SELMA, Ala.— The American South Real Estate Fund (ASREF) has closed $3.4 million in senior bridge financing for Rhaglan Hospitality to acquire and redevelop the historic St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama.
The loan from ASREF enables Rhaglan to acquire the shuttered hotel currently owned by the city and convert it into part of the Hilton-branded Tapestry Collection, which was launched in 2017 to create a portfolio of hotels each with its own unique style while providing the consistency of Hilton standards. The St. James will be one of only nine hotels in the Southeast to be part of the coveted Tapestry Collection by Hilton brand. Upon completion, it is projected to bring more than 40 new jobs to an area with very high unemployment.
The St. James Hotel is situated along the Alabama River near the landmark Edmund Pettus Bridge — site of the 1965 Civil Rights march that became known as Bloody Sunday. Built in 1837, it is the only surviving riverfront antebellum hotel in the Southeast. The three-story brick masonry building includes 42 guest rooms, a two-story porch, and ornamental ironwork.
In addition to creating 40-plus new jobs, the redeveloped hotel will serve as a tourist draw and anchor for the downtown district, thereby spurring further economic activity.
Redevelopment of the St. James Hotel is an ideal fit for the high-impact American South Real Estate Fund (“ASREF”), which invests in transformative projects that benefit low-income communities and people across the South. ASREF was launched in 2017 by Los Angeles-based Strategic Development Solutions (SDS) and Shreveport, Louisiana-based Vintage Realty Group. The financing announced today is the Fund’s first investment in Alabama, and the second overall for its affiliated SDS-managed National New Markets Fund. SDS’ first investment in the state was the high-profile Pizitz mixed-use redevelopment in Birmingham that transformed a 40-year vacated department store into 143 apartments and retail space.
“The St. James Hotel is an ideal fit with our fund’s mission,” said American South Real Estate Fund Managing Partner Deborah La Franchi, who also serves as CEO of SDS. “We believe this project will be a catalyst for Selma’s downtown, providing a high-quality experience for hotel guests while driving more foot traffic and economic activity to the area.”
David Alexander, ASREF managing partner and CEO of Vintage Realty Company, added, “Our partnership with Rhaglan Hospitality enables redevelopment of a long-shuttered city-owned hotel that will help transform and revitalize the entire Selma community. Our fund reviewed several opportunities in Alabama, and the positive impacts of this investment rose to the top. We are excited to be part of this transformative project.”
Jim Lewis, founder of Rhaglan Hospitality said, “This type of redevelopment project in Selma aligns perfectly with our focus on transforming historic assets into institutional quality hotels. Creative financing from our partners at the American South Real Estate Fund combined with Hilton-branding will bring opportunity and positive, lasting change to an area in need of economic development.”
Selma is located in South Central Alabama, approximately 50 miles west of Montgomery. It is a rural market with a population of less than 20,000. The census tract’s 54 percent poverty rate underscores the profound need for capital investment and redevelopment of such landmark properties that can capture economic activity from the many tourists who visit Selma’s historic sites. The city has 1,250 historic structures (mostly in the downtown area), making it one of the most concentrated historic districts in the country.
Reopening the St. James Hotel is a top priority for the Selma Redevelopment Authority, the Mayor and City Council, as the property is viewed as a cornerstone of downtown redevelopment.
Newly-elected Selma Mayor Darrio Melton said, “Restoration of the St. James Hotel will create local jobs and economic development to drive tourism to Selma. We deeply appreciate the capital investment being made by American South Real Estate Fund and Rhaglan Hospitality.”
Selma City Council President Corey Bowie added, “The selling and restoration of the historical St. James will transform downtown Selma through economic development and tourism.”
The Civil Rights trail is a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists. Other nearby historical and cultural attractions include the National Voting Rights Museum, the historic First Baptist Church, Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Edmund Pettus Bridge (where civil rights protesters were beaten in 1965), and the National Park Services Interpretive Center.
Terri Sewell, U.S. Congressional Representative for District 7 and a Selma native, said, “National treasures like the St. James Hotel tell the story of our nation’s fight for freedom and equality in the face of injustice. By investing in and restoring the hotel, we pay tribute to the foot soldiers who fought, bled and died for our rights and ensure its history is preserved for future generations. I am so excited to see Rhaglan Hospitality working to return the St. James to its historic prominence and making this critical investment in the Selma community.”
About American South Real Estate Fund
The American South Real Estate Fund (ASREF) is an impact fund focused on 10 states across the Southern U.S. It is a joint venture between Strategic Development Solutions (sdsgroup.com) and Vintage Realty Company (vintagerealty.com). ASREF provides equity, preferred equity and mezzanine debt for third-party real estate developers. As an impact fund, it seeks to finance projects that positively impact low-income and moderate-income communities in need of economic and community development. For more information, visit asref.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Rhaglan Hospitality
Rhaglan Hospitality, led by Jim Lewis, is a team of hotel developers and managers with over $150 Million of completed commercial projects (over 700 hotel rooms) to its credit. Rhaglan is an opportunistic developer and operator focused on creating value through the transformation of highly distressed buildings into institutional quality boutique hotels throughout the Southeast. Many of Rhaglan’s projects are branded hotels with direct operations management at the executive level. Rhaglan Hospitality was given the honor of being designated as an Approved Full-Service Operator by Hilton Hotels Worldwide.
Rhaglan’s most recent development is The Redmont Hotel in downtown Birmingham. The historic 120-room hotel, which is listed on The National Historic Register of Historic Places, was built in 1925 and completed restoration in March 2016 to become Birmingham’s leading modern boutique hotel. The hotel reopened as The Redmont Hotel Birmingham, Curio Collection by Hilton. Rhaglan Hospitality (rhaglan.com) is based in downtown Birmingham.