The City of Port Isabel took a critical step in restoration of the historic Yacht Club Hotel and commissioned STAR Consulting & Associates, an entity with over 30 years experience in South Texas, to aid in the building’s restoration. STAR will work in cooperation with Eduardo G. Vela Architects and Solorio & Associates. The architectural firms vying to recondition the building included STAR Consulting & Associates, Volz O’Connel Hutson (VOH), and Negrete & Kolar Architects.  The Port Isabel City Council allowed each group a 30-minute presentation with questions and answers. Representatives from each firm elaborated on their proposals, which included methods of evaluation, opportunities for funding, coordination with associates and clientele, approaches to reverse deterioration and community integration following the completion of its restoration.

One representative of VOH compared their assessment procedure to that of a doctor examining a patient, saying they would give a meticulous physical examination before “writing a prescription.” All entities were enthusiastic in playing a role in the structure’s renaissance. They presented their qualifications and photographs of past completed projects. Although many of the Yacht Club’s contents are beyond salvaging, the city administration pushed for all feasible conservation and to keep the building as authentic as possible.

One of the most critical issues was reinforcement of its infrastructure and wind storm anchoring. Hurricanes are a risk to the area, and as a Place 1 Commissioner Juan Jose Zamora asked: “What would be the point of restoring the building if it is gone in 10 years?”
Every candidate assured the council that creating a structure that can endure strong winds while still preserving the building’s integrity is feasible. Because of financial deliberation, there was no final decision on the force the structure should withstand. The council requested that separate budgets be submitted based on levels of resistance for consideration.

From its inception in 1926 as the Shary Yacht Club, the Port Isabel Yacht Club quickly thrived into an extravagant hotel, spoiling its guests with the finest preparations of the day’s catch, served still simmering. Its clientele included such historical figures as famed pilot Amelia Earhart and Prohibition-era mobster Al Capone, and it remained an icon of the city just as the Port Isabel Lighthouse and the Queen Isabella Causeway are, even after it shut its doors. Meetings are held at City Hall, 305 E. Maxan St. to discuss the city’s maintenance and progress.

Estevan Medrano

Dennis Franke with Franke, Realtors was on hand for the transfer of keys between John Hiller and Ed Meza, Port Isabel City Manager.