Closure of the St. Paul Athletic Club and repositioning of the site as a hotel and event venue – Twin Cities

John and Stephanie Rupp close the St. Paul Athletic Club on Cedar Street, the first step towards repositioning the 13-story hotel, gym and office building as a wedding venue and tiered event with hotel rooms for the event. The decision leaves the downtown core without a traditional membership-based gym option, although structured classes and obstacle course-style sports offerings have opened at the Treasure Island Center on Wabasha Street.

The Rupps, who have owned the building for about 25 years through their real estate group Commonwealth Companies, posted a notice on the “SPAC” website on Thursday saying they had exhausted all means to keep the club viable a century later. its opulent beginnings. The five-story 60,000-square-foot gymnasium has remained closed throughout the pandemic, except for personal trainer classes.

“After nearly 30 years of exploring all possible options and calculating each number more times than we can count, we have come to the inevitable conclusion that it just won’t work to reopen the St. Paul Athletic Club.” , they wrote. “We wanted so badly to keep some sort of club there to pay homage to the roots of the building, but this phase – of the building and our city – just doesn’t allow it.”

CLUB OPENED IN 1917

The track club, which opened with the building in 1917 and contains a swimming pool, was operated for a period by Life Time Fitness. It closed a few years before reopening under Rupp’s management about seven years ago. In 2019, John Rupp raised the possibility of converting at least part of the club into a non-profit community center, a concept that has never found any legs.

Stephanie Laitala Rupp, President, and John Rupp, CEO, at the St. Paul Athletic Club on January 9, 2013 (John Doman / Pioneer Press)

In the first months of the pandemic, the hotel housed at least 34 homeless people at a time – mostly single mothers and their children – thanks to a contract with Ramsey County and Interfaith Action’s Project Home. Project Home moved to a property at Sainte-Catherine University and the Union Gospel Mission moved homeless women and young children across two floors.

The hotel itself remains closed, although the ballroom has reopened for weddings and celebrations.

“It’s a one of a kind place,” Rupp said in an interview Thursday. “It was one of the best social clubs in town built at the turn of the last century, and the ballroom is fantastic.”

Another tenant, the Collège Sainte-Scholastique, left the city center shortly before the pandemic.

The Rupps, in their online review, said 340 Cedar would soon contain “four of the most spectacular event venues in the state” and its own event hotel – “a peerless resort” that will be part of the center. -ville “for generations to come.”

However, the building also remains for sale. A nine page sales brochure produced by SVN NorthCo. Real Estate Services notes that the brick and concrete structure actually consists of two buildings, including an athletic annex to the north built in 1980, which together span 226,810 square feet. It has an estimated market value of $ 4.8 million, according to Ramsey County real estate records, down from the recent high of $ 9 million.

D1 ATHLETIC, CONQUER THE NINJA GYM OPEN; YMCA CLOSED

The final closure of the St. Paul Athletic Club follows that of the downtown YMCA, which was closed by the governor’s emergency orders at the start of the pandemic and announced in July 2020 that it would not reopen in the old Galtier Plaza. That too ended an era. St. Paul’s original downtown YMCA – the state’s first – opened in 1856.

Plans for a smaller two-level YMCA in the Osborn 370 building at 5th and Cedar Street have yet to receive legislative support and have made little noticeable progress towards a $ 20 million prize. This site was intended to focus on wellness programs, such as yoga and acupuncture, as well as family services.

Kris Nelson, owner of the new D1 training center in the skyway of the Treasure Island Center, said his gym offers structured classes for all ages, with a membership base ranging from 6 to 72, but it does offer no open gym time for self-guided workouts such as weight lifting or treadmills. An adjoining facility, the Conquer Ninja Gym, features an obstacle course-style layout.

Despite the different formats, will the closure of the St. Paul Athletic Club stimulate interest in D1 training? “I hope so,” Nelson said Thursday. “It leaves a big void in downtown St. Paul.”

A STORY OF HIGH AND LOW

The ups and downs of the legendary St. Paul Athletic Club have spanned extravagant beginnings and near-demolition experiences.

Erected during the downtown boom years, the building was designed in the elegant English Renaissance style by Allen Stem of the architectural firm Reed and Stem, the same architect behind New York’s Grand Central Station, the hotel St. Paul and the University Club of St. Paul. In its early days, it housed a bowling alley, barber shop, billiard room, bedrooms, squash courts and a sun terrace.

It went bankrupt in 1989, but was saved from demolition when Wallas Orfield Sr. bought an option on the structure an hour before its structural elements – including its English oak panels, stone railings and stone columns. marble – not to be auctioned. Orfield then withdrew from his offer and the building sat vacant for five years before John Rupp bought it, renovated it and secured Life Time as a tenant.

“I knew Orfield at the time, and it was very close to demolition,” Rupp said. “There was no heating for years and a foot and a half of ice inside the lobby. It was in terrible shape by the time I took over and put Humpty Dumpty back together. “

History will repeat itself twenty years later.

Rupp placed several of his downtown buildings under bankruptcy protection in 2012, averting a planned sheriff sale by hours. Court records at the time revealed that the properties, including 340 Cedar, had been under threat of foreclosure for over a year and that Rupp had not made a mortgage payment on the Cedar Street building since August 2010, the same month that Life Time Fitness closed its facilities following a dispute over a lease.

Rupp was able to hang on to the properties and reopen the gym, but the pandemic once again forced the gym to close.

“We are doing our best to breathe new life into the properties – to bring them to their next phase,” the Rupps wrote in their online review. “The reality is that we have to accept that over time, the goals of these places will necessarily have to continually evolve. “


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