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Downtown YMCA building to become contemporary-art themed hotel

Downtown YMCA building to become contemporary-art themed hotel

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The old YMCA building downtown will be turned into a 200-room 21c Museum Hotel, a concept that features contemporary art collections in exhibit space open to the public.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this important project and we look forward to working with the City and the State to make this challenging urban revitalization initiative a reality,” Craig Greenberg, 21c President and CEO, said in an announcement Wednesday. “21c St. Louis will support the continued revitalization of downtown St. Louis and will be a center for culture, community, genuine hospitality and artistic expression.”

The announcement offered the first details on the YMCA project since the new owners purchased the building at 1528 Locust Street in December. The property ownership group is affiliated with Nuovo RE, which in the past has worked on a project financed by some members of the Walton family of Walmart. The St. Louis property’s new owner, which purchased it for $3.1 million in cash in December, is a Delaware limited liability company that lists an address in Bentonville, Ark. (Walmart’s headquarters).

A 30-foot gold replica of Michelangelo's "David" stands outside the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky. Behind him, on the roof, are …

The 21c hotel group, part of French hospitality chain Accor S.A, has worked with Nuovo RE on past projects. Its founders, Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, partnered with the Walton family on the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, according to local reports.

“We have known them for a long time and are excited about this opportunity,” Greenberg said of Nuovo RE in an interview.

Asked about the Walton connection, he said the management company wouldn’t comment any further on the ownership or the hotel’s financing. The ownership group has not applied for any local development incentives.

The exterior of the 21C Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas. The hotel opened in 2013. In addition to 104 guest rooms, 21c Museum Hotel Bent…

Designed by once-prominent St. Louis architecture firm LaBeaume & Klein, the 10-story YMCA building was built for the athletic club in 1926. The YMCA vacated the structure when it moved to the MX building at Sixth and Locust streets in 2017.

Wilson and Brown opened their first 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky., in 2006 and used it as a place to showcase some of their contemporary art collection. When the St. Louis hotel is completed about the end of 2020, it will be the 11th 21c hotel and feature a rotating, curated contemporary art exhibition free and open to the public.

The 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville includes several open-to-the-public art galleries in its lobby area. Photo by Joe Bonwich

The first two floors are expected to include art exhibits and also serve as meeting and event spaces for the hotel. An “independently branded, chef-driven restaurant” and rooftop venue will also be part of the project.

“We’ve looked at several opportunities in St. Louis over the years and thought it would be a great city for a 21c hotel,” Greenberg said.

The hotel would be the latest boutique hotel to hit the downtown market in recent years. Just a block to the north, Fe Equus is developing boutique, 143-room hotel in the old International Shoe headquarters. And Restoration St. Louis just opened the 140-room Hotel St. Louis in the Louis Sullivan-designed Union Trust building on Olive Street.

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