Thursday, September 27, 2018

500-502 North Sam Houston Pkwy. E.

500-502 North Sam Houston Pkwy. E. (500-502 North Belt East)

Built as the Houston Airport Hilton in 1979, this hotel has a somewhat odd history. For years, the hotel was essentially two two-story buildings connected via skywalk. The author of this post later received a brief history of the hotel from "PurpleDevil" on, who is unavailable for comment.

This was the original Hilton Inn Intercontinental Airport. Built in 1978, and opened in '79, it originally was just 500 North Belt. The original hotel was 220 rooms, on 2 floors, no elevator, a full service restaurant called "Wicker Works", a country night club called Chaps, and a full service bar named Cycles. It also featured 5 townhome suites occupying both stories, in a back building in the courtyard of the main building, which can be seen from aerials, which had 2 pools surrounding the townhome suites and a full size sauna beneath them. The hotel also featured a 4 bay grand ballroom that held around 800 people in total.

In 1980, the hotel was added onto on the adjacent property to the east, which added another 157 rooms, including a presidential suite featuring an in room jacuzzi, several full size meeting rooms, another bar named "The Wildcatter" which had an indoor/outdoor pool and another jacuzzi. The glass catwalk that you referred to was also built with the addition.
Fast forward to 1993. Hilton is dropped from the hotel and refranchised to Choice Hotel's Clarion Inn. Still operating as a full service hotel, just without the Hilton name. Within a year, it was realized that a Clarion could not sustain a now 377 room hotel, so the 1980 addition was closed off and sat vacant for another year.

We now are at 1995 when, lo and behold, the property owners reach an agreement to bring the Hilton flag back to at least the addition, splitting the hotel in half, and reopening the addition as a Hampton Inn. The Hampton/Clarion combo lasted at this location for over 20 years, and seemed to maintain quite a clientele. It was typically packed with cars.

Then came 2006. It was sold by the Richfield Corporation to a private company named Riya Group. The place went from a dated, but bustling pair of hotels, to an absolute hell hole. I swear, within 6 months, this place had police cars or an ambulance and fire truck in front of it every night. Some of the drivers for our hotel used to say the clerks at the Clarion would stand out front smoking cigarettes, but not the ones you find at the store.

By 2009, the hotel had lost both the Clarion and Hampton flags, yet somehow continued to keep the doors open, with only (I kid you not) the employees' cars in the lot, and operating two hotels with no operating system or branding in place. I know that it got so bad at that hotel, that IAH would not even send distressed passengers to it at one point. After several months, the original hotel was branded, not a Days Inn, but a Days Hotel & Conference Center. The Hampton became the Baymont a few months after that, and has remained so since. The Days Hotel lasted about a year, then it changed to a Settle Inn for around 6 months, then to its current Park Inn. They've done quite a bit of work on the building's interior over the past couple of years, and I've seen brochures where the bedding and room decor has been modernized, oh and btw, it now has an elevator. On the Park Inn side. Apparently, not one on the Baymont side, in the old addition quite yet. Also, within the last couple of weeks, a new stone and iron fence is being erected around the property. I guess they are through having people cut through their parking lot, over their curbs, and across their ditch, when a driver feels the urgency to exit the freeway and cut down Spence to avoid Hardy.

The biggest problem I see, and have seen there a lot, is a lack of business. There's more cars there now, than there was a couple of years ago, but nowhere near the cash cow it was in its heyday. I remember when that Hilton had a line of patrons going from the back of the hotel, where Cycles was, clear out the front door just to get in. Those days are long over for this old girl.

I think the building itself lost a lot of its charm in '93, when in the conversion to Clarion, it had all that stucco slapped on its exterior. I always thought the dark brown brick it originally was, especially with that catwalk lit up right in the middle, very sharp and rather classy. Not so much now. It is still in use, as I've seen people walk across it from time to time, while passing by.

This is a bit inaccurate as HCAD shows that the transfer to Riya in 2005, and that per Google Maps Street View show that Days Hotel was in operation by 2007, likely just rebranded from Clarion. Baymont opened in 2008 (the same year the hotel was sold to Hornet Investors), and Park Inn Houston North Hotel & Conference Center was opened by 2010, and HCAD records show that the hotel was renovated in 2010. At some point after the 2010 renovation, Wicker Works became Sam Houston's Grill and today (post-2014) appears to be now known as Bistro 500.

Unfortunately, change would come soon. Up until 2017, both hotels remained under the same ownership and the skywalk provided access, Baymont (at 502) was sold to Red Roof Inn, and the skywalk was demolished. While the floor still slopes upward at the second floor of Park Inn, there's a new wall and door for a storage area. [Pictures are by the author, September 2018]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Randalls Distribution Center

10700 Telge Road

Houston-based Randalls opened a warehouse along Northwest Freeway in 1983, and expanded it in the late 1990s, adding a large traditional warehouse to the south and a freezer addition to the north (the old building had just perishables), consolidating from a location at 3350 Rogerdale Road. This came at about the same time as the chain was purchased by California-based Safeway Inc., which continued to operate the Randalls distribution center as one of two Texas facilities (the other is in the Dallas area, purchased from Food Lion) to serve primarily the Austin and Houston areas.

When Safeway bought Randalls, it was #2 in market share behind Kroger at 20.2%, almost bigger than #3 and #4 held together (Fiesta Mart and H-E-B, respectively).1 In the years that followed, Safeway made a series of decisions that alienated customers and did not expand the chain, especially as Kroger, H-E-B, and Walmart made aggressive growth. By 2016, about a year after Safeway was acquired by Albertsons, Randalls had fallen to less than 4%, not that Albertsons had much to work with before.

After purchasing Safeway, Albertsons initially reorganized the divisional structure to divide up the "Texas" division, taking Randalls' Tom Thumb chain and combining it with the Dallas-area Albertsons (in the "South" division) while combining Albertsons South's southern Louisiana stores and Florida stores with the Houston division. The Florida stores disconnected as part of a rebranding to Safeway and a realignment with Eastern (until they finally exited the market for good) and in spring 2017, Albertsons gave up on the Houston Division as a separate division (again) and combined it with the South Division, and sold the building.

As of this writing, part of the 1983 building will be demolished (to make the southern 1999 addition a separate building), and three new buildings are to be added under the name "Highland Grove Business Park".

Crossposted from Carbon-izer Presents the Northwest Freeway Corridor.
1 - `Right' store was ripe for picking - Randalls joins trend with dealHouston Chronicle (TX) (Published as Houston Chronicle) - July 24, 1999
Pictures taken September 2018

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Colonial House

5700 Gulfton Street

The Colonial House apartments were originally built in 1970, and in the mid-1980s, they were marketed by Michael Pollack as a trendy place to live for singles in a well-publicized turnaround attempt that had the apartments actually renovated in just three months.

Unfortunately, the revival of Colonial House did not last, and by 1988, the apartments went into foreclosure. In 1989, new ownership renamed the apartments to Lantern Village Apartments. Some directories say that in 1982, the name of the apartments were Gulfton Square, but no advertisements or other writings have corroborated if that was the pre-Pollack name.

Advertisement originally from the Houston Post, edits made to reduce noise.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

1102 Yale

1102 Yale

Because of a plan this site had not to cover the same territory as other sites, it will only add to what Arch-ive has already covered. The Eckerd was here as of 2001 as per newspaper articles, and the renovation did not just add Lola, it added Anytime Fitness, Flooring in the Heights, and Nutrition Epicenter. Nutrition Epicenter has closed (Flooring in the Heights has only one mention beyond Street View, and it is also gone). Sharkey's Cuts for Kids has taken over the nutrition store, and it appears Anytime Fitness has expanded into the flooring store. While this site aims to cover full histories of the sites it covers, sometimes that is not feasible with the schedule. Photo taken by author, August 1, 2018.