SELMA, Ala. – (Realty News Report) – With funding from Houston-area bank, the historic St. James Hotel has been redeveloped and reopened near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a landmark in the history of the Civil Rights movement.
The 55-room hotel, originally constructed in 1837, was opened again this week as part of the Hilton Tapestry brand.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge
Located a block from the historic bridge, the hotel will contribute to the Selma community’s Civil Rights tourism efforts.
In 1965, on a day now known as “Bloody Sunday,” some 600 protest marchers crossed the bridge. The long walk from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery was designed to protest the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who had been shot by a state trooper a month earlier.
Although it was a peaceful march, Alabama state troopers attacked the marchers, swinging nightsticks and causing multiple injuries and hospitalizations. However, television news footage captured the violence and shocked the nation and created momentum for change that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Forty-two of the hotel’s rooms were opened Tuesday and the other 13 will be unveiled to the market at a later date, according to the Selma Times-Journal.
The redevelopment of the hotel, the only hotel in downtown Selma, was funded in part by a $2 million equity investment by the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, a commercial real estate Opportunity Zone fund established by Woodforest National Bank and CEI-Boulos Capital Management.
“Woodforest is proud to see our fund invest in high impact and meaningful projects like the St. James Hotel,” said Doug Schaeffer, Executive Vice President, CRA Executive Director, Woodforest National Bank, which is based in The Woodlands. “Investments like this may not be possible but-for banks leveraging the combination of the Opportunity Zone incentive and the Community Reinvestment Act. We hope to see other banks use this powerful investment tool to invest in underutilized assets in ways that allow communities to realize their full potential.”
The St. James Hotel is the last pre-Civil War riverfront hotel in the Southeast and is central to this rural community’s rich history. Following the Civil War, the hotel was operated by Benjamin Sterling Turner who became the first African American elected to U.S. Congress in 1870. After closing as a hotel in the 1890s, the building was used for commercial and industrial purposes for over 100 years. It reopened as a hotel in 1997, and after years of management challenges, was closed in 2017.
“The redevelopment of the St. James Hotel is the beginning of a new chapter for Selma,” said Joanne Bland, lifelong Selma resident and civil rights activist, owner of Journeys for the Soul (a civil rights touring agency), and co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma. “Like many other rural towns, the population is getting smaller and the kids don’t come back home. People come to Selma, take pictures of the bridge, and move on to Montgomery. The hotel will make a big difference for our community.”
Rhaglan Hospitality, which specializes in the restoration and adaptive re-use of historic assets, will manage the hotel. The project is aligned with the City of Selma’s comprehensive plan to rejuvenate the historic downtown and nearby Riverfront Park.
Jim Lewis, CEO of Rhaglan Hospitality, stated, “The re-opening of the St. James Hotel culminates a five-year journey for Rhaglan Hospitality, made possible by the equity investment by the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund and a redevelopment loan provided by American South Real Estate Fund.”
The St. James Hotel is one of nine investments made so far by the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund. The fund recently also closed on an investment in the redevelopment of the American Red Cross Building in Birmingham.
“CEI-Boulos Capital Management is committed to harnessing the Opportunity Zone incentive to serve its intended purpose – to truly benefit and revitalize underinvested communities like Selma,” said Sam Spencer, CEO and Managing Director, CEI-Boulos Capital Management. “Despite its world-wide fame, Selma is representative of thousands of other similar small rural communities that are struggling – and which the Opportunity Zone incentive was meant to benefit. The investment in the St. James Hotel will help revitalize Selma’s downtown and attract people from around the world to learn about an important part of our nation’s history. This investment is an example of the fund’s efforts to leverage private capital to help address the nation’s renewed focus on racial and economic equity.”
Jan. 26, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021
File: Civil Rights Landmark Hotel near Edmund Pettus Bridge
Photo: Courtesy Woodforest Bank