Good Riddance to the Lakeland

Old Saint Louis Park hotel has a shady history.

As St. Louis Park continues to redevelop, many of the places that seem to have been here forever are disappearing – and that isn’t always a bad thing. Case in point is the notorious Lakeland Hotel, located just inside the city line on Highway 7. The site was sold to a developer (along with the old Vescio’s), as the property has become prime real estate in its proximity to the coming light rail. Let’s revisit the Lakeland, and go back to happier days before it became the bane of the St. Louis Park police department.

The Lakeland Hotel opened in October 1951, touted as Park’s first hotel (never mind the half dozen hotels that existed at the turn of the century). Tiny by today’s standards, the building had 24 rooms, two of which had kitchenettes for light housekeeping. Maybe because it was constructed during the Cold War, it was said to be built like a bunker, able to withstand any attack.

Which is good, because after (or perhaps during) its original life as an inexpensive family motel, complete with swimming pool and fountain, it was also Party Central for Park kids who would rent rooms for drinking, smoking, playing loud music, and carrying on until the exasperated cops shut it down.

Good clean fun turned to drugs, prostitution, and violence, culminating in a gruesome murder in July 2011. Police had been to the property 203 times since the beginning of 2009, said the reports. Perhaps to get distance from the shady reputation of the Lakeland, the owners changed the name to Valu Stay Inn.

But now it’s time to say goodbye to this Highway 7 landmark. Plans are to replace it with a five-story building with 111 apartments and ground floor commercial space. Fortunately, St. Louis Park has many other places for those thousands of traveling salesmen to rest their weary feet.