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Real Estate / High-Rises

Your Sneak Peek Inside a Houston Billionaire’s New $350 Million Tower of Swoon

Tilman Fertitta Yearns to Fill the Torn-Down Shamrock Hotel Void with a Beyond Luxe New Post Oak Palace

BY // 03.05.18
Tilman Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel and high-rise opens this month amid visions of giving Houston the show-stopping hotel it’s long lacked, bringing back the wonder of the torn-down Shamrock, and raising the luxury bar with a Rolls-Royce dealership, museum quality worthy art, a bulletproof Presidential Suite and a $350 Million Price Tag.
 

 

Tilman Fertitta marches across the long drive at a pace an Olympic race walker would appreciate. The billionaire owner of the Landry’s Inc. hospitality empire and the Houston Rockets is in even more of a hurry than usual. It is hard to keep up with him — and a host of hustling, trailing folks are trying, including his son Patrick and Jeff Cantwell, Landry’s senior VP of development.

It is a Sunday in Houston, a day even all-mighty beings are supposed to rest. Fertitta is just a man, but this Billion Dollar Buyer certainly feels an urgent sense of purpose. The Post Oak — Fertitta’s new 38-story luxury hotel, high-rise, office, restaurant and shopping complex that takes up 10 acres along West Loop South — needs to be largely completed by the time the first charity galas inaugurate its massive ballrooms later this month. When rapper Pitbull (a Fertitta friend and regular texting buddy) takes the stage in Post Oak’s 16,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom for the Houston Children’s Charity Gala on March 23, things must be perfect.

To Fertitta anything less almost would be an insult to Houston. He looks at this hotel as his chance to show that the Bayou City is worthy of the best things in the world.

“Houston’s never had a hotel like this,” Fertitta says. “The last great world-class hotel we had was the Shamrock Hotel and that was a different era. People come to Houston and there’s no great hotel to stay at. That’s not acceptable. Not for this city.”

At age 60, Fertitta is not even old enough to remember the Shamrock’s peak 1950s glamorous glory days. But his father Vic, who also stops by on this Sunday to see his son and check on the tower’s progress, is. Vic Fertitta still wears suits on Sundays, still cuts a striking figure with his full head of white hair and a grip firm enough to neutralize even a Donald Trump handshake attack.

When the son calls this “a generational” asset, he’s not kidding. This is a place where no corners can be cut, where nothing can be overlooked. Legacies are on the line.

Halfway through his march, Fertitta stops and pulls an giant orange construction drum off the sidewalk. “Why is this still here?” he barks. Fertitta hauls it down the walk himself, until he finds an out-of-sight place to deposit it.

“This is the most expensive project per square foot that we’ve ever done,” says Cantwell, a longtime Fertitta right-hand man who’s worked with him for 30 years, starting out as a waiter at one of his restaurants. “The casinos end up costing more overall because of their scope, but per square foot this is by far the most pricey.”

The final projected price tag? $350 Million.

If Fertitta built a restaurant empire by understanding everyday people value things like consistency and service over innovation, proving food critics wrong along the way, The Post Oak is a decidedly different play. From the onsite two-story Rolls-Royce showroom to the million dollar chandelier (custom built with 15,719 crystals, including 739 Swarovski crystals, in Czechoslovakia and shipped over) in the opulent three-story-tall lobby to the blue chip works of art — Frank Stella, Alex Katz, Donald Sultan and multiple Motherwells — this tower’s built to wow an International crowd. It’s even built to protect heads of state.

Bulletproof panelling in the presidential suite provides a level of security that only a few select hotels in the world can match. A private elevator whisks dignitaries straight up to the suite from the parking garage. Tilman’s team consulted with security firms used to dealing with three letter acronym intelligence agencies to hone these protection plans.

The Post Oak’s Rolls-Royce dealership is a sweeping two-story showcase.

Of course, more typical hotel guests are more likely to fixate on the towering all-glass wall at the back of the lobby that dramatically looks out onto the sprawling pool. Or touches such as the base level of the tower being all limestone and the all-glass corner windows rather than the more standard structural corners.

“Tilman is a detail guy,” Cantwell says. “And this is the culmination of everything.”

The Post Oak’s Long Range Vision

Fertitta has had a long time to think about every nuance of The Post Oak. In many ways, this project is more than a decade in the making. He had a full set of plans drawn up for a potential hotel on this site nearly 12 years ago, but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right time to go ahead.

“We’ve been working feverishly on this for the last four years,” Cantwell says.

To ensure the new tower fit Fertitta’s vision, it quickly became apparent that The Post Oak could not be affiliated with any hotel chain, no matter how high end. At least, not initially. Doing so would have required ceding too much control during the build.

Once The Post Oak is open — once people have stepped inside and seen it — Tilman’s Team does expect the premier luxury hotel groups to come calling again. There is a good chance The Post Oak will become an affiliated hotel.

Of course, Fertitta made sure he personally selected all the furniture and all the fixtures for every one of the 250 hotel guest rooms and 20 private rental residences first. He literally sat in every chair.

“I want things to be done right,” Fertitta shrugs with a smile when asked if the stories around his Post Oak chair obsessions are true.

The Mastro’s Steakhouse and Willie G’s restaurants at the complex have been open for more than a  month — and Craft F&B (burgers, pizza and craft beer), Bloom & Bee (a high-end Italian spot), H Bar (a cocktail haven with a 1950s vibe and photos, think back to those Shamrock Hotel high times) and Boucheee Patisserie (pastries and coffee) are set to join them. The first three levels of the hotel will open before the guests rooms.

Chasing perfection — and an old Houston legend — will unfurl in stages.

“I want them to talk about this the way people used to talk about the Shamrock,” Fertitta tells PaperCity. “I want this to be something Houston is proud of.”

The billionaire yearns to make seasoned, global travelers swoon. The time for talking is done. The world is coming to Tilman Fertitta’s new front door.

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