A century-old office building at a prime downtown St. Paul corner, with a music conservatory as its major tenant, has been sold and will become a boutique hotel, the buyer announced Monday.
The Exchange Building, located on Exchange Street at Cedar Avenue and holding a place on the National Register of Historic Places, was bought by Northfield-based Rebound Hospitality from St. Paul businessman John Rupp.
Terms were not disclosed. Ramsey County records list the property’s market value at just shy of $2 million.
The property’s primary tenant is the nonprofit St. Paul Conservatory of Music, hearkening to the building’s debut in 1910 as home to St. Agatha’s Conservatory of Music and Arts, founded in 1884 as Minnesota’s first fine arts school. It also served as a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph.
The 59,000-square-feet space should open in the spring of 2019 as a 75-room luxury hotel, Rebound Hospitality said.
“We are excited to transform this beautiful building, which possesses charm and character, from office space into a historic boutique inn,” said Brett Reese, managing partner of Rebound Hospitality.
The Conservatory of Music, which teaches 230 at the Exchange Street address, has occupied the entire fifth floor for the past seven years and now must find a new home in about six months.
“The move will give us an opportunity to grow,” said Cléa Galhano, the conservatory’s executive artistic director.
Galhano added that more restrictive parking in that part of downtown prompted discussion about the conservatory moving, building purchase notwithstanding.
She adored the building’s interior and was “glad to hear they are not going to destroy it for a parking lot.”
Another tenant figuring out where to move next is the nonprofit Books for Africa. Its executive director, Patrick Plonski, said he had heard rumors that the building could someday change hands.
“I’m going to miss it here,” Plonski said. “I have a beautiful view of the Capitol here.”
Plonski raved about the beauty of the interior, noting the oil painting from the early 1900s, the attractive woodwork and “beautiful conference room” that tenants share.
“We use it for larger meetings,” he said. “We had a meeting with an ambassador from Africa there. It has fireplace and a bookcase. It’s very, very elegant. I can see why a boutique hotelier would want it.”
The buyer noted the six-story brick building’s proximity to the Capitol, Regions Hospital and the 10th Street light-rail stop.
As for the current tenants, Reese said his company and the seller “will work with them in a transition period from now until March 31,” when renovations begin.
Plonski said Rupp pledged “he would take care of us” in helping Books for Africa relocate. “John Rupp has been a very good landlord, and he’s been very good to Books for Africa,” Plonski added.
Rupp, whose company has owned the building since 1989, said, “We recognized that the highest and best use of the Exchange was as a hotel, and I am glad to put it in the hands of Rebound, who has a great reputation as a historic boutique hotelier and will do a good job converting this company.”
Among Rebound Hospitalities other boutique hotels are the Archer House in Northfield, the Des Lux Hotel in Des Moines, and the Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah, Iowa.
St. Agatha’s Conservatory of Music and Arts flourished at its outset. Declining enrollment led to the closing in 1962, when the building turned residential.