Destination: Doing Good

Its look is brightly arty, but what really makes new Hotel Ylem so hip is its big heart.

Anthony Rathbun
JMF_2017_Installs-0028
JMF_2017_Installs-0028

Nestled among the no-frills retail strips and busy convenience stores near NRG Stadium on Main Street, the recently transformed Hotel Ylem stands out. Mostly because of its charitable mission, but also because you can’t miss the huge mural outside on the front wall. A blue-eyed, dark-haired woman in abstractly aquatic environs glances down from 20 feet. “The mural, a positive female force illuminated by water elements, represents the source from which all things come,” says Maneesha Dalwadi, who runs the hotel with her siblings Amitha, Shital and Sumit. “For us, that is mother and water.”


The overhauled former Holiday Inn Express is not only unique in its look — unexpected pops of color and mod accents at every turn, and text-driven art pieces above the beds with messages like “Dance All Day…” and “…Sleep All Night” — but also in its philanthropic focus. Not coincidentally, given its marquee mural, Hotel Ylem (pronounced EYE-lum) gives generously to Charity: Water, which provides clean water to villages around the world.

In addition to 9 percent of everything lobby bar Esperanto takes in — there’s an impressive cocktail menu here, curated by Hal Brock — 100 percent of sales from the minibars in all 79 guest rooms is donated. And the hotel offers guests the option of booking online using the “Charity: Water room rate,” with a flat $10 going to the organization. Furthermore, the lobby walls are exhibition spaces, selling the works of Houston artists, who in turn are asked to give a portion of their proceeds to Charity: Water. “Without clean water, nothing is possible,” says Maneesha of the family’s commitment to the cause.

The Dalwadi siblings, whose dad Jay is an Indian immigrant who built and ran hotels all over the Southwest, also partner with Clean the World, which sanitarily recycles soaps discarded from other hotels every day, helping to reduce environmental waste. They also use paper cups made by Lighthouse Louisiana, an organization that employs people with disabilities. “It’s the little things,” Maneesha says.

Despite its off-the-beaten-track location, Hotel Ylem is getting pretty busy. Complimentary shuttle service to NRG Park and the Med Center make it an affordable option for out-of-towners, and the feel-good factor is icing on the cake. “All of the things our dad achieved, we want to take those things to the next level,” Maneesha says. “And to surround yourself with people who are truly committed to a cause — it gives us a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning.”

AT TOP: The larger-than-life mural outside Hotel Ylem by Houston artist Jana Folmsbee

Food+Travel

Chris Williams (photos by Gittings for Houston CityBook)

THE COVER STAR of CityBook's latest issue, chef-activist Chris Williams, is also the star of a Netflix show that debuts next week. High on the Hog is a hotly anticipated and already-celebrated four-part docuseries focused on how African American cuisine transformed America's culinary landscape.

Keep Reading Show less
Food

Russell and Jody Radoff, Bunny Radoff, Brad Radoff

STAGES, WHICH YESTERDAY announced its return to in-person performances at its still-new campus, celebrated a return to normalcy with a black-tie gala at The Gordy. Nearly 200 supporters raised a glass to surviving the tumultuous year, which included plentiful pivots to digital programming and livestream performances by the troupe.

Keep Reading Show less
People + Places