By Kerry Smith, Editor – St. Louis Construction News & Review Magazine
After more than a decade of stagnancy in St. Louis hotel development, more than $400 million is currently in play creating, restoring and repurposing historic structures into boutique hotels.
Of that total, more than $304 million is being invested in a total of six Downtown St. Louis boutique hotel projects. Another $111 million is being pumped into three ventures in the Central West End, Midtown’s Cortex Innovation Community and Clayton.
Boutique hotels are often known for having fewer rooms, a unique ambiance and character that embraces a structure’s historical significance.
“I continue to be amazed at the detailing work that exists in these classic buildings,” said Steve Schrage, BSI Constructors project manager for Hotel St. Louis, 705 Olive Street, one of several downtown hotel developments that are under construction. “For example, there are stone lion heads surrounding and accenting the building, which was built in 1893 as an office headquarters for the Union Trust Company. We’re cleaning the building, tuckpointing it, making masonry repairs and replacing the windows. Other than that, structurally it is in great shape,” he added, noting that BSI is aiming for substantial completion by late 2018.
Developer Restoration St. Louis’ architectural arm, Checkmate Design, has been working in tandem with SPACE Architecture+Design on Hotel St. Louis. Kelly Dawson, Checkmate design VP, said the 140-room hotel will also include 15 apartments, one of which is a penthouse. “This is a Louis Sullivan building,” she said, referring to the legendary architect. “It’s critical for us to work to keep architectural gems like this in the fabric of St. Louis’ history.”
Jay Reeves, architect at SPACE, said the resurgence of design-driven boutique hotels is a logical progression within the evolution of hospitality options such as Airbnb. “Over the past five years, we’ve seen people open themselves up to unique space-sharing concepts within hospitality,” Reeves said. “It’s great for St. Louis because it provides us with the opportunity to meet a demand in the market while showing off who we are in terms of a sense of place.”
Hotel Indigo at 303 North Broadway is the site of an $11 million investment by Chattanooga, TN-based ViaNova Development. Known to many as the old LaSalle Building, Hotel Indigo hopes to open later this year under the Curio Collection by Hilton brand. Amy Gilbertson with Trivers Associates is the designer. “The fact that the entire building is only 25 feet wide posed a design challenge for us,” she said. “It’s not an easy floor plate in this unique, historic building.”
Another out-of-state developer, Milwaukee-based Fe Equus Development, is investing in two downtown boutique hotel projects: The Last – a $54 million boutique hotel emerging at what was long regarded as the International Shoe building 1501 Washington Ave. – and Fairfield Inn & Suites, on the site of the old Harry’s Restaurant & Bar property at 2144 Market Street.
Dallas-based developer Alterra Worldwide is injecting $104 million into rehabilitating the 1904 Jefferson Arms landmark into a hotel bearing the AC Hotels by Marriott brand.
DesMoines-based developer MCB Hotel Owner LLC is investing $60 million in the renovation of St. Louis’ Municipal Courts Building at 1330 Market Street into a boutique hotel property under the flag of Hyatt.
Beyond downtown, St. Louis’ Central West End, Midtown and Clayton micro-markets are also teeming with hotel development. HomeBase Partners out of Bozeman, MT, is working with local Koplar Properties and Keeley Development Group on a $43 million AC Hotel by Marriott on York Avenue in the CWE. The joint venture of L. Keeley Construction and PARIC Corporation are the builders. HomeBase President Andy Holloran said a longstanding friendship with the Koplar family led to the partnership and to working with Trivers. “Existing hotel stock is in short supply in both the Central West End and Clayton,” said Holloran.
St. Louis developer Midas Hospitality and its affiliate, MC Hotel Construction, are paired with Gray Design Group to create Aloft Hotel, the $28 million boutique offering under development in Cortex. Midas and MC hope to break ground in May on Element by Westin, an extended stay hotel on Forest Park Avenue near the medical district, according to Jim Heinz, MC Hotel Construction VP.
Demand generators for hospitality developers, according to Midas President David Robert, remain strong across the Central West End and Midtown for a different flavor of boutique living development opportunity: the extended-stay, niche hotel.
“On the boutique and lifestyle hotel opportunities, we look at what exists in the market…and more importantly, we look at what’s missing in the market,” said Robert. “A lot of guests are looking for a unique experience,” he said. “A lot more millennials who travel for business or leisure are seeking a lifestyle hotel rather than a traditional hotel. They don’t want to live and work in their room – they’d rather interact in communal spaces.”
In contrast with a prolonged stagnation in hospitality development corresponding investment in St. Louis, Robert said the last three years show solid evidence of resurgence.
“The last three years, St. Louis has set occupancy records,” he said. “There haven’t been a lot of hotels coming online here over the last 15 years, but the market is clearly catching up.”
Downtown St. Louis Boutique Hotel Developments
- Hotel Indigo, 303 N. Broadway
- Developer: ViaNova of Chattanooga, TN
- Investment Amount: $11 million
- Fairfield Inn & Suites, 2144 Market
- Developer: Fe Equus, Milwaukee, WI
- Investment Amount: $20 million
- The Last (Hotel), 1501 Washington
- Developer: Fe Equus of Milwaukee, WI
- Investment Amount: $54 million
- Hotel St. Louis, 705 Olive
- Restoration St. Louis of St. Louis, MO
- Investment Amount: $55 million
- Hyatt Hotel, 1330 Market
- Developer: MCB Hotel Owner LLC of Des Moines, IA
- Investment Amount: $60 million
- Jefferson Arms Hotel, 415 N. Tucker
- Developer: Alterra Worldwide of Dallas, TX
- Investment Amount: $104 million
(source: St. Louis Development Corporation)