Franklin Mountain Investments
The Plaza Pioneer Park hotel originally debuted in 1930 the Hilton Hotel in El Paso, Texas, taking on the status as the city’s tallest building. Designed by prominent El Paso architect Henry C. Trust, the project was a monumental accomplishment in architecture of the early twentieth century of the Southwest.
After years of vacancy, Franklin Mountain Investments began rehabilitation efforts in 2017. MHA Houston consulted on the $78 million project, helping to secure $11 million in federal historic tax credits and $13.7 million in state historic tax credits. Today, the redeveloped 131-room hotel retains a wealth of historic integrity with the property’s original ballroom, atrium, and meeting rooms.
The Plaza Hotel opened in 1930 as Conrad Hilton’s first high-rise hotel. Designed by Trost & Trost Architects & Engineers and constructed by general contractor Robert E. McKee, the 19-story reinforced concrete frame, Art Deco style building is clad in Indiana limestone, red brick, and ornamental terracotta. After 33 years as the Hilton Hotel and a personal home to members of Hilton family, the property was sold in October 1963. The building became known as the Plaza Hotel and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In 1992, the hotel closed and began a period of vacancy. Despite this, the building retained a high degree of its architectural integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association, making it a prime candidate for rehabilitation and historic tax credits.
The newly rehabilitated, upscale boutique hotel offers 7,600 square feet of event space and 6,500 square feet of restaurant and bar space, including the new Ambar Restaurante with wood-fired Mexican cuisine, and the Elizabeth Taylor-inspired rooftop bar, La Perla. A collaborative effort between preservationists, designers, architects, and developer, the redesigned hotel celebrates West Texas culture and El Paso’s relationship with Mexico.
Rehabilitation efforts included the restoration of original building materials, character defining features, and new additions inspired by historic, archival research. The building’s brick, limestone, cast stone, granite, and terracotta were cleaned and repointed. The cleaning encompassed the building’s Classical and Art Deco styled ornamental details, including fluted pilasters, dentil molding and guttae, cast stone urns, and spandrels with chevrons, Egyptian winged elements, and convoluvious plant forms.
The remaining original windows included wood frame, multi-light wooden sash windows and multi-light steel industrial windows. These windows and sills were repaired while non-historic windows were removed. Also on the exterior, replicas of original canopies were reintroduced in historic locations, with their materials and design inspired by the building’s original architectural drawings. The building’s PLAZA signage was also retained, rewired, and illuminated with new LED lighting.
In the interior, rehabilitation efforts focused on restoring the former mezzanine lobby back to its original, open, double-height nature with its historic chandeliers repaired and upgraded to current electrical standards. The grand staircase and balustrade were also cleaned and repaired while the ceiling corbels and plaster ornament in the historic ballroom were retained and delicately cleaned and repainted.
AIA El Paso | 2020 Jury Prize
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