Exchange Building in St. Paul sold, will become boutique hotel

Star Tribune – By Paul Walsh

October 3, 2017 — 9:07pm

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.


St. Paul’s Exchange Building sold to Northfield hotel developer

St. Paul Pioneer Press – By Frederick Melo |

October 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm

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.

McNally Smith College of Music, Books for Africa and a law firm also have offices in the building. In a written statement, Rebound Hospitality promised to work with the tenants to help them find new homes. “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.



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