The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe plans to buy two hotels in downtown St. Paul, according to media reports.
Melanie Benjamin, the band’s chief executive, reportedly announced the plans during an annual State of the Band address in Onamia, although she did not disclose the names of the hotels. Local news outlets, citing unnamed sources, said that the band aims to buy the Crowne Plaza St. Paul Riverfront at 11 East Kellogg Boulevard and the DoubleTree by Hilton at 411 Minnesota Street, both of which have been on the market. (The Crowne Plaza St. Paul Riverfront is among Minnesota’s 10-largest hotels based on rooms; it has 468.)
The deal represents an effort by the group to diversify its holdings beyond gambling. In addition to buying the two hotels, the band—which operates the Grand Casinos in Hinckley and Onamia—also plans to open a center for small business and light industry in Hinckley and open a commercial printing business on the reservation in east-central Minnesota, according to a report by the Pioneer Press.
The St. Paul hotels will reportedly be managed by Minneapolis-based Graves Hospitality Corporation, which operates the Graves 601 Hotel in downtown Minneapolis and is owned by former congressional candidate Jim Graves. Specific plans for the hotels are not being disclosed until the deals close, although they will not involve gambling.
According to a report by the Star Tribune, city leaders hailed the news as a sign of growing interest in downtown St. Paul, which will soon lose Macy’s, its only major department store. Industry experts said the city’s new light-rail line might have been a factor in the deals, the newspaper reported.