Best Contribution to Downtown Redevelopment (2000)
Randall Davis Company
Enron Field? Hardly. The Astros' stadium may be a strong anchor to east downtown's revitalization, but the real stars of central city redevelopment were already playing hardball long before Drayton's dream ever hit the drawing board. The real pioneers are people like New York implant Sharon Roseke Haynes. She led the group that rehabbed the sad Brashear building into the precedent-setting Solero. It showed the scores of imitators who followed that a classy new place could indeed bring the masses back downtown. But in terms of sheer stamina and shoot-from-the-hip successes, Randall Davis prevails. The Beaumont native had a comfortable business as a southwest Houston developer when he took a trip to Portland, Oregon, and got the itch for rehabbing old buildings. He returned and set his sights on the old Bute Paint building in north downtown in 1992. Nobody then was seriously betting on central Houston to awake from the dead. Davis's debut was a Bute, the 54-unit Dakota Lofts. Two years later, he came closer to downtown's heart with the 79 Hogg Palace Lofts. As everyone knows by now, his grandest quest was the forlorn Rice Hotel in 1997. Houston heavyweights with ten times his credit line had come away saying a rehab couldn't be done. Davis scrabbled up piecemeal funding -- public and private, logical and questionable. The resulting Rice Lofts building is a magnificent monument, to both the old Houston and the new. Houston loves to brag about its heritage of adventuresome, ballsy wildcatters who put their minds and money on the line to build the Bayou City in earlier eras. Many today like to pretend they're made of that stuff. That could still be the case if not for the man who has the brains to go along with the bricks and mortar. Without the audacity of Randall Davis, the rest of Houston might still be waiting for the Rice to reopen -- and for downtown to come back to life.