University City could open its first hotel within the next few years — and possibly more than one.
The council recently received a consultant’s feasibility report on potential hotel sites in the city. Proposed hotels for two of those sites are already working their way through the city’s approval process.
During a Feb. 10 discussion session, the council and staff heard from Daniel McCoy, managing partner in the St. Louis office of HVS, the firm which did the feasibility study. HVS was hired in early 2019.
McCoy said his firm identified four main locations as potential hotel sites, ranking them on a scale of one to five. The four locations are: Olive Boulevard and I-170, Delmar and I-170, Forsyth at Forest Park Parkway, and Loop West.
The rankings considered several factors, including access to transportation, proximity to commercial and leisure activities, and hotel guest services in the neighborhood.
Forsyth at Forest Park Parkway, near the former Famous-Barr store, scored the highest of the four possible locations. It is on property owned by Washington University near University City’s border with Clayton. Construction would be across from the expanded headquarters campus of the Centene Corporation, which is currently under construction.
HVS is recommending an upscale select service hotel with approximately 165 rooms and amenities, such as a bistro-style restaurant and meeting rooms. The estimated cost is $35 million.
HVS believes the area can absorb additional hotel rooms. McCoy said in recent years there have been a number of hotels built in Clayton, Brentwood and Richmond Heights, along the Interstate 64 corridor. He said those hotels are doing well.
“The information will be shared with Washington University and we will encourage them to pursue development of the property that is consistent with what has been recommended by the study,” said Libbey Tucker, director of economic development.
Washington University Interim Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Julie Hail Flory said the school routinely receives and evaluates queries about its properties.
“Other than expecting that we will continue to accommodate the Washington University administrative offices and other tenants that currently are housed at West Campus, which is situated in both University City and Clayton, we do not have any specific goals in mind at this time. We look forward to hearing ideas,” said Flory.
There are plans for hotels at two of the four sites identified by HVS.
At a Feb. 10 meeting, the city council gave a first reading to a bill that will be brought back on Feb. 24 for a public hearing and final vote. The bill deals with the rezoning of property at 8400 Delmar, near I-170. The development calls for a mixed use project including a five-story, 133-room Element Hotel by Westin, part of Marriott International. The proposal also includes plans for a 160-unit, four-story apartment building. The two buildings would be built over a shared two-story parking garage.
Plans include meeting rooms in the hotel and a restaurant. The site is currently occupied by a 60,000-square-foot office and a 2,500-square foot retail building. If approved, construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months.
Another project being discussed is at the site of the former Delmar-Harvard Elementary School, 711 Kingsland Ave., which has been vacant for several years. Tristar Companies is proposing that part of the school be demolished to make way for a Tru Hotel, with another part of the school renovated to become office space.
The building is near the city’s civic plaza area, which includes city hall. The city’s historic preservation commission has held several meetings on the project and is scheduled to discuss it further on Feb. 20. The project is set to go to the city’s plan commission on Feb. 26.
The final hotel site proposed is in the area of Olive and I-170, where the Novus Companies’ proposed 50-acre redevelopment project is scheduled. Novus has included a possible hotel in its project.
At a Jan. 10 meeting, City Manager Gregory Rose said Novus was still in the process of property acquisition. Novus has 41 of the 67 needed properties under contract. He said Novus is close to reaching agreements on financing for the project.