you check, so not really mid-century. It was originally the “Holiday Inn Downtown, opening with much fanfare.

  • This building is a 30-story billboard advertisement of a “free-market” failure, and it’s interesting to see the embarrassed reactions of free-market fundamentalists—plus pet phrases like “market realities” or “central planning”—among these comments.

  • Something else that stands out in this picture is the unsightly number of power lines that run through downtown. Its a shame they cant be taken underground.
    I just want the building either repurposed or razed. Its just a real eyesore.

  • @ Wayne: I can play fast and loose with logic if I want to, and build up and modify all manner of constructs. I feel everything very deeply, so you should not challenge me or I will bristle at how rude you are. I am a preservationist.

  • @Chris

    Dearest Chris,

    I hate so many things about this city; suburban grid, small sidewalks, ditches, bad mass transit, but I love having this building there in Downtown Houston! It’s tall, it’s gritty, we need more big gritty buildings. Basically the more Houston looks like Gotham City the better. I dont think Downtown Houston should ever demolish a building again unless its a danger to the citizens of the city. There are plenty of stupid parking lots downtown where these developers can build. Why tear down a building and build a new one? We need more building density Downtown. This stupid city has buildings spread out all over. It has a schizophrenic skyline. Oh and I hate the tunnels, city block sized parking lots in Downtown, 700 unclear street parking signs Downtown, and the fact there’s so little street level retail in Downtown. Man this city is so lame. I blame the conservatives and the yellow dogs of yesteryear.



  • As someone whom rarely ever ventures or looks downtown, I always loved this building. Interesting scenery and far more representative of the Houston I grew up in and am familiar with than the rest of the area.

  • Too Bad. I look preserving old structures which have some meaning to our history and society, but there is nothing in this place worth saving.

  • @ Wayne: I certainly understand. As a preservationist, you must hold your own aesthetic judgements as superior to those of all other people. All other perspectives are inferior. There can be no compromise as to your vision of what must be preserved and what must be demolished. All of society must bow before you, oh great arbiter of nostalgia in structural form.
    And what of other preservationists? (What of myself?) They are numerous, but their perspectives are not homogeneous. Well, as it happens, each is the center of his own alternate universe, which revolves around them by means of Ptolemaic convolution. Thus, for each preservationist, truth is what they believe it to be. Self-doubt is the only falsehood.

  • Hey! This building keeps the rent cheap! Let nothing change it’s toy graf glory and the schadenfreude I get from people who don’t like it as it is now.

  • Well, if the problem is defined as “Pierce Elevated drivers see blight,” then one solution is to get rid of the blight, another is to get rid of the Pierce Elevated. It’s probably obvious by now which is more likely to happen.