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RICHMOND HEIGHTS, MO-A joint venture of the Lionstone Group, Sansone Group and Equis Hospitality Management LLC will break ground today on a $150-million, mixed-use development here at the corner of Brentwood Boulevard and Galleria Parkway. The new development, that will incorporate the existing 273,000-sf University Club Tower office building, will include 40,000-sf retail, an 8,000-sf restaurant, a 158-room Homewood Suites by Hilton and a 243-room Westin Hotel.

Michael Mullenix, chairman and CEO of the Equis firm, tells GlobeSt.com that this property, in the Clayton submarket, is an infill location that was very difficult to get developed. “We had two other companies before us attempt development on this site, and were not successful,” Mullenix says. “The key to our site for the hotel was that we could share the parking burden with Lionstone, which has office building. There was no way we could have worked the parking requirements for each development without doing this, the office needs spaces during the day and the hotel has the use at night.” The development plans include two parking garages to hold up to 663 cars.

Also, the reconstruction of Interstate 64 held up serious consideration of development, Mullenix says. The state is closing I-64, up to and past this property, during the work. “While under planning, the state had big cloud on the area, everybody was afraid the state was going to take the land, so the development was delayed indefinitely,” Mullenix says. He says the planning is over, and the interstate work should be done in two years, about the same time as the mixed-use project is finished.

He says there was going to be only one hotel on the site. “We needed to put in more rooms than originally planned, so instead of one hotel we went for two, one specializing in extended stay, which is a desperate need in Clayton, and an upper tier, where we landed the Westin flag,” Mullenix says. “The barriers to entry are difficult here, so it’s not too bad a market here now. The Downtown, with its renaissance going on, has seen more rooms come in. The battle here is high union construction costs, and making average daily rates bridge that gap. It’s too early in this economy to see if there will be an impact, but so far it looks good for St. Louis.”

The retail is on the small end because the local area is already saturated, with the St. Louis Galleria Mall across the street and other lifestyle centers nearby. Jim Sansone, a principal with Sansone, says in a statement that his firm has already had significant interest from potential national tenants. The 23-story office building is mostly leased, though the University Club recently vacated the top two floors.

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