SLU's Hotel Ignacio

SLU announced a new project recently and I wanted to call some attention to it and the Grand Center Neighborhood generally. The project will be a 51 room boutique hotel on Olive next to Triumph Grill. The Ignacio Hotel will be a venture in partnership with world renowned architect and developer, The Lawrence Group. Steve Smith, one the principals of The Lawrence Group, just happens to own the neighboring Triumph Grill. The plan is for the restaurant to provide food service for the hotel and there is even an interior entrance from the hotel to the restaurant being discussed.

Its an exciting prospect for SLU to partner with the likes of the Lawrence Group.  They have a reputation for picking and choosing only the right projects with a focus on quality, high end finishes, and amenities.  They are responsible for successful projects such as The Marquette Condiminiums Downtown that boast unobstructed Arch and River views.  Also, the Southside Tower, home of the old Southside National Bank Headquarters, was converted to condos and retail with their oversight.  For more information on The Lawrence Group visit their website.

SLU is no stranger to the development business. They recently completed an 80 million dollar on campus arena and athletic facility just a short walk down Olive from the planned hotel. Also, recently completed is the 67 million dollar Doisy Research Center on Grand just North of the Medical Campus. Fr. Biondi has changed the campus so much during his unusally long tenure for a college president that alumni that have been gone for more than a few years barely recognize it. SLU has been acquiring land north of Olive and East of Grand for years and the fruits of its labor are becoming apparent.

Just 5 years ago there were very limited entertainment or restaurant options near campus. Humphrey’s and Laclede’s were basically the only game in town for students. There were other neighborhood stalwarts that were there the entire time such as Vitos Pizza but they seemed relatively isolated and “too long of a walk” for students whose housing was primarily located on the west side of campus closer to Vandeventer and Laclede Street.

Now it seems that the neighborhood is growing around the campus. Rather than being a beacon in an otherwise blighted and abandoned neighborhood, SLU is becoming the heart of a vibrant urban area. Grand Center provides culture with The Fox Theater, Powell Symphony Hall, and Jazz at the Bistro. Laclede Street has the nightlife for students with long time establishments Humphery’s and Laclede’s as well as new additions The Library Annex and Six Row Brewing Company.  Now we have an entire new area springing up around SLU’s Chaifetz Arena on Compton near Olive.  Recently renovated buildings and their commercial storefronts have been filling up with restaurants and business over the last 2 years.  Triumph Grill, Buffalo Brewing Company, Pappy’s Smokehouse, and The Good Pie are all recent additions.  Hopefully these establishments will contribute to a growing game day atmosphere for men’s basketball, SLU’s top revenue producing sport.

In addition, literally hundreds of mid-market rental units geared toward students have been added to the neighborhood in the last five years.  These units are off campus but

The Coronado St. Louis

The Coronado in Midtown St. Louis adjacent to SLU's Campus

 generally adjacent (across the street)  to campus so that they are nearly 100% occupied by students.  This has helped SLU make the leap from the perception of a commuter school to actually having a campus life.  Front Door LLC, operated by Amrit and Amy Gill, has contributed the most in this area.  Their apartments on the north side of Lindell consisting of the renovated Coronado Hotel, The Moolah Temple, and The White House changed the landscape of midtown immediately.  Because these are private apartments they are occupied for a 12 month lease term.  This is something that has added thousands of year round neighborhood residents .  The renovation of the Continental Building in Grand Center and the addition of the University Heights Lofts on Laclede followed quickly.

The Ignacio will be an interesting addition to the area because it is not something that will be geared specifically toward students.  Its another step for a gentrifying and fast growing neighborhood that will begin to attract non-residents.  SLU, Midtown, and Grand Center are making a push toward building this area as a destination neighborhood for any night of the week, not just when there is a show at The Fox.  The step beyond this would be to convert some of these visitors to permanent neighborhood residents.  For this to happen there needs to be more opportunity for ownership rather than just rental.  This is something that is not abundant at this point.  As a realtor, I have yet to make contact with a new buyer that tells me that they want to buy a loft or condo in midtown.   Opportunities to own a condo or loft and new residential construction that isn’t student exclusive will be a major turning point for the area.

Neveretheless, these are exciting times for Midtown, SLU, and Grand Center.  It will be fun to watch as more development is announced and unfolds.  With the likes of Fr. Biondi at SLU and Vince Schoemehl at the helm of Grand Center Inc. there is little doubt that there will be much more in store.

Check out SLU’s information about Hotel Ignacio at the link below.

More info about the work going on in Grand Center can be found here.