The new owners of the 105-year-old, 10-story St. Anthony Hotel, and the architects behind its renovation, believe the fix-ups help the structure to be part of a renewal of the Travis Park area in downtown San Antonio. Members of the local Urban Land Institute and other invited guests enjoyed an update on the renovations, and a tour of parts of the St. Anthony, on May 21. Attendees gathered on the refurbished 10th floor terrace, which the new owner, BC Lynd Hospitality, envisions as a prime place for events for years to come.
BC Lynd gathered a group of local investors to enter into a competitive process in 2011 to acquire the St. Anthony, which company CEO Brandon Raney said has an amazing history, but “unfortunately it’s gone by the wayside in recent years.”
The hotel has a storied history. It was the city’s first luxury hotel, and became the country’s first air-conditioned hotel in 1936. The St. Anthony pioneered innovations in the hotel industry, such as drive-up registration and automatic door openers. Back in the day, the St. Anthony was where the rich and famous stayed : oil barons, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson, and Hollywood stars ranging from Judy Garland and Rudolph Valentino to John Wayne and Bruce Willis. But in recent years, an owner based in New York left the St. Anthony “under-improved, overleveraged and poorly maintained,” Raney said.
Last year, the local ownership group acquired the St. Anthony, which boasts 22 meeting rooms totaling over 33,000 square feet, amenities such as a full-service restaurant, two bar/lounge areas, 24-hour fitness center, business center and outdoor heated pool. In May 2013, a $24 million renovation project began to increase the size of the hotel rooms, which will result in a reduction of the number of rooms from 352 to 277. The sixth-floor pool will be enlarged and enhanced with a tiled deck that will enable the water to bubble up and fall back into the pool. As part of the revitalization of the St. Anthony, the ownership is using the hotel’s Facebook page to keep the public updated on the progress of renovations and to encourage past visitors to share memories of their experiences, whether is be a romantic stays to weddings or other special events held at the St. Anthony in the past. Raney said the hotel was “once on the precipice of operational failure,” as he noted that housekeeping barely had enough adequate equipment to keep up. He added that many amenities had become antiquated and out of place.
“We hope to change people’s perceptions about what an off-Riverwalk hotel is like,” Raney said. “What the Emily Morgan and Gunter hotels have done in recent years helps to lift the perception of off-Riverwalk hotels in central San Antonio.” Raney said the restoration of the St. Anthony “is meant to capture the spirit of San Antonio.” Bob Shemwell of Overland Partners, the local architectural firm helping with the restoration, said the enhancements features innovations such as the lifting of the deck of the 10th floor terrace, part of a whole redo there. The terrace will serve as a bar on weekend nights. Even the menu of the food served is getting a makeover. “As renovations continue we’ll continue to uncover things that will challenge us,” Shemwell said, adding that such challenges are seen more as positive opportunities.
“I grew up here and always had a special appreciation for the hotel,” added Raney. Raney said he and his partners are already seeing a return in their investment in the form of positive attention garnered by neighboring Travis Park, which itself recently got a variety of upgrades from the city of San Antonio. The hotel is open during the renovations. After the restoration is completed, the St. Anthony will be re-branded as a Starwood Luxury Collection property.