Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Fate of the El Jardin Hotel

I was walking to my car last Friday from work at UTB when I noticed something different about downtown. high above many of the short structures was a crane hovering above the El Jardin Hotel. I mused to myself, what's that crane doing there? Could it be possible that the old hotel is being repaired? There was only one way to find out. Go there.
So, I set out the eight minute walk to the hotel from my car. When I got there, lord and behold, there definately was a crane with a few people in a basket hovering next to the hotel. What were they doing, I asked myself. After a few moment of studying the situation, I realized that the people on that basket were tearing down the top roof molding along the side of the hotel. Why? I continued studying the moment watching as the workers carefully removed the molding from the hotel while aslo removing some of the ornate structures that once jut out of the building like little spears.
After a few minutes thinking about the hotel, I decided to go and talk to Mr. Goodman, Director of the Downtown District, located in the Old Market Square. I opened the door and found Mr. Goodman at his desk and asked him about the situation with the hotel. He said that a large chunk had fallen to the street from the roof and that it was determined that the best course of action was to remove the top molding to prevent any further deteriation and falling pieces. Although no one was hurt, these pieces tend to shatter upon impact. So then I asked, is the owner going to renovate it or at least stabilize the facade? With great dissapointment, he said no. That's it. No.
So, there I was thinking about the hotel and how much I loved that building and having to watch it slowly but surely, fall apart piece by piece and not knowing what to do. My heart broke knowing that there was nothing I could do but curse the owner of the hotel and wondered why he never sold it, even at a loss. How could such a magnificent building that once was the first "skyscraper of the Rio Grande Valley and an icon and symbol of Brownsville's growth during the 1920s to 30s come to a sudden halt. Now, it lays empty and in great disrepair waiting to die. Just like someone were to buy a pet and then leave it tied up and forgotten. That's what's called Demolition By Neglect!! in architect terms. The building was just left there to fend for itself.
What could I do? I asked myself again. What could a little person with no money or politiacal power like me do to rescue the once magnificent building? And at once an idea popped into my head. I called Ambrosio Villarreal (Co founder of the Preservation Brownsville, of which I am the current President) and told him about the situation. He said to talk to a Brownsville Herald reporter that he knows and tell this person about the stait of the hotel. Ah ha. That's it. Sure it doesn't mean that a reporter would somehow rescue the building but more importantly, it's the power of knowledge. Have the reporter do an article about the dire situation about the hotel and maybe, then maybe, the owner will listen. And that's what I did. I got the e-mail of the reporter and the following week, I e-mailed the reporter with what I saw that Friday afternoon and what could be done to force the owner to do something about it. The reporter e-mailed me back thanking me for the e-mail and that they would look into it.
So, there it is. The fate of the El Jardin Hotel lies in the hands of those who care enough to push the system to do something. Now, I all I can do is sit and wait to see what happens. Meanwhile, the hotel sits there falling into dispair with no hope in site. What fate does the stars have for this once beautiful and majestic building? Only time will tell.


Blogger Mayra said...

Do you know why the owner won't do anything with the El Jardin Hotel? Has the city or university ever considered to condemn the property by way of eminent domain? The building has proved to be a hazzard and is probably not generating any tax money. I see plenty of clauses for eminent domain. If not, the owner could probably even make a buck through the various grants, tax breaks and stipends available to historical renovation projects. Also, even if we could save the building, would it be safe to use? What are you views and knowledge on this?
Hope you are doing swell.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


For what it is worth, have you ever tried to contact the actual owner? Hotel El Jardin as of August 2006 is owned by Martinez Hotel Inc. and the owner is Hugo Adrian Martinez living at 5054 Padre Island Highway just past Fruitdale. This is public information found through the Cameron Appraisal District website
They have the Hotel El Jardin with a market value of $270,141.

You are looking at that plus a lot more for remodeling a building that has been closed for years.

2:40 PM  
Blogger TonyL said...

Hum, it may be worth $270,000 but the owner wants $1M and no less + another $15M to restore.

Contacting the owner in person would not be wise cuz he probably would not appreciate some stranger convincing him in restoring or selling at market value. This must be done through a private developer of sorts.

But thanks for your comment. Now everyone can go to his house and bug him to do something about the hotel,he, he...


6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, not wise at all.
I do hope he does something to it some day. He's lucky the city has not pressured him into doing something to it, other delapidated buildings and homes are knocked down or renovated. Had this hotel been closer to residential areas and causing pest problems, the city would have an argument for forcing him to do something but you have nothing but commercial places around.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my father is the owner of the hotel we have been having trouble with the hotel because we cannot renovate it i think we should sell it because my dad has been working hard on anything he does and this will go no further thank you and ps:dont give bad reviews

4:24 PM  
Blogger TonyL said...

Excuse me? You are telling me to shut up? I don't think so! First off, if you were smart enough to see the date that I wrote the article, Jul 2005, you would realize that I haven't written much about the hotel. Second, don't pretend to tell me what I sould do. Just because you father is hardworking doesn't mean squat.

The hotel is in violation of the Demolision by Neglect ordinance and the $1.2M asking price is ludicrous! The appraised value is closer to $250,000, if even that.

Thanks to you, I will now write another blog about the hotel.

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am interested in the hotel. I am moving to the area and have heard a lot about the history of the El Jardin Hotel. Does anyone know if the same owner still has ownership of the hotel? I know of a couple of people that would love to purchase the building, but the real issue is what can be done with it? Making it back into a hotel may prove impossible. Possible office space?

9:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Martinez said...

I think it's great that people in the Brownsville community want to restore the hotel. I've passed by more recently due to collaboration for the new clubs we're opening downtown in Brownsville, I'd love to see what we could do with that building.

It would bring tourists and great international business interests among different companies, especially with the current restoration with the bus station and The University of Texas at Brownsville, as community I think it should be in everyone one's interests to create a beautiful city, after all we do live here.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering today about el hotel jardin. My mother is 91 yrs old and she remember the hotel jarin cause thats where her first husband mr. pedro mendez worked. My mother has wonderful memories of back in the 20s and 30s. I live in the high rise almost next to it, I sigh everytime I see it's.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Historic rehab project are very risky and usually very expensive. The city codes don't help because they require a great deal more parking than they used to many years ago. Almost anything you do will require much more parking than the spare land in back of the hotel has. If you want to spur the renovation of this hotel, pressure the city to do a few things: 1. ease parking requirements for historic rehab projects; 2. ask them to set up a grant program for such projects (the state of texas does not have one); 3. ask them to make restoring old Brownsville a priority. The obvious uses for this building are office, hotel, apartments. Personally I see a lot of potential in student housing in this location, being so near the university. Should the owner's son see this comment, contact me at: jackson@3rdspacegroup.com. I have a lot of real estate development experience including historic rehab. Riverlofts, 60 Spring and 15 Broad Street in New York were all projects I ran. I can help.
BTW to all, if you think the decay of the El Jardin is a disaster, just look at what the Ross Dress for Less next door used to be; google "missouri pacific railroad station, brownsville, tx" It was beautiful.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Luis purra said...

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1:37 PM  

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