The St. James Hotel on the Alabama River waterfront in downtown Selma is finding new life as a Hilton Tapestry boutique hotel.
Refurbished by owner Rhaglan Hospitality of Birmingham, the hotel got an infusion of $2 million in Opportunity Zone financing from the Woodforest/CEI-Boulos fund — the only outside investor in the project.
“Built in 1837, 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,” Woodforest said, tracing the building’s history in an announcement of its investment. “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.”
For a short period, the city itself operated the hotel, which is in the heart of the city’s Civil Rights heritage district.
“There is nothing more important to me than increasing investment and opportunity across Alabama’s 7th District,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “That is why I have worked so hard in tandem with Alabama leaders to maximize the benefits of the Opportunity Zone program throughout Alabama’s 7th District, from Birmingham to the Black Belt. I am especially grateful to Woodforest National Bank and CEI-Boulos Capital Management, LLC for their partnership in restoring the St. James Hotel in my hometown of Selma. This critically important investment will not only revitalize a historic asset of downtown Selma, but also support the city’s growing civil rights tourism industry.”
The project fits well with the investors’ goals, they said.
“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.”
Woodforest leadership echoes those sentiments. “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. “Investments like this may not be possible but-for banks leveraging the combination of the OZ incentive and the Community Reinvestment Act.”
Jim Lewis, CEO of Rhaglan Hospitality, which is managing the property, 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. Without their assistance, we would not be re-opening as a 55-room hotel. The job creation and economic stimulus for an economy like Selma’s cannot be underestimated. Our team is honored to have the opportunity to continue the vibrant history of the St. James Hotel and become an active part of the critically important city of Selma.”