25 Years of Elmore PR: 1998

2017 is a big year for Elmore Public Relations—we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary! For the past 25 years, our agency has been working with numerous clients to help them achieve their goals, or as we say – connecting strategy, expertise and results. Each week we’re highlighting a year of Elmore PR.

We celebrated the launch of The Cotswold Project in 1997 last week. This week, we’re revisiting 1998 and the opening of Rice Lofts in the historic Rice Hotel building.

1998

1998 was a pivotal year for Downtown Houston. The city’s center was booming and many efforts were being put into effect to make downtown a place for all to enjoy. Downtown was also starting to become a destination for luxury living.

Located on Texas Avenue, downtown’s historic Rice Hotel reopened its doors in 1913 in its third and final location. The hotel’s rich history has made it one of the city’s most prominent structures.

Photo courtesy of Larry Gilbert (Houston Chronicle)

The Rice Hotel closed in 1977 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places the following year. For 20 years, the vacant site embodied a ghost town and evaded demolition on many occasions. That was until 1997, when a $28 million renovation plan was developed to convert the abandoned hotel into luxury apartments.

Before the developer began working on The Rice, the consensus was that this was Houston’s chance to inspire the public to consider Downtown Houston as a place to live, work and play!  The Downtown Historic District was given permission to host a “hard hat” party on the mezzanine level of the empty hotel, and the event was the beginning of the Downtown Houston Association’s “Live Downtown!” campaign that continued through the opening and beyond.

The campaign prize was exciting — win one year, free, in a fully-furnished, one-bedroom apartment at the Rice Lofts, and become the official “spokesperson” for living downtown!  You could enter by submitting, in writing, why you wanted to live downtown. Macy’s, the downtown department store, furnished the apartment, University of Houston-Downtown served as the contest jurors and sponsors included the Downtown Houston Association, Central Houston, Houston Chronicle and others.

The Rice Lofts opened their doors in 1998 to great fanfare! A parade, a party with the Mayor and plenty of press from around the city and the country. Elmore PR was proud to have conceived and driven the strategy that inspired people to think of downtown as a livable neighborhood!

In honor of the opening of the Rice Lofts (formerly the Rice Hotel), check out a list of our top 10 facts about the development and its history:

1. The final home to the Rice Hotel, which opened in 1913, was built by Houston politician and entrepreneur Jesse H. Jones. He leased the land from the Rice Institute (now Rice University).

2. The Rice Hotel had welcomed many special guests through its doors: including former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy; Mick Jagger; Shirley Temple and many more.

3. In 1922, the hotel’s cafeteria became the first public room with air conditioning in all of Houston.

Photo courtesy of Westlake Construction Co.

4. In 1977, the Rice Hotel was forced to close as a result of stricter fire codes; the hotel had been labeled as unsafe.

5. Post Properties and developer Randall Davis, along with architecture firm Page Southerland Page, worked on the $28 million renovation of the property. The renovation also called for adding 25,000 sq. ft. of retail space and included the building of Sambuca, a jazz club on the ground floor.

6. Elmore PR secured publicity for the opening of the Rice Lofts in April 1998, and spurred talk about the benefits of living in downtown.

7. Rumor has it that the Rice Lofts are haunted by spirits dancing on the roof.

Photo courtesy of The Rice

8. The 1,000 hotel rooms were converted into 312 luxury apartments, ranging from penthouses to efficiencies.

9. The Rice Lofts opening was a tipping point for bringing residential developments back to Downtown Houston.

10. The Rice Lofts were sold in 2014 and underwent another renovation. The Rice Lofts were renamed and are now known as The Rice.

Photo courtesy of Jim Doersam (Houston Chronicle)

We were thrilled to be able to be a part of the re-opening of the Rice Hotel into the Rice Lofts. It was an incredible opportunity for learning and growth and helped pave the way for future projects. Come back next week when we look to 1999 and the opening of the Hobby Center!