The Hotel St. Leo is not a “diamond in the rough,” as the headline over this story says; it’s a chunk of coal. As are the other two hotels the city is trying to sell off, the Main and the Commercial.
I walked through these hotels last year on a tour. The Downtown Alliance hosted, guiding infill developers through the former flophouses, trying to create interest. It didn’t work. The unanimous consensus of the people who rehab old buildings for a living is that the buildings are too far gone. The cost of bringing them up to code would be so high the developer would have to charge sky-high rents to make a buck. Artists and other bohemians usualy pioneer a district’s rebirth. Not the sky-high crowd.
That that was then. This is now. The hotels have not changed, nor has downtown. The market has warmed but not revived. But the city’s mindset has changed. New management has no money to play with; all they can offer is the cooperation. Not imperiously dictating an endless and unpredictable ream of gotta-dos, but helpful partnership.
So the city is offering to expedite the environmental review, cut fees by 50 percent, grant facade loans and other goodies. It’s impossible to say whether these incentives will work. But it’s a step i the right direction by a city that has its head screwed straighter.