The Tiger Hotel has been a downtown landmark since it opened in November 1928. Six years ago, John Ott, David Baugher, Renea Sapp and I bought this historic building.
The nine-story building’s use as a hotel was gradually marginalized over the years by more modern highway hostelries. Efforts to develop a different purpose for the building began some 30 years ago when it was used as a college dormitory. More recently, the structure was an assisted-living facility. Now, we hope The Tiger Hotel will come full circle and be Columbia’s first boutique hotel.
The historic landmark on South Eighth Street was singled out in the Sasaki Group’s report about future downtown development authored for the University of Missouri and the city. The Tiger’s significance is its proximity to the university and Columbia’s two colleges, an expanding museum district, the possible relocation of the State Historical Society of Missouri, a proposed downtown cultural and fine arts center, the Missouri Theatre, the Ragtag Cinema and the seats of city and county government operations.
A city advisory commission currently is considering tax increment financing, or TIF, as the legal mechanism to assist in financing this project.
We believe the City of Columbia should acquiesce to our request for a TIF so that restoration of the largely vacant building can get under way and thus boost The Tiger’s generation of sales and property taxes.
The TIF concept was first introduced in California in 1952 and Missouri is one of 48 other states that have TIF-enabling legislation in place.
This TIF proposal includes incremental taxes that would not exist if the property was not improved. State law provides for the creation of a TIF district, which must meet rigorous criteria in order to qualify. The TIF-enabling mechanism includes an advisory commission that reports to the City Council, which decides whether or not to establish a TIF for projects such as The Tiger Hotel.
In this scenario, after the hotel re-opens, its contribution in the form of sales and property taxes will increase, thus compensating over time for the financial relief from taxation the city originally granted at the onset of the TIF.
It is very important to point out that the City of Columbia’s so-called 4 percent “bed tax” will be collected and remittances to the Convention and Visitors Bureau will flow in proportion to the hotel’s occupancy once it re-opens.
A substantial investment has already been made to rebuild the Tiger Hotel entrance, lobby, ballroom, rest rooms and the dramatic restoration and re-lighting of the original neon “Tiger” sign on the roof in 2004. A new, intimate meeting area on the south side of the ninth floor offers a panoramic perspective of the University of Missouri campus. Less visable infrastructure improvements have included installation of a new roof, HVAC system and exterior brickwork tuckpointing.
In conjunction with the opening of the adjacent Bleu Restaurant, the tastefully restored boutique Tiger Hotel on the west side of South Eighth Street would be poised to become a key downtown destination.
Brought up to date with between 65 to 70 painstakingly decorated rooms and several larger suites, The Tiger will reflect the idea Ian Schrager first introduced more than 30 years ago in New York City. A boutique hotel is typically described as a small facility that’s intimate, luxurious, themed, perhaps quirky and unique and thus differentiated from larger, branded chain-operated establishments. The boutique approach proposes minimal cannibalization from other establishments while The Tiger Hotel’s special cachet will be its location mingled downtown where there is already much excitement about what’s in store for the future.
Like the recently restored Missouri Center for the Arts, The Tiger Hotel will once again help make downtown Columbia a major destination.

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