Landmark's Back in Play; on the Horizon Lodging Hospitality Management and THF Realty Are Proposing a $50 Million Renovation for Union Station.; the St. Louis Development Corp. Will Consider a Request Today for $5 Million in Tax Credits

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Union Station, the historic landmark and financially struggling retail center in downtown St. Louis, may soon be in new hands.

After a lengthy bidding process, the current owners are nearing completion of the sale of Union Station to a development group that promises to reinvigorate the beleaguered tourist attraction.

Lodging Hospitality Management, based in Maryland Heights, is working with Chesterfield-based THF Realty, a $2 billion company that develops retail centers nationwide, to buy Union Station and redevelop the site with public help. THF's chairman and owner is Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Rams.

The project would encompass a $50 million renovation of the existing hotel, areas beneath the train shed and parking lots, according to a source with knowledge of the proposal. The sale is under contract, pending final details to be worked out over the next few months.

St. Louis Development Corp., the city's development agency, is scheduled today to consider a $5 million allocation of federal New Markets Tax Credits to help the multimillion-dollar project.

Rodney Crim, SLDC's executive director, said he's glad that Union Station will be in local hands.

"We think it's a great asset in the city and a great asset in the region," said Crim, who declined to provide details of the proposed project.

Bob O'Loughlin, LHM's chairman, was out of the country this week and unavailable for comment. Efforts to reach THF's president, Michael Staenberg, were unsuccessful.

Last fall, owner Union Station Holdings LLC put the national historic landmark up for sale. The building includes a 539-room Marriott Hotel and 160,000 square feet of retail space.

Bids, due by Nov. 10, were evaluated by several parties, including U.S. Bank, which had bought a failed Chicago-area bank that had an ownership stake in the station property.

Union Station has struggled in recent years since the closed railroad terminal reopened as a $140 million "festival marketplace" in 1985.

Oppenheimer Properties, then the owner, had brought in developer Rouse Co. …