Houston Matters

Houston’s reputation for tearing down its historic buildings could be changing

Tax credits are making it financially advantageous for developers to restore and repurpose historic structures.


Houston’s former downtown post office was repurposed as POST Houston, which now features restaruants, retail, workspace, and a concert venue.


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Houston has long had a reputation for tearing things down and building something new…only to later tear that down and, well, wash, rinse, and repeat.

However, that reputation may not be as accurate as it once was. For some developers, state and federal tax credits to save and repurpose buildings with character and history mean it's good business not to start over.

Such was the case with the Melrose Building at the corner of Walker and San Jacinto in downtown Houston. Constructed in 1952, the structure was the city's first international-style high rise office tower.

While there were high rises before it (like the Esperson Buildings just a few blocks to the west) that featured classical-style architecture with columns and urns, the Melrose was the first with the sleek, straight lines popular in the mid-20th century.

A black-and-white photo of a highrise building in downtown Houston
The Melrose Building in downtown Houston was the city’s first modern-style office tower.

For a long time, it was an office building. But, for a long time after that, it sat empty and in disrepair until a development company used tax credits to gut and modernize it as a hotel that opened in 2017 as Le Méridien Houston Downtown.

The exterior of Le Méridien Houston Downtown. The hotel was originally the Melrose Building, the city’s first modern-style high rise. It sat vacant for many years before a development company gutted and repurposed the building using state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

In the audio above, Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty talks with Gary Prosterman, who's the managing partner with the development group behind Le Méridien, about the history of the building and the process of reviving the property, and he explains how the tax credits are a good thing for both his bottom line and for the environment.

The view from Z on 23, the rooftop bar on the 23rd floor of Le Méridien hotel in downtown Houston.

Also, we hear from Bill Franks, who knows well the process of breathing new life into old, historic Houston buildings, what’s known as “adaptive reuse.” For years, he did just that for the development company he led. And now he's a consultant for other companies looking to do the same.

Franks says, whether you're turning an old building into a hotel, apartments, shopping, or mixed use, these kinds of projects don't just make sense financially, but also morally.

The exterior of POST Houston against the downtown skyline. The building, a former post office, is an example of “adaptive reuse” that utilized tax credits to make saving an historic structure more financially advantageous compared to tearing it down and building something new. The facility now houses dining, workspace, and a concert venue.
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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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