The Merchants and Manufacturing Building (April 1930)
“The object of admiration, an eleven storied bifurcated structure, stood apart from the downtown skyline, positioned in such a way that no other building could obstruct its view or light…a 600,000 feet capacity made The Merchants and Manufacturing Building the largest in the city.” – 40,000 Window Panes: the story of the Merchants and Manufacturing Building, by Dr. Garna Christian.
The Merchants and Manufacturing Building, or the M&M as locals came to call it, was built in 1929 at a cost of more than $6 million (nearly $80 million in today’s dollars). It was meant to be a building that could integrate merchandizing and transportation of goods, a concept that had already taken root in Chicago and Dallas. Barges and trains could load and unload goods from the first floor’s warehouse space. The second floor housed a parking garage, and the third floor, with frontage onto Main Street, was filled with “arcade” space, meant to house shops and restaurants. The remaining floors boasted professional offices, each with views of downtown and the bayous. The building, although well in advance of its time, was unfortunately completed in early 1930, less than six months after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. It languished for several years, struggling to stay profitable, before being leased by the South Texas Junior College in 1967. The STJC was in desperate need of more space for its ballooning enrollment, and in 1968, after gaining its independence from the YMCA (its parent institution since its founding in 1948), the College bought the M&M for $4 million. There have since been several renovation projects to the original building, which was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The Harley Hotel/UHD Center (July 1981)
Operating at full capacity and growing quickly, in mid-1981 the College looked across Buffalo Bayou for additional space to expand. UHDC bought and renovated the Harley Hotel in October 1981, located on Commerce Street, and changed the name to the University of Houston Downtown Center. The nine-story building had a colorful past, including operating as a dance hall in the 1960s, but was large enough to be converted into the College’s first dormitory, which included 110 rooms, television lounges, laundry facilities. It also boasted computer and typing labs, a cafeteria, and meeting space. Many of the invited speakers at UHDC in the 1980s spoke at the ballroom there, including Maya Angelou in 1984 and 1992. The building was razed after the completion of the new Academic Building adjacent to the M&M in 1994.
Commerce Street Building (September 2004)
In 2004, the 30th anniversary year, UHD expanded onto the site of the razed University of Houston Downtown Center at the corner of Main and Commerce Streets. The expanded space, meeting rooms and computer labs housed the newly-created College of Public Service, which comprised the Departments of Criminal Justice and Urban Education. As a community-based center for higher learning, the College also offers programs in social work and security management. Each floor also has its own mural, painted by UHD art professor Floyd Newsum.
Shea Street Building (May 2007)
In the mid 2000s, with over 45% of undergraduates at UHD majoring in Business, and a desire to create a Master’s of Business Administration program, the University built the Shea Street Building, home to the College of Business. Designed by Pierce Goodwin Alexander and Linville and dedicated in 2007, it features 150,000 square feet of multi-use space and a grand four-story atrium. In 2010, the atrium was filled with an art piece entitled “Cloud Deck” by Jacob Hashimoto, a moving sculpture created from 5,000 bamboo and resin kites, encompassing 40 feet of vertical space.