A Whole New Era for the Gateway City

Over the past half-decade, St. Louis has undergone a reformation that has brought new life to its downtown district. Projects like the Renaissance Grand convention center hotel in the historical 1917 Statler Hotel building, which opened in 2003, and scores of new restaurants are just the beginning.

The city has more than $3 billion in development currently under way, including a new ballpark, an additional casino and a soon-to-be-established entertainment district.

Among the ongoing developments, St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management has purchased the St. Louis Marriott Downtown and renamed it — for the time-being —the St. Louis Pavilion Hotel. However, the hotel will officially become the Hilton St. Louis at The Ballpark on Jan. 1, when Hilton takes over management of the facility.

Hilton also opened the Hilton St. Louis Downtown this spring in the 1891 Merchants Laclede Building, a former bank.

"We plan to completely renovate its towers to make them a bit more residential," said Stephen O'Loughlin, Lodging Hospitality's regional director of operations. "And we want to move the entrance and redo the lobby to create a bigger splash when guests enter the hotel."

Leisure Hospitality Management bought the old Mark Twain Bank, which sits on a site behind the hotel and has been empty for several years. The company plans to convert the building into a restaurant and convention center.

St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon will open Mike Shannon's, a steakhouse, on the first floor, with meeting rooms on the second.

O'Loughlin said it will be similar to the West Port Plaza Conference Center, part of the two Sheraton hotels at west St. Louis County's West Port Plaza, which the company also owns. That facility contains four large meeting rooms and eight smaller boardrooms.

"When it opens at the end of the year, we'll be the only hotel in St. Louis with an International Association of Conference Centers-approved facility," he said.

The center will add 12,000 square feet to the existing 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

Meanwhile, the new Busch Stadium will be ready for the Cardinals' baseball season when it opens next April on a site across the street from the current facility. The old stadium will be replaced with Ballpark Village with residential, retail, entertainment and dining options.

Not far from America's Center on the edge of the Laclede's Landing entertainment district, Pinnacle Entertainment is building a $208 million, 200-room hotel and casino.

Meanwhile, the Bottle District, a new $200 million mixed-use entertainment complex just west of America's Center, is scheduled to be ready next summer with a variety of restaurants, including rocker Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina, and a Formula 1 go-cart racetrack.

In that same area, a rash of construction projects has turned what once was a garment and shoe manufacturing district along Washington Street into St. Louis's hot new residential neighborhood.

Scores of new loft projects, restaurants and retail outlets have already opened, with more to come. These projects are bringing life to an area of the city that was nearly deserted for decades.