Almost every Bryan/College Station resident would admit to driving past the abandoned Plaza Hotel occasionally in their weekly routine, if not daily. The seventeen story concrete shell stands at the intersection of Texas Avenue and University Drive, arguably the two busiest streets in the whole city. And after 6:30am on Thursday, May 24th 2012, this once pivotal structure will be reduced to nothing more than a pile of shattered concrete and useless rubble.
If you’ve driven through the city of College Station in the past few weeks, it’s likely that you’ve noticed the unusual vacancy of the Plaza Hotel. Not that you would be expected to notice a parking lot or diminished business: instead, it is the actual building itself which you would’ve noticed. The windows of various apartments and hotel rooms appear to almost open up to the sky behind the structure. I myself have viewed this spectacle on a few sunset evenings, when the sky behind the Plaza Hotel was painted with the various colors of sunset, the different tones of orange, pink, or Easter purple leaking through the hollowed frame of the seventeen story structure. It’s more than evident then, peering up through the cracks in the concrete frame, to understand how completely abandoned the Plaza Hotel had become. And to hear now that the building will be imploded this upcoming Thursday, you might not be entirely surprised.
But how did this pivotal structure, the hotel that has had such a powerful presence in the history of our growing city, come to such an abrupt end? In such instances as this, it is sometimes important to understand the buildings past in order to appreciate the present circumstances.
What we know today as the Plaza Hotel actually began as a Ramada Inn, the first foundations of which were laid in the late 1950s. Joe Ferreri, the constructor of the Ramada Inn, was approached in the 1950s by Earl Rudder of Texas A&M. Attracted to Ferreri’s success as a drive-inn restaurant owner, Rudder approached Joe with the proposition to construct a badly needed hotel on the Corner of Texas Avenue and University. After appearing hesitant about the project due to his lack of experience in the hotel industry, Rudder encouraged him forward, getting the young businessman to wonder how much different it could be than the food industry.
So Joe began to build. By 1960 the Ramada Inn opened, looking far different than the Plaza Hotel that we know today. The Ramada had been a quaint, two story Inn with an Olympic swimming pool, faculty club, banquet hall, and just over 150 rooms. But this quiet corner served as a focal point for the College Station and Texas A&M community.
The Ramada Inn had immediate success and was consistently pushed to over 90% of its overall capacity. In fact, the hotel had such great business that Ferreri was pressed to expand. In 1980 he began the construction of a new high-rise for his Hotel, and in just one year an additional seventeen story tower was built: making the shell of the structure that you see today.
But despite the initial success of Ferreri’s expanded hotel and the overall consistent business he was receiving from the community at large, only a few years after the construction of the Hotel’s new high-rise, Joe Ferreri was forced to sell the Ramada Inn. In the early 1980s there was a major economic recession, much like the most recent economic events of the late 21st Century. Rising interest rates on the debts incurred from Ferreri’s construction, along with the overall state of the economy and slowing business, forced Ferreri out of his prized construction. The result was a loss of over 32 million dollars in assets and personal funds. Ferreri was left only with his home, a single car, and his family.
Since then what began as the Ramada Inn has switched ownership several times, becoming most recently what it is known as today: the Plaza Hotel. And it would appear that a similar fate befell the success of the Plaza Hotel’s business, the inevitable slip to bankruptcy that caused the hotel to close its doors for the last time in 2010.
Unfortunately, the story does not end there. After the abandonment of the Plaza Hotel, the twelve acre site of prime real-estate has become a hot-spot for crime, vandalism, and drug use. Criminals have been simply unable to avoid the alluring pull of an abandoned, seventeen story shelter full of furniture, walls, and glass. Security has been gradually increasing over the past few months, but authorities have become hard-pressed for the funds to support the coverage of such a broad area when the use of civil authorities is generally looked for elsewhere. So what is the result? Demolition.
The demolition project has been delegated to the local Civil Engineering Company, Mitchell and Morgan. Veronica Morgan is the lead Civil Engineer in charge of the implosion, which is currently set to occur around 6:30am this Thursday, the 24th of May. The event will be free and open to the public. Veronica Morgan herself hopes the implosion “will be an event for the community.” Many are certainly looking forward to the removal of the towering Plaza Hotel, which has been described by as an ‘eyesore’ to the community at large.
While future construction in the Plaza Hotel area is still unclear (there has been speculation about student housing, shopping/eating centers, night clubs, etc.), it is obvious and in popular demand that the archaic, outdated shell of the 1960s Ramada Inn be destroyed and replaced with a more aesthetically appealing structure. While the overall value of the land has decreased 28.7% from 2008 to 2010, it is still located in a prime location with an excellent promise of prosperous business. The city allegedly has had multiple propositions processed over the past several months, and the entire community is excited to find out what the future will hold.
PS – Susan Hilton is Bryan College Station, Texas’ real estate specialist in foreclosure sales and real estate agent career building so if you need help – CALL! 979-219-3970