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Once Upon a Dorm

The Harley Hotel and UHD's Era of On-Campus Housing


By Hayden Bergman

This article is part of a yearlong series marking UHD’s 50th anniversary. We will look at the University’s past and reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we might go in the future. The information and photographs for this article were sourced from the UHD Archives. 


Home is, the saying goes, where the heart is. If this is true, then the hearts of past UHD students resided in on-campus dorms.

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For much of our history, UHD operated as it does now—without student housing, that is. Then, UHD purchased the Harley Hotel, renovated the structure, and renamed it the University of Houston Downtown Center (UHDC). It opened in 1981 and began housing Gator students. The building had 110 rooms, television lounges, laundry facilities, computer and typing labs, and a cafeteria.  

default (1)Of course, this didn’t last, as UHD eventually became the 100% commuter campus we know today. 

By the time the University reached its 30th anniversary in 2004, the University of Houston Downtown Center was razed, making room for the Commerce Street Building to house the newly created College of Public Service. 

By all accounts this was a difficult decision, but the cost of renovating the UHDC was several million dollars, whereas razing it was less than $900,000.default (2)

And who knows? As UHD continues to grow both its physical footprint and enrollment, student housing might not just be in our past, but in our future as well.  

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.