|By Riddhi Trivedi-St. Clair, St. Louis
Post-DispatchMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Dec. 14, 2006 - The Chase Park Plaza has a new majority owner in a $180-million deal that includes $95 million for an ongoing renovation of the historic complex.
Dallas-based real estate investment firm Harvard Behringer replaces former majority owner Dana Corp., which filed for bankruptcy in March.
The full $180-million price tag includes some "additional components" beyond the renovation, said Jim Smith, co-owner and managing partner in Kingsdell LP, a minority owner of the Chase. He would not give more details.
The renovation includes refurbishing the hotel's 250 rooms, along with conversion of apartments in the 30-story Park Plaza Tower from apartments to hotel rooms, corporate apartments and luxury condos.
Dana's bankruptcy and the search for a new majority partner never endangered renovation plans for Chase Park, Smith said.
It certainly didn't discourage buyers such as Dr. Edward Norton or Jerome Sincoff, two of the 32 people who have put money down on the $400,000-to-$2.5 million units. The first of the condos will be available in 2008.
Norton purchased two condos for a total of about $1 million and is planning to combine them for a single 3,000-square-foot home.
He reserved his home a week ago. Although Norton didn't know about the bankruptcy filing, he said it would have made no difference in his decision.
Sincoff did know about Dana's bankruptcy. Smith had been open about the issue from the beginning, Sincoff said, and he never thought the project would have a problem going forward.
Both Sincoff and Norton said they like the Central West End neighborhood for its urban feel, pedestrian-friendly features, and the Chase Park Plaza for its architectural beauty and historical significance.
The 84-year-old Chase Hotel reopened in 1998 after a $100 million renovation.
Chase Park Plaza previously had three partners, including William Stallings, owner of W.S. Stallings Corp. who was convicted in unrelated fraud cases and filed for bankruptcy in September 2005. The remaining partners bought Stallings out six or seven years ago, and he has not had any involvement in the project since, Smith said. Beyond acknowledging its majority owner status, Smith would not say precisely how large a share Dana Corp. held in Chase Park.
The project has been received well despite a housing slowdown, Smith said.
"It is a unique property that is unique to St. Louis," Smith said. With Harvard Behringer in the picture, he said, "It will remain what I choose to think of as a St. Louis icon and take it up another step, to another level."
The exclusivity of the project is what attracted Behringer, said Jason Mattox, executive vice president for the company. The company owns about 12 million square feet of real estate nationally, including St. Louis Place, north of downtown.
The St. Louis market is just right for a project like Chase Park, Mattox said.
"What we bring is an experienced and superior management team that will position this asset for success going forward," Mattox said.
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