Hotel Online Special Report
The Historic Rice Hotel, Shuttered for 20 Years, 
Again a Houston Landmark
Rice Hotel Facts
HOUSTON, Oct. 29, 1998 -  Houston's storied Rice Hotel, which once played host to American luminaries before falling into decades of neglect, gets a new lease on life today as a luxury apartment community.

The $27.5 million renovation, which restores much of the 1913-era structure to its early glamour, is a joint effort by Atlanta-based Post Properties, local developer Randall Davis and The Houston Housing Finance Corporation. It's a prime example of how adaptive reuse around the country is reviving interest in downtown living.

"We are delighted to bring The Rice back to life," says John Williams, founder and CEO of Post Properties, Inc. "It can now fulfill its legacy as a Houston landmark while acting as a catalyst to restore a vibrant lifestyle in downtown Houston."

Located at 909 Texas at Main Street, the property consists of a trio of inter-connected 17-story buildings. There are 312 one-, two- and three- bedroom apartments with rents ranging from $700 to $3,500 per month. Already, 90 percent of the property is leased or occupied.

The building has 25,000 square feet of retail space, including the Sambuca Restaurant, La Madeleine Restaurant, Amy's Ice Cream, Jamba Juice, Mission Burrito, the Rice Valet and a grocery store. Also included are a cigar stand and newsstand near the location of the hotel's original cigar stand.

The developers, architects and designers researched and restored much of the hotel's original character, which afforded the property a $4.5 million federal historic tax credit. The magnificent, double-ceiling lobby, previously defiled with the addition of an interim floor, has been reconverted to its original two-story design, complete with a new 20-foot stained-glass skylight.

The original "Rice Roof" dance pavilion, where the likes of Tommy Dorsey once swung, has been transformed into a resident social area. And, the indoor pool, hidden under concrete in recent years, has been completely restored. The Capital Club, once a favorite watering hole for Houston notables, is now a richly paneled lounge with an adjacent terrace overlooking the city.

In addition, the building has a large meeting facility with a 25-foot bar and a 14-foot-high, hand-carved fireplace/mantel imported from Europe. Residents can gather there to watch videos on a full-size movie screen. The piece de resistance, however, is the 7,000-square-foot Crystal Ballroom, complete with restored detailed woodwork, cast plaster ornamentation and the hotel's restored original oil murals. More than $1 million was spent on the renovation of this room, which will be available to residents and outside guests for special events.

Randall Davis, known for his success in converting Inner-Loop Houston buildings into loft apartments, began the renovation process in 1995. Post Properties, a nationally known real estate investment trust with a focus on urban infill and adaptive reuse throughout the country, joined the project in 1996. The city contributed about $6 million in tax abatements and grants.

"Randall Davis, Michael Stevens, chairman of the board of Michael Stevens Interests, and former Mayor Lanier were the catalysts who got this project moving," said Robert Shaw, president of the Post West division.

"Houston is fortunate to have visionaries like Randall and Houston city leaders who understand the value of urban restoration and what it can do to reawaken urban environments." City leaders generally credit The Rice's resurrection with Houston's current downtown revival.

History runs deep at The Rice. The ground it stands on was the site of the capital of The Republic of Texas from 1837-1842. The current property is actually the third hotel built on the site. The original developer was Houston businessman Jesse H. Jones, an early owner and publisher of The Houston Chronicle.

When it opened in the early part of this century, The Rice was the first air-conditioned space in Houston and the first hotel with an escalator. Over the years, six presidents visited The Rice. Politicians congregated there, with Democrats hosting their national convention there in 1928. President Kennedy napped at the hotel during a stopover in Houston the day before his assassination. The facility closed in 1977 amid financial pressures and remained shuttered for 20 years.

The original architectural firm for The Rice Hotel was Mauran, Russell, and Crowell of St. Louis. The Post Properties renovation was designed by Arturo Chavez of PageSutherlandPage. Houston-based Tribble Stephens served as general contractors.

Rice Hotel Facts
  • The hotel is built on the site of the old Capitol of the Republic of Texas, which housed the Texas Congress from April 1837 until September 1839.  
  • John K. and Augustus Allen retained ownership of the building after the legislature moved to Austin. It was sold in 1857 to R.S. Blount for $12,000.  
  • The original building was razed in 1881 by Colonel A. Groesbeck, who subsequently erected an elaborate five-story Capitol Hotel.  
  • William Marsh Rice, the founder of Rice University, purchased the building in 1883, added a five-story annex and renamed it the Rice Hotel.  
  • Rice University sold the building in 1911 to Jesse Jones, who then demolished the building and built a 17-story structure on the site. The new building opened on May 17, 1913, costing $2.5 million to build.  
  • The first air-conditioned public room in Houston, the Rice Hotel Cafeteria, opened on the site in 1922.  
  • The Rice Hotel remained a Houston landmark until 1975 when the building's owners decided to close the hotel. After a brief reopening in 1976, the hotel was closed by court order on August 23, 1977 and was sold at foreclosure auction in 1977. 

Post Properties is one of the largest developers and operators of upscale multi-family apartment communities in the Southeastern and Southwestern United States. The company operates as a self-administered and self-managed equity real estate investment trust whose primary business consists of development and managing Post(R) brand-name apartment communities of its own account. Nationwide, Post Properties owns approximately 32,514 apartment homes in 96 communities, including 5,777 units currently under development.

Janie Maddox, Post Properties, Inc., 404-846-5056 
Brian Brodrick, 
Jackson Spalding Ledlie, 
Kyle Crews, Halcyon Associates, 972-349-6570
Also See:
Olympus Real Estate Corporation's Park Plaza International Acquires Historic Warwick Hotel in Houston / May 1998 

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