HotelFUBU still wants St. James

Published 9:09 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Erudite Holdings, parent company of hotelFUBU, is not giving up hope on buying the historic St. James Hotel from the city of Selma.

Mayor Darrio Melton broke the news to the Selma City Council Tuesday that the contract had expired and the company was having issues securing enough funding to purchase and renovate the hotel.

Cecily Groves, chief operating officer for hotelFUBU, said Wednesday the company is still interested in purchasing the hotel and will continue to pursue it.

“We absolutely don’t think the fat lady has sung. We don’t even think she is warming up yet. We believe that we can move forward,” Groves said.

Erudite Holdings offered to buy the hotel from the city earlier this year for $400,000 and pledged to spend $3 million in renovations, but after taking a closer look at the hotel, Groves said the cost for renovating it has increased significantly.

“They’re at $5 million and growing,” Groves said.

“That’s just to be able to preserve the historic quality … but at the same time make the necessary repairs and renovations so the hotel can function properly and viably for the community and its traveling visitors and tourists.”

Due to the unexpected increase in the amount of money the company will have to spend on renovations and repairs, Groves said they are having to reexamine the finances and budget for the project.

“We just had to go back into looking at the development financing and budgeting, so that we can accommodate the expensive repairs that need to be made,” she said.

Groves said Selma is not the ideal city to launch a brand-new hotel business, but the company has faith in the potential of the hotel.

“It’s a property worth doing in our perspective,” she said.

“Even though it’s difficult, and it’s hard to convince others that it this property is viable, we believe in it, and we’re going to keep going.”

When Melton shared the news with the council, members seemed disappointed. The city has been trying to sell the hotel since March 2015 when Strand Development, the company that managed the hotel, decided to terminate its contract.

“I think that the council has just kind of grown weary with the whole process of trying to sell the hotel,” Groves said.

“I know that it’s been a burden on the city for some time, and so I completely understand their frustration, but at the same time development financing, especially for a property of this age and of this magnitude, … it takes time.”

Groves said Wednesday she feels like they are “dangerously close” to making something happen and is hopeful for the end of September.

“As soon as it is at a point where we don’t have to delay with the city any more for any reason, then we’ll be ready to move forward and move forward quickly,” Groves said. “We’re hoping that happens before the end of this month.”

Melton said Tuesday he remains optimistic about the deal but nothing is for sure at this point.

“While I’m still optimistic about hotelFUBU and Erudite Holdings coming in, realistically we have to look at what’s the next move for that hotel,” he said.

The council decided Tuesday night to discuss the hotel at its next work session or at a special called meeting.