A century-old building in St. Louis is transformed into a boutique hotel for Marriott’s Autograph Collection.

Photos by Jim Corbett
Listed as “City Landmark #20” by St. Louis’ Cultural Resources Office, the Union Trust building was built in 1892 in a U-shaped plan comprised of two wings surrounding a central court. It was designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan (who helped design the landmark Wainwright Building in St. Louis, known as one of the country’s first high-rises) and had its first modification – of the first two floors – in 1924, which unfortunately eliminated original architectural elements such as its arched entryways and circular windows.

According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the building had been vacant for several years before it was purchased in 2015 for $3.3 million by the development firm Restoration St. Louis, which then proceeded to spend nearly three years and $64.7 million on completing the renovation. The firm was able to keep the rounded arch windows on the 12th floor as well as the two-story cap with terra-cotta lion heads, and the decorative cornice.

There are 52 suites in Hotel St. Louis – including the one shown – with great care taken to preserve the curved windows that harken back to when the building was constructed in 1892.
Assisting in the transformation into a boutique hotel for Marriott’s Autograph Collection was Square UP Builders and Power UP Electrical Contractors, of minority-owned UPCO, one of the region’s largest full-service MBE-certified contracting companies. The general contractor on the project was BSI Constructors of St. Louis.

“Restoration St. Louis desired to restore this architecturally historic structure while also building up the surrounding community,” says Gerhard Glassl, Vice President of UPCO and Project Executive. “The building’s renovation has helped to enhance the city’s skyline, created 200 new jobs, and supported local minority-owned businesses.”

Not that it was easy. The Restoration St. Louis team faced challenges in creating a hotel within the constraints of an existing structure and space that had been previously designed for retail and office use. Then there were the painstaking efforts to preserve as many historic architectural elements as possible, such as stained glass windows, the marble lobby, terra-cotta lion heads, and the grand entrance that was remade out of cast stone. When completed, Hotel St. Louis has a total of 140 rooms: 52 suites, 30 of which have newly added balconies, 15 luxury apartments, and a 3-bedroom penthouse. The renovation also includes a full restaurant and spa, a fitness room, large commercial kitchen, two Tesla charging stations, a first-floor banquet room, and a rooftop bar and pool with views of Busch Stadium.

Each guest room features a vintage record player, along with several albums with a St. Louis connection.
When it came to the lighting specification, energy-efficiency was a high priority, which meant utilizing LEDs whenever possible. Attention was also paid to the aesthetics of the lighting fixtures to make certain they fit the overall design of the hotel. The commercial lighting specification experts at nearby Villa Lighting (founded by Jack and Suzy Villa) assisted in the lighting selection.

“[Another] challenging aspect of this project was the quick turnaround time required to maintain the schedule and budget,” Glassl comments. “Our onsite project engineer remained in constant communication with the UPCO team and general contractor BSI. Controlling two major trades – Power UP and Square UP – allowed UPCO to successfully coordinate deliveries on a tight site.”

Square UP provided all the finish and trim carpentry, which included installation of field-modified, high-end finishes within a historical renovation. Power UP provided the complete design and build of its electrical/data system, which encompassed installing 2,800 lighting fixtures, a 3,000-amp 277/480v service, a 400-kW generator, and exterior lighting. Systems for power, lighting, data, CCTV and AV were also added.

The UP Companies also exceeded the workforce minority participation on the project, which was set at a 25-percent goal, by providing 10,324.5 total minority hours or 30.1 percent.

The success of the Hotel St. Louis project did not go unnoticed. The Associated General Contractors of Missouri (AGCMO) honored UPCO with a Keystone Award in the Specialty Contractor/Subcontractor Building Construction on a Project $4 Million or More category for its work on the project. The Keystone Awards honor the achievements of Missouri’s construction firms and their employees in building facilities that support and enhance quality of life.

“We were honored to have played a role in such a significant, historic renovation and to have our work recognized by the AGCMO with a Keystone Award,” Glassl remarks.