A Northfield company that specializes in restoring and converting historic properties into hotels has bought the Exchange Building at Exchange and Cedar streets in downtown St. Paul.
Built between 1900 and 1910, the six-story office building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Rebound Hospitality bought the structure from St. Paul commercial landlord John Rupp on Friday and announced plans to install a 75-room boutique hotel by spring 2019. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. Ramsey County estimates the structure’s market value at just under $2 million.
The Beaux-Arts-style building once housed St. Agatha’s Conservatory of Music and Arts, Minnesota’s first fine-arts school, and served as a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph.
News of the sale came as a surprise to the building’s major tenant, the St. Paul Conservatory of Music, which has operated out of the building’s fifth floor for more than seven years. The nonprofit music school caters to all ages, from 2-year-olds up, and administrators had fallen in love with the building’s architecture but grown tired of parking challenges.
“I love this building. I loved our landlord,” said Clea Galhano, the conservatory’s executive artistic director. “Rupp has helped us a lot. But we have some parking issues. When the light rail was built, we lost 14 meters. Then they extended parking (meter hours) to 10 p.m., like Minneapolis. We have been dealing with a lot of problems with parking and visibility.”
Galhano said the school has been given until the end of March to relocate. She expects the conservatory to remain in St. Paul, but given the many complaints from parents about access, she questions whether the conservatory will remain downtown.
“I hope that this will give us opportunity to grow and be more visible,” she said.
“We are really going to work to make it a smooth transition for them,” said Jenni Roney, a marketing specialist for the company.
The company also owns and operated the historic Archer House, one of the most prominent architectural buildings in downtown Northfield; the Des Lux Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa; the Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah, Iowa; and the new Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Decorah. A Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott is under construction in Northfield.
Brett Reese, managing partner of Rebound Hospitality, said the company is in discussions with the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office about using historic tax credits to help fund a historically sensitive building conversion.
“That’s what these credits are for — to take charming properties that have a lot of character and take them to a higher and better use,” Reese said.