John and Stephanie Rupp close St. Paul Athletic Club on Cedar Street, which is the first step towards transforming the 13-story hotel, gym and office building into a multi-level wedding and event venue with hotel rooms for events.
The Ropps, who have owned the building for about 25 years through their Commonwealth Companies, posted a notice on SPAC’s website Thursday that they had exhausted all possibilities to keep the club alive a century after its lavish debut. The 60,000-square-foot gym on five floors remained closed throughout the pandemic, with the exception of personal trainers.
“After nearly 30 years of exploring every possible variation and going over every number more than we can count, we have come to the inevitable conclusion that we simply won’t be able to reopen St. Paul’s Athletic Club,” they wrote. “We wanted so badly there was some kind of club to pay tribute to the roots of the building, but this phase – the building and our city – just doesn’t allow it.”
CLUB OPENED IN 1917
The fitness club, which opened with the building in 1917 and contains a swimming pool, was run by Life Time Fitness for a time. It closed for several years and then reopened under Rupp’s direction about seven years ago. In 2019, John Rupp suggested the possibility of transforming at least part of the club into a non-profit community center, but this concept has not been implemented.
In the first months of the pandemic, at least 34 homeless people – mostly single mothers and their children – were simultaneously living in the hotel under contract with Ramsey County and Home Interfaith Action’s Project Home. The Home project was taken over by St. Catherine’s University, and the Union Evangelical Mission moved homeless women and young children over two floors.
The hotel remains closed otherwise, although the ballroom is open for weddings and celebrations.
“It’s a one of a kind place,” Rupp said in an interview on Thursday. “It was one of the best social clubs in town, built at the beginning of the last century, and the ballroom is fantastic.”
Another tenant, Saint Scholastica College, left the center shortly before the pandemic.
In an online posting, Rupps stated that 340 Cedar will soon have “four of the most impressive event venues in the entire state” and its own event hotel will have “an unmatched complex” that will remain part of the city center “For generations. come. “
However, the building is also for sale. A nine-page brochure published by SVN NorthCo. The real estate agency notes that the brick and concrete structure actually consists of two buildings, including the sports extension in the north, built in 1980, which total 226,810 square feet. Ramsey County’s property records have an appraised market value of $ 4.8 million, down from its recent high of $ 9 million.
HISTORY OF HIGH AND LOW
The ups and downs of the legendary sports club have encompassed an extravagant start and an almost devastating experience.
Built during the boom years in the city center, the building was designed in the elegant English Renaissance style by Allen Stem of the architecture firm Reed and Stem, the same architect who designed New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, the St. Paul and the St. Paul University Club. At the time of its debut, it housed a bowling alley, hairdresser, billiard room, sleeping rooms, squash courts and a solarium.
It went bankrupt in 1989 but was saved from demolition when Wallas Orfield Sr. bought an option for the structure an hour before its structural elements, including English oak panels, stone railings and marble columns, were to be auctioned. Orfield later turned down his offer and the building was empty for five years before John Rupp bought it, renovated it, and got Life Time as its tenant.
“I knew Orfield at the time and he was very close to demolition,” Rupp said. “There was no heating for years and there was a foot and a half of ice in the lobby. By the time I put Humpty Dumpty back together, he was in a terrible state. “
History will repeat itself 20 years later.
In 2012, Rupp imposed bankruptcy protection on several of his downtown buildings, which in a matter of hours prevented the sheriff’s planned sale. Court documents from the time showed that properties, including 340 Cedar, had been in foreclosure risk for over a year and that Rupp had not made a mortgage on the Cedar Street building since August 2010, the same month as Life Time Fitness. closed her property after a lease dispute.
Rupp was able to hold onto the grounds and reopen the gym, but the pandemic again forced it to close.
“We are trying our best to breathe new life into real estate – to bring it to the next stage,” – wrote Ruppa in their online ad. “The reality is that we have to recognize that over time, the goals of these places will inevitably have to constantly evolve.”