Best Continuing Saga St. Louis 2000 - Convention-Center Hotel
Like Knights Templar searching for the Holy Grail, city leaders have been contemplating, proposing and planning a convention-center hotel since sometime in the Dark Ages. (OK, we mean since the Schoemehl administration. Same difference.) From the ashes of many failed attempts, Mayor Clarence Harmon announced the city's choice of a hotel developer in 1997. On paper, the $242 million deal seemed sweet: the derelict Gateway (Statler) and Lennox hotels rehabbed, a major hotel chain committed to the project, unions helping fund the deal. But a careful look at the funding showed all the pieces weren't in place, and then, as it happened, things came unglued this year. The unions yanked their money, the general contractor pulled out, the Board of Aldermen had to approve additional funding, a construction start date was pushed back and, in typical St. Louis fashion, project costs climbed. Former Mayor Vince Schoemehl, arriving a tad early for the wake, floated an alternative hotel proposal. The Schoemehl plan provided sizzling headlines for the press and throbbing headaches for City Hall but then was quickly forgotten. Most recent reports put the city's new Taj Mahal -- we mean convention-center hotel -- at $260 million. Note to Historic Restoration's Pres Kabacoff: How about moving all those beds and meeting rooms just south of Busch Stadium, throwing in a baseball diamond and calling it the Marriott?