The Ronald McDonald House, an organization dedicated to providing affordable housing for families visiting St. Louis for children’s medical care, has long been planning to upgrade its facilities in the region. The organization currently has a capacity limited to 59 families due to their facility limitations, leading to a wait list that they hope the additional room will alleviate.
While St. Louisans may not be the direct beneficiaries of the Ronald McDonald House, sick children and their families across Missouri often must come to St. Louis to access needed medical care. Often that means staying for a long time at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Children’s Hospital, or Siteman Cancer Center. With that in mine, it is very important that the Ronald McDonald House should be as close as possible to relieve the burden on families.
The proposed development will be located on the 4300 block of Chouteau in Forest Park Southeast. It will sit adjacent to the highway (64/40), just across from the Central West End where all of the healthcare facilities are located. According to RMHC, “The House will be equidistant from St. Louis Children’s Hospital and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital adjacent to Shiners Hospitals for Children – St. Louis. “
Despite the quickly accelerating property values in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood and dwindling land availability, the North side of 4300 block of Chouteau (much like the Drury-held properties on Kingshighway) is vacant and blighted. A former church, Emmanus Baptist, sits at the corner of Tower Grove Ave and Chouteau, abandoned for years and slowly seeing its fortunes and structural integrity decline. The more industrial looking building is a former warehouse, though it may look more like a prison than anything else with large, barbed wire fencing on the Eastern half of the property.
The proposal itself will significantly improve the block, consolidating the three parcels into one for their construction. As the organization will be also consolidating the units from two other locations into this development, it will also be quite large. According to minutes from the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association from a 2018 meeting, the proposal calls for 60 units at this location, over 10000 square feet of public space, and 11000 square feet of office for RMHC. Although we are now well past the anticipated start and completion dates indicated in that meeting, it appears now that the Ronald McDonald House is gearing up for construction.
Just this weekend, the group finally put up large signs with renderings and information in front of the site. Moreover, there have been large teams of people inspecting the property over the past few weeks. Missouri Metro has reached out to RMHC for more information regarding a new timeline. Regardless, the design seems to be just about finalized and residents can expect the finished result to look like the rendering below:
If the rendering is a good indication of the final product, then RMHC will be using high quality materials across most, if not all of the façade. The streetscape will also be improved significantly with repaired sidewalks, trees, and more pedestrian activity. The organization is also suggesting that the building will be significantly more energy efficient than their current setup, while also indicating that the staff-on-site will substantially improve the patient and family experience.
This development will go a long way toward revitalizing one of the few vacant stretches in Forest Park Southeast and provide a truly beneficial service for families and children across the state of Missouri.
This featured article has been split into multiple sections to better organize the ideas discussed and the many moving parts of the story. Thank you for your patience and I hope that you find it to be informative. I invite you to engage in the conversation either in the comments below or on our Twitter page.
Just after announcing its latest apartment development in the Central West End at the Optimist International Building (intersection of Taylor and Lindell), developer LuxLiving released its big plans for the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Those who have travelled on Kingshighway any time over the last two decades have witnessed the steady decline of several multifamily buildings owned by Drury Development Corporation. As Drury’s plans for a two-tower hotel adjacent to the CWE stagnated and faltered, their properties declined significantly with little to no maintenance. Missouri Metro covered their “Demolition by Neglect” strategy last year.
The blighted properties contrasted the stunning growth and evolution of the Forest Park Southeast and Central West End neighborhoods, even as housing inventory in the neighborhoods remained low. The highly visible location, so close to the highly sought after amenities of some of the City’s most expensive neighborhoods, stood out for long-time residents and visitors alike. Residents hoped for action for years, but faced stiff resistance from Drury Development Corporation and a lack of transparency as the corporation continued to acquire more properties.
After nearly two decades of this prolonged process and limited neighborhood approval for a two-tower design and a surface parking lot that would replace handfuls of historic residential homes, Drury finally announed it had cancelled its hotel plans in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. This year, they begun selling some homes to residential buyers and investors alike, while also choosing a large developer to take on the most notable parcels facing Kingshighway. That developer is LuxLiving.
DISCLOSURE: Brian Adler is the current Vice President of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association and will have some say in the community engagement process. He also lives on the 4500 Block of Oakland, which will be directly impacted by this proposed development.
LuxLiving is proposing a 7-story, 163-unit apartment building to replace these structures. While I generally am in favor of preserving many of the city’s historic brick structures, the buildings facing Kingshighway have been open to the elements for years, lack walls in some cases, and have foundations that are crumbling significantly. The proposed structure would activate a stretch of land with significant density that has not been occupied for two decades. While the design is still in preliminary stages and far from finalized, the current plans call for the usage of 15 parcels and the construction of a 177 space parking garage that will be partially underground and concealed.
On Oakland Ave and Arco Ave, LuxLiving plans to construct two-story buildings with 14 units and amenity spaces to fill in the gap between the various other residential homes on the street and the larger, 7-story structure. The designs of the two-story buildings seem to be similar in materials, massing, and overall design to the other homes on the two blocks. With that said, to accommodate these additional buildings, a few currently occupied and vacant structures would have to be demolished. LuxLiving states that they are in various late stages of disrepair and while they may not be entirely unusable, this very author lives within this stretch and agrees for the most part on that assessment.
This article cannot be as neutral as I would otherwise hope for it to be because of my very close proximity to the site, but I do want to emphasize the kind of feedback that I have been hearing from the community. For the most part, community members have few, minor qualms with the overall design, density, and massing. In fact, many (including myself), are downright excited at the prospect of removing the blight that has FREQUENTLY contributed to visible crime and dangerous drag racing across the 4500 block of Oakland and Arco.
Causes for Concern: Safety, Fraud, and Bad Practices
With that said, there are significant concerns about LuxLiving itself as the selected developer for the site. While LuxLiving has been generous with information and access to its developments including the SoHo, Hudson, and Chelsea covered frequently on this website, it has a troubling reputation that has consistently dogged the company. Surprisingly numerous reviews from tenants at even their newest buildings suggest lackluster property management, shoddy building materials, thin walls, and various issues. LuxLiving also allegedly utilizes Airbnb to rent out vacant units for short-term visits. While Airbnb is not inherently bad, it can pose security concerns for actual residents of the building or pose challenges in terms of trash, noise, or usage of the building’s amenities.
While financial accounting requirements can be complex and perhaps it would be unfair to make judgements off of one case, Alston has repeatedly led business practices that are at best scorched earth-competitive, and at worst, deeply and fundamentally dishonest and dirty. For example, LuxLiving is currently wrapping up the nearly completed apartment building in DeBaliviere Place, dubbed “The Hudson” – poised to become another luxury, amenity-packed community. I have reported on its progress multiple times and lauded how it adds significant density to a well-trafficked transit corridor. Those facets of the project are unabashedly positive, and additional units online relieves pent-up demand that would otherwise raise rent prices.
The complaint resulted in a lawsuit against the Expo at Forest Park developers and then, of course, a countersuit alleging that resurrecting an organization that had not existed for 30 years was nothing more than a means to denying a competitor’s approval. LuxLiving and the other firm ultimately settled, but another legal battle ensued – this time with LuxLiving suing the City of St. Louis’ Development Corporation, SLDC. Lux claims an entitlement to tax incentives including tax abatement and a tax break on construction materials. They allege that they must receive this support due to a letter of support from Alderman Shameem Clark-Hubbard from the 26th ward. The suit has not yet been resolved, and the decision to grant tax breaks was tabled at the June 22 meeting.
This context is important because Lux has gained some positive publicity from not requesting tax incentives for its proposed project at the Optimist International site in the Central West End, just minutes away from Forest Park Southeast. While the development will ultimately lead to a large and noticeable property tax receipt that will benefit St. Louis Public Schools, it would admittedly be awkward for Lux to request incentives from the same organization that they are currently feuding with. Notably, Lux has been mum on its intentions for tax incentives at the parcels in question in Forest Park Southeast.
Unfortunately, tax breaks, lawsuits, and fraud cumulatively barely scratch the surface of the controversy surrounding the company and its owners. LuxLiving is but one name of many for the company and its principle actors. Some St. Louisans might remember their apartments under the portfolio of Asprient Properties, CityWide, and others. They are all the same buildings, the same company, and the same team. Lux tends to rebrand when controversy hits a fever pitch, like when Asprient mishandled residents’ security deposits.
Even more worrisome, at one of the Central West End properties under the STL Citywide brand, residents had to be evacuated for a structural collapse at the Euclid + Pine building. Residents interviewed by KMOV reporters, while horrified, expressed not being surprised due to the general conditions that the building was kept in. Perhaps you may have been urged to give the company the benefit of the doubt, choosing to assume that the company surely has improved since then. That would be unlikely, however, because this happened this last May.
The proposal is likely going to go through a community engagement process facilitated by Alderwoman Tina “Sweet-T” Pihl, Park Central Development, and the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association. Although Park Central Development and its Development Committee often led the process in years prior following former Alderman Roddy’s decades-long design, Alderwoman Pihl is looking to reshape the process and involve more members of the community.
There will likely be community engagement sessions in the next couple months to inform both the community about the developer’s plans and the developer on the community’s concerns. It will ultimately then receive the approval or denial from the Alderperson.
A Nuanced Conclusion
While some might have expected my take to be one of pure opposition based on the sizable list of concerns outlined above, it might surprise you to know that I am still begrudgingly, mostly in support of the project. It is difficult to shake the feeling of “ick” that surrounds LuxLiving and it feels wrong to reward the company with my support, especially as a member of the FPSE Neighborhood Association. Remember, and this is important, the association itself is a neutral party and will not lend its support or lack thereof to any project, and the views of its members and board members are diverse.
That said, I am also a current resident of the 4500 block of Oakland that I presume that I will one day share with LuxLiving and the many residents who will occupy the community. I am writing this piece with little to no distance at all between myself and the anticipated consequences. As a resident of this block, I know all too well the damage and hardship currently caused by the derelict Drury-“maintained” buildings facing Kingshighway. The alley is littered with broken glass, impossible-to-count bottles of spent liquor, drift marks, and more. The majority of nights feature speeding down Oakland and Arco in unlicensed vehicles opting to not use their headlights. Recognize that this is not a short-term problem: this has been the reality on this block for decades. It is not as though we have been given the choice of various optimal developers, or even that matter for residents to buy up these individual buildings facing Kingshighway. Drury has selected LuxLiving, and I know well that what we will get is better than what we have.
There are other benefits I look forward to including a prettier streetscape, way more neighbors, density that will at some point add to our tax base our students, and a bit of relief for a rental market very short of inventory in this neighborhood. Perhaps I speak from a point of privilege in a multitude of ways as well, in that I am not one of the few families that will likely have to move for the project. I also am keenly familiar with development and have a hand in the community engagement process. That heightens my responsibility and that of my fellow neighborhood volunteers to ensure we don’t let LuxLiving skate through this process without answering for its reputation and demanding a robust community engagement process that allows for real concerns to be given real answers.
The anticipation for the new MLS stadium and team has been profound for St. Louisans across the metro area. A huge construction effort is currently underway in Downtown West, poised to bring significant activity to a neighborhood that has lacked significant investment, retail, or residential additions for decades. The new stadium and team are well positioned to help revitalize the area while also providing residents an incredible new entertainment option.
Still, the immense positives associated with the stadium and team do not immunize the project from criticism when promises and hype falter. The St. Louis CITY SC branding quite obviously leverages city imagery and loyalty for its brand. Their website for the stadium has an entire page dedicated to the “District” they hope to create alongside the stadium. A key note on this page is to “bring vitality and drive inspiration through inspiring architecture and public spaces, and through creative uses of infrastructure and technology”.
An ambitious plan is certainly good to have, and creating a true district “home to a diverse selection of restaurants, bars, living spaces and family experiences” has the potential to do wonders for Downtown West. Having a hub of entertainment, retail, and living options near the stadium contributes to a neighborhood that people stay in rather than simply attend for a game and then leave right away. For the City, that means dense, fun neighborhoods that contribute heavily to the tax base. For the stadium and team, it builds a true connection with the community that is longer lasting with higher revenue potential. While the Ballpark Village developments aren’t perfect, they are succeeding at creating a real neighborhood. With a hotel, office, high-rise apartment building, stadium, Starbucks, retail, and bars, the area supports a 24/7 atmosphere that is both convenient and enjoyable for tourists and locals.
Unfortunately, just-released renderings from St. Louis City SC depict a large parking structure on Olive with no activation whatsoever, save for a gaudy balcony and staircase. In order to build this parking garage, the soccer club demolished nearly an entire block of mixed-use buildings that could have housed bars, residents, and various other uses. If this rendering resembles the final product, then the built environment surrounding the stadium will be less of a district and more of a brief shop for a game and nothing else. The latter would be a loss for an area so central to the city and near many incredible amenities.
While pedestrians and the neighborhood more broadly lose out with this parking garage, the proposal also demonstrates a continued reliance on a mode of transportation that contributes heavily to our climate crisis. That is despite excellent transit proximity and St. Louis City’s ambitious climate goals, especially relating to new construction.
When developers promise the world and demolish the urban fabric of a city, ultimately underdelivering on their commitments and publicly stated mission, the city and its residents are harmed. This kind of practice is frequently applied, from Drury Hotels with their demolition-by-neglect strategy in Forest Park Southeast to Restoration St. Louis and its bait-and-switch just by The Grove. Until this strategy is reigned in, we are likely to see more developers preach wide ranging benefits and deliver little more than lipstick on a pig, like this very parking garage.
The Central Corridor, ranging from Clayton to Downtown, continues to see a flurry of development proposals and construction. The last couple of years have brought several large, mid-rise to high-rise residential buildings to a region that, for decades, has seen its growth stagnate. The City of today is beginning to look far more alive than the City of 5 years ago.
Nowhere is that more true than St. Louis City’s Central West End neighborhood, where an architecturally stunning high-rise was just completed last year and new apartments, and even hotels, are popping up quickly. Dense, walkable neighborhoods with easy access to transit, groceries, coffee, and other amenities are becoming more and more in demand. As a result, any parcel of land that does not produce economic activity or bring value to the neighborhood has a short life ahead.
At the Optimist International Building at 4494 Lindell, a rather old, bleak building becomes further outclassed each year by its neighbors. The building does have some defenders, however, who appreciate its somewhat brutalist, mid-century design. It would be replaced by a proposal by a 150-unit, 8-story apartment building shown in the rendering below. LuxLiving is the developer on this project, having just completed their Chelsea apartment community in the nearby DeBaliviere Place neighborhood. They are also currently working on projects including The Hudson and The SOHO in Soulard.
As Chris Stritzel at CitySceneSTL reported this week, the Executive Director of Optimist International is very supportive of the sale, however. The non-profit head wrote a letter in support of the development proposal detailed below as the current building’s maintenance had become too costly, sacrificing some funds that he preferred would go to the children they support. The sale of the building would boost their capabilities significantly.
The proposed structure would, unlike some other recent projects in the St. Louis area, not request any monetary subsidies from the City of St. Louis. Rather, it is expected to produce between $850,000 and $1,000,000 a year in property taxes. It is common to see apartment buildings often receiving large tax incentives that reduce the revenue in the near term that goes toward the City’s public school system, but this project bucks that trend. It should also fulfill most elements of the Central West End’s Form Based Code, a requirement for new development to fit in with its neighborhood surroundings. While many of LuxLiving’s latest apartments have come with wild amenities like virtual golf simulators or huge saunas, this particular building will be a little more down to earth.
The units will still be luxurious, but the amenities on offer will, due to more limited space, be more in line with most of its competitors. It will include a pool deck, public café in the lobby, some walk-up office space, gym, mail room, and game area. The developer noted in a public meeting this week that their goal is to capitalize on the neighborhood rather than keep residents within. To that end, they will try to have e-scooters and bikes available for residents to enjoy the neighborhood even if they do not own a car. This is something very unique to the Central West End, with a Whole Foods just a few minutes away, nearby Schnucks, public library, UPS store, MetroLink, dozens of restaurants, art galleries, and more.
Downtown West has been picking up significant momentum over the last couple years. The most well-known project will bring a brand-new Soccer Stadium for St. Louis City SC, and advocates have long argued that it would contribute to positive growth in the corridor. It appears, not even two full years later, that those advocates may be pleased with their predictions.
Although there is lots of academic debate surrounding whether incentivized professional stadiums positively improve a city’s economy, the St. Louis MLS Stadium is unique in that it received no tax-incremented-financing (TIFs) from the city. Unlike many other Central Corridor investments, this one in particular is mostly privately financed without taking from future local tax revenues. Rather, the only incentives received by the stadium were granted by State lawmakers and still mostly a drop in the bucket.
The Butler Brothers building is one of the largest vacant buildings within Downtown St. Louis with 8 floors of usable space and a presence that takes up an entire city block. In Downtown West, just East of Jefferson, there has been much less investment in recent years than neighboring areas. The stadium seems to have kicked off a recent spate of investments all seeking to capitalize on the anticipated success of the MLS site, with residential redevelopments like 1800 Washington, 1801 Washington Ave, and even a few more along the way totaling hundreds of new units.
With the sheer size of the Butler Brothers building, it will activate a significant portion of Downtown West. Better yet, in addition to its anticipated 384 residential units (greater in number than recent towers like One Hundred on the Park), Development Services Group plans on adding 2 retail spaces with a total of around 15,000 square feet. Mixed-use could be something of a gamechanger for this part of Downtown and contribute to a growing neighborhood feel that St. Louis City SC hoped on achieving with their new stadium and adjacent developments. The retail spots add additional reasons for residents and tourists alike to stay in the area and spend their money locally.
The building will likely have similar amenities to other recent large developments. According to CitySceneSTL, the plans call for an “amenity lounge, fitness center, juice bar, bike storage, dog spa, game room, and screen room.”. Of the 384 apartments, 295 will be one-bedrooms units, 24 studio, and 65 two-bedroom. Some developers have found their one-bedroom units to be the most in demand, which likely explains the composition of units in this building.
The developer hopes to begin construction in Q4 2021 and to wrap up construction in Q2 2023. This is a very ambitious construction and approval timeline, but there certainly is cause to shoot for wrapping up around the start of the new St. Louis City SC team at the neighboring stadium. In just a few years, Downtown West may well feel more like a natural extension of Downtown rather than a missing link in the Central Corridor.
Real Estate Developer KDG, known for its luxury apartment buildings including Clayton on the Park and The Euclid, appears to be doubling down on their St. Louis City investment. Surprisingly, those plans seem to include some distancing from Clayton, one of St. Louis’ most desirable and expensive suburbs.
Although KDG’s portfolio still includes multiple St. Louis County assets, including Centene Plaza and the under-development Olive Crossing, their recent investment decisions are skewing quickly toward the City itself. KDG just sold its long-held Clayton residential tower, Clayton on the Park, after managing the property for over a decade. KDG had, years ago, converted the building to luxury apartments during the Great Recession. It had previously been home to senior living facilities and even a hotel.
The disinvestment from Clayton appears to go a bit further, as selling one property alone does not signify a meaningful trend. Rather, KDG has long had its eyes set on the vacant land just next-door to its Clayton on the Park tower at 121 S. Meramec. Some might be familiar with this address, as it used to be home to one of the two mid-rise 7-Up towers that were a part of the beverage company’s former headquarters. The building at this address had been demolished, while the other midrise still stands and would be converted to residential apartments under this plan. Chris Stritzel at CityScene STL details this incredibly well.
KDG’s plans as rendered above would have completely rehabilitated the structure still standing today and would have included new infill on the vacant lot to its side. Both would be connected to their former property, Clayton on the Park, via the parking garage. The development would have cost upwards of $70 million and included amenities like a rooftop pool deck, fitness center, and individual work spaces for tenants to use. However, KDG just recently scrapped these plans, shortly before they announced the sale of their neighboring asset, Clayton on the Park.
While some may suggest or feel that Clayton is losing steam, this move appears to be an individual investment decision rather than a growing trend. It is indicative of a market that has more strongly embraced the City of St. Louis in addition to but not instead of Clayton. Although KDG is shifting its set of priorities, there are multiple other developments currently reshaping the Clayton skyline, adding new residents, hotel guests, and Class A office space.
Clayton’s continued strength aside, it is evident that development has been heating up in the City of St. Louis. In 2020, over $1 billion in building permits were awarded, and there are currently thousands of residential apartment units under construction and in development. The Central West End saw the rise and completion of the new 100 on the Park high-rise apartments. Similarly, Downtown saw a new residential tower, One Cardinal Way, open by Busch Stadium amid major announcements by developers for hundreds of other units within Downtown limits.
The momentum clearly has not gone unnoticed by KDG. In the hot Central West End neighborhood, KDG is currently well into the construction of a residential apartment building on Laclede Ave. 4545 Laclede will host 200 units between its 7 stories, adding considerable density to an already vibrant corridor. Demand in the CWE is striking, and KDG is looking to offer new options for residents looking to enter the neighborhood with its many nightlife, shopping, and restaurant options. The building will feature “micro-units”, studios, 1, and 2-bedroom units. The average size of the micro-units will be 386 square feet, with larger units available for those who need additional space.
KSDK reports that other amenities like a fitness center, golfing green, pool, and yoga studio will be available for residents. Moreover, while some locals might be shocked at the size and inclusion of the smaller units, they are an excellent way to maintain some modicum of affordability for residents looking to live in certain areas. Common in bigger cities with higher rent prices, micro-units also have considerably higher occupancy rates than traditional units, while also promoting sustainability and more efficient land use according to the Urban Land Institute.
KDG is also doubling down on the neighboring Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, more commonly known as The Grove. The company partnered with another developer, Green Street, on two large mixed-use buildings at the corner of Sarah and Chouteau. The two buildings, Chroma and Hue, share amenities and wrap hundreds of units, a coffee shop, hair salon, and other restaurants – significantly densifying and activating the East end of The Grove. KDG is responsible for the onsite property management at the two properties. Hue just recently wrapped up construction, and we were able to meet Green Street VP of Marketing, Liz Austin, for a construction tour covered here.
In the neighboring Cortex neighborhood, an emerging innovation hub bolstered by Washington University and SLU, KDG is at the forefront of the efforts to bring 24/7 vibrancy through a residential component. The Cortex master plan envisions offices, hotels, entertainment, and apartments to activate the community throughout the day. To date, there has been significant progress. With a new Aloft hotel that opened its doors during the pandemic, a new MetroLink station, and tons of investment into labs and offices like the soon-to-be world’s largest neuroscience facility, the area is booming.
KDG hopes to add the key missing link: apartments. The whole plan, dubbed “Cortex K” will host a variety of uses from apartments to office and retail, but apartments are the piece that could truly stitch the community into a neighborhood, while also helping connect it to the vibrancy of The Grove.
There will be three structures built in two separate phases. The first is a 7-story mixed-use building with 160 apartments, 18,500 square feet of office space, and 2,150 square feet of retail space. As KDG is quick to point out, this building will contribute to a neighborhood of over 500 residential units combined with the Chroma and Hue developments when complete. The TIF agenda notes that the apartments will include amenities like a fitness center, club room, outdoor deck, and more. Recent KDG apartment buildings have generally also included flexible workspaces for residents, pools, coffee, etc. Phase 1 is expected to cost $37 million according to the TIF packet.
Phase 2 will include an office building and garage, which will be part of the same complex as imaged in the renderings from KDG above. The Cortex K office building will bring 125,000 square feet of Class A office space to the City of St. Louis, in addition to 7,000 more square feet of retail space. For construction to proceed, KDG is looking to prelease at least 50,000 square feet of the usable space. The budgeted cost for the office building is an estimated $40 million.
The garage is expected to hold approximately 610 spaces and is still in a preliminary design phase. Although the garage is fairly large for a district that features a MetroLink station, it is not street-facing and will likely be shared by residents and workers alike. The project is certainly a decent example of transit-oriented development (TOD) still with the combined density and access to nearby transit options. This portion of Phase 2 will be an additional $17.9 million.
KDG is also promising to make various public improvements to the surrounding infrastructure – something common for developers when requesting tax-incremented financing from municipalities. Although the plans are still “very preliminary”, KDG expects to spend up to $3.5 million on streetscape improvements, lighting, utilities, sidewalks, and bike lanes. The improvements will be carried out for KDG on behalf of the Cortex.
In the April 7 TIF agenda, KDG is requesting $14 million in assistance from the City of St. Louis for this development – 14.25% of the total development costs. TIFs have been under increasingly intense scrutiny by St. Louis residents for a variety of reasons. Many suggest it is a form of corporate welfare that takes necessary funds away from the city, and others a necessity to attract and retain beneficial developments.
Historically, the City of St. Louis lacked a transparent, thoughtful, and consistent plan on how it would award TIFs to developers. State Auditor Galloway released an audit of the program and called for increased oversight and transparency to ensure a level playing field just under a year ago. Much of the controversy from residents stems from the fact that the TIFs are often awarded to developers in the most economically successful districts, predominantly in the Central Corridor. The Cortex K TIF request is likely to face similar scrutiny from residents.
The project itself, however, will certainly contribute to a fast-growing region in St. Louis City. Additional apartments, office, and retail will go a long way toward connecting The Grove and Cortex. Vibrant, 24/7 neighborhoods with transit access are more sustainable, enjoyable, and attractive to residents and are crucial to developing a strong, urban corridor.
As an investment decision, choosing to double down on the City of St. Louis instead of the very strong Clayton market also represents a growing source of demand that residents might not yet have noticed. There are thousands of units under construction in the city, and new home construction is off the charts. While the city is still seeing depopulation on its North Side, stemming from decades of disinvestment, redlining, racial covenants, and a 1970s plan that essentially would cut off efforts to sustain the North side (though not officially enacted, it was essentially still practiced for years), its Central Corridor and many South Side neighborhoods are booming.
The tricky act for St. Louis, however, is to find a way to extend this success, without displacement, to other neighborhoods that see little investment. With any luck, including the emerging “North Central Corridor” and a Mayor dedicated to racial equity, the City of St. Louis may yet see that day come sooner rather than later.
The City of St. Louis is boasting thousands of new apartment units, some already under construction, and other still awaiting approval. Across the city, hundreds of new homes and gut rehabs are revitalizing the historic street grid. We’re also seeing some incredibly cool, dense projects underway that will continue to bring back a true city feel to St. Louis City. The development discussed in this article does this particularly well. By replacing a large parking lot in one of the city’s most dense neighborhoods with a sizable multifamily building, LuxLiving is adding tons of life and street activation to a street that has so much potential. The Chelsea, the latest from LuxLiving, is one of the most amenity-packed, high-tech buildings to ever rise in the city. We cannot wait to share it with you below.
Zeroing in on DeBaliviere Place
DeBaliviere Place has seen enormous change over the last decaded, located just East of the somewhat better known Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood that famously borders Washington University in St. Louis. DeBaliviere Place extends from DeBaliviere at the History Museum East to Kingshighway and the Central West End. Despite its proximity to one of the city’s most dense and wealthy neighborhoods and the presence of some gated communities filled with exclusive mansions, the area had lacked new investment for decades.
Much has changed recently. We wrote about “The Changing Face of DeBaliviere” last year, highlighting the many dense multifamily developments currently underway that will add commercial retail, a grocery store, and hundreds of new units adjacent to the Metrolink station. As those projects continue chugging along toward their completion, we had an opportunity to highlight one of the most exciting nearby apartment communities: The Chelsea.
LuxLiving & The Chelsea
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a sponsored post, and Missouri-Metro was NOT paid for this article. Missouri-Metro tours various projects under construction, and the article was reviewed prior to being published by Kyle Hennessey at LuxLiving to ensure that the facts and figures are correct. There were no changes made.
LuxLiving currently has over 2000 units currently under construction or in pre-development in the St. Louis area. The Chelsea’s 152 units no longer factor in the count as it is already nearing its max occupancy, despite the fact that construction crews are still onsite putting in the finishing touches. Kyle Hennessey, LuxLiving’s Director of Operations, credits this to his leasing team and the high demand for top notch amenities and the city’s massive Forest Park across the street.
While Hennessey is unabashedly prideful of The Chelsea’s many next-level amenities, many that I have not yet seen before in the St. Louis market, his ambition is for each upcoming project to one-up anything that comes before it. That ambition extends to The Hudson just a few steps away on DeBaliviere Blvd. and its soon-to-be 155 units. LuxLiving is also making quick progress on several other large projects, including the SoHo in Soulard and the McKenzie on Delmar.
Even with these other developments on the horizon that promise to dethrone The Chelsea, Hennessey’s hour and a half + tour did not disappoint. Rather, it is beyond evident that The Chelsea will offer some impressively fun amenities and gorgeous units that are a step above anything we would have seen in STL a few years ago.
The Chelsea was built straight atop a former parking lot in one of the city’s most dense neighborhoods. Walking down Pershing today evokes a sense of city living and excitement that reminded this author of strolls through Chicago and New York City neighborhoods. In a city still working to shake off its devastating urban renewal in the 20th century that demolished dense housing blocks (in predominantly Black communities), this is a rather unusual and special feeling.
The Chelsea has a very inviting entrance with humongous windows looking into the lobby, gym, and café. The outdoor patio will soon host bistro tables for the café and coffee shop inside, one that will soon serve the public as well. Despite the neighborhood’s density, residents are serviced by surprisingly few coffee shops until they reach the adorable and friendly 2Schae Café at Pershing and Union. The front is also being meticulously landscaped, and the gym will also open up to the outdoors for certain workout regimens with the massive garage-windows able to open at the touch of a button.
Upon entering the building, residents are greeted with the first sight of the high tech features spread throughout the structure. At most doors, entry points, and elevators throughout the building, residents are prompted to use their phones to proceed. Residential units are tied to an application for security and convenience, while the app can also be used to pay for beer on tap.
Residents and Guests interact with the building system as soon as they reach the door.
Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro
Once inside, residents and guests are greeted by an impressive lobby lit both by natural light and LEDs sprinkled artfully throughout the interior. The lobby is an open-concept, resort-like space with greenery for a smooth transition to and from the outdoors. As Hennessey put it multiple times throughout our tour, the designers attempted to bring the nearby Forest Park and nature in at every corner, from the carpet and flooring design to actual, live trees in the lobby.
As you probably could tell, the café sits at the back of the lobby near the entrance to the gym. What makes this café unique to the area is the niche it fills for residents who otherwise would have to walk, bike, or drive over half a mile to the next closest corner coffee shop. Perhaps an even more interesting and special characteristic is that The Chelsea and its café also boast a full liquor license. Residents and guests will have access to brunch, bloody marys, mimosas, and various other cocktails in addition to the more normal breakfast and lunch items.
With a decent amount of outdoor seating to be available on the Pershing-side patio, this section of Pershing will host commercial activation that it hasn’t seen for years. Instead of a huge parking lot, the community now hosts a space to mingle and grab a bite to eat – something that we all look forward to returning to when we’re able.
The smoothies and iced coffee will come in handy for those at the gym just beside the café. Although gyms are becoming common place as standard luxury apartment amenities, the gym inside The Chelsea is something special. Instead of just a few treadmills and weights thrown about, this workout space is one that showcases the latest in workout technology with expensive equipment that you won’t see in even some of the nicest gyms.
Residents will enter the gym utilizing their phones, of course, and will be greeted by a green-LED laden space hosting two full stories of workout equipment. The high ceilings are joined by massive garage-style windows that actually do open to the patio out front. Hennessey hopes to see residents utilize both spaces simultaneously and excitedly demonstrated how the gargantuan windows open at the touch of a button.
While I am no exercise expert, I have to imagine that even those who visit the gym much more than I do will spend a good deal of time just figuring out how to use certain pieces of equipment. I mean this in the best of ways. Some will be more simple than others, like the Pelotons, weights, and treadmills. However, residents will also have access to a “smart” boxing exercise, smart mirrors with workout classes, and yoga controlled by an iPad projected onto a large wall. At each machine with a smart feature, there is a barcode that you can scan with your phone that will bring up instructions to help you figure out just what it is you are supposed to be doing. Although they may be intimidating at first, it is one of the best use of QR codes that I have seen in that there is a simple action, followed by a simple explanation, carried out with ease just next to the equipment.
Indoor/outdoor space is a big theme on display at The Chelsea, and residents will also have access to space to the side of the building to hang out with their pets. While a lot of apartment buildings are adding some simple dog runs, Hennessey and his team took things another step forward.
With murals, swings, and a sizable grassy run, residents will have access to a space outdoors that would also serve as a great place to read or just enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Murals have a big presence at The Chelsea, both outside in the dog park, and inside the gym as well. Color and greenery are just about everywhere.
The outdoors action continued well into the tour, with a large amenity space facing Pershing located on the second floor. According to Hennessey, their pool area is modeled off of resorts and designed for their mid-20s demographic. Alongside the large pool are several pillars that will shoot fire upward, with fountains, grills, and even a bar on top of it all. While the pool deck is still incomplete, they are shooting to be ready for their residents in the next few weeks.
Many residential units will also open directly into the pool deck. Some units are on the same floor and have their patios literally open to the deck. In other words, they could hop out of bed and directly into the pool on nice days. Other apartments on the floors above will simply have decks overlooking the pool and other apartments on Pershing – this seems to be the other options for those who want a little more distance from the noise and activity below.
The second story pool deck directly connects to the “Barcade”, with large windows and doors bringing the pool area’s light and atmosphere inside. This space is one of my favorites that Hennessey was able to show me. If you’re looking to place classic arcade games, pinball, pool, or even skeeball, this is the place. It would be an excellent place to bring your family, friends, or other guests to hang out outside of your unit.
For gamers who prefer a controller, Hennessy and The Chelsea have something special to offer. Available for every day use: NES, Gamecube, PlayStation (1 & 5 – a purchase I was told was not easy and very expensive), and more. The television is surrounded by plaques of classic retro video games framed carefully with love. If you are at all nostalgic about old video games, this place will win over your heart.
Of course, there’s also the “bar” part of “barcade” – and it does not disappoint. With 6 different beers on tap, residents can pay for their drinks by the ounce by holding their phones up to the scanner while pouring their brew. There will also be special events with discounted pricing – as Hennessey noted, they have a tendency to hold pool parties at their new properties.
Believe it or not, there are still more impressive amenity spaces to cover. Hennessey and LuxLiving are hoping to create a place where residents have it all without having to leave the building. Something I appreciated about the spaces is that they tend to promote physical or social activity, or both.
The Golf Lounge is a space residents can reserve either to watch the big game…or to play in one. The room, with its loft-height ceilings and splashy interior design, will put your friends’ Superbowl parties to shame. The humungous projector serves duel purposes: watching and playing. The projector is hooked up to a nearby computer with a golf simulator that recreates actual PGA tournaments for residents to play.
How does this nifty golf simulator work? Well, you grab one of the many actual golf clubs in the room, stand on the green, choose a PGA map, and whack the actual golf ball as hard and direct as you can. As the ball hits the projector, the simulator can record how far and where it is going, and it will proceed to create a virtual mockup of your golf ball flying somewhere on the golf course. It also shows tons of data about your shot for you to brag to your friends or family who actually golf.
When residents finish their 18 holes or wrap up at the gym, they’ll be able to relax at The Chelsea’s spa. Hennessey saved this part for last on our tour, allowing me to see the room just as it neared completion. While the large glass divider in the room was on the way, the spa still impresses. I’m not talking about a simple pet spa – a commonplace luxury apartment building amenity – but an actual, human scaled spa.
With a steam room, sauna, and television designed to connect to relaxation apps, the rooms are intended to offer a break from work unmatched by any other apartments in the St. Louis area. My favorite touch was the ceiling lights that are meant to resemble stars when the steam room is activated.
The Chelsea is also intended to be the perfect place for a work-from-home lifestyle. Without having to go far, you can find a comfortable place to work, coffee, lunch, your next workout, recreation, and relaxation. Of course, the building also includes flexible workspaces, a business lounge, and a marketplace filled to the brim with frozen pizzas, drinks, and other snacks that can all be paid for with a fingerprint.
Although it would seem that residents have much they can do outside of their units, the apartments themselves certainly have a lot to offer. They are perhaps some of the highest tech apartments that I have seen as of late. All that begins in the elevators, with the same phone-tap functionality as a security mechanism that allows the elevator to access your floor.
Once in the hallway, residents are greeted with a swanky interior that reminded me of some of the more luxurious hotels in Las Vegas – think Wynn/Encore, Aria, Vdara, etc. With a dark color palette and clever lighting features, along with some rather fancy looking art, the hallway itself deserves some attention and praise. If you were hoping to impress your parents or significant other, this just may do the trick. The entry to each unit has a LED-lit room number, and the doors themselves are substantial. To access your unit, you again, you guessed it, tap your phone to the scanner on the handle. Morale of the story: do not lose your phone.
The first unit I saw was a 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. As soon as the door opened, I was surprised to see the amount of natural light in the space. The first thing you’ll see is the kitchen, and most of the kitchens in the building are pretty similar. While on the sixth floor there are a couple of extra niceties like a gorgeous range hood, every unit has a smart refrigerator, 2x thickness quartz countertops, tons of cabinet space, all stainless appliances, a large designer faucet, and LED lighting above and below you. The unit pictured below includes the range hood.
There is, of course, a large sputnik light included as well. The smart refrigerators are in every unit down to the studios too – meaning that everyone has an additional screen to interact with. The 2x thickness quartz countertops really do look and feel nice as well. Their color really goes well with the flooring and paint to create a very open and airy vibe.
What might not be immediately obvious is that every bit of the apartment is filled with technology. The sixth floor unit pictured here has a special surround sound speaker system already built into the ceiling with easy plug-and-play controls for residents. However, every unit also will have an Amazon Alexa in addition to a Google Nest WiFi Thermostat. While the Nest Thermostats might seem initially gimmicky, I was glad to see them here because they are generally more sustainable than normal thermostats. With their smart programming controls, it tends to conserve energy in the long run.
For every Chelsea unit, saving energy might not be the most important priority for residents because their energy, water, and other utilities including Internet are all included in the rent (even 1 parking spot). That said, with no real incentives to conserve on the financial side, having a more sustainable solution with the Nest is a good idea.
The gallery just below shows the rest of the 2-bedroom unit. Each bathroom is a full bathroom, and both have rainfall showerheads. One in particular, in the second photo below, also has water that can shoot from the wall to create a more immersive experience. There are also two separate walk-in closets, in addition to a full washer and dryer setup.
Hennessey also took me to see one of the studio units on the fifth floor. With just over 400 square feet, space is utilized incredibly well. It helps that the model is furnished, which residents can opt in for, to help visualize how space can best be used. I have lived in a studio at a luxury apartment building before, and the design of this unit is far more intentional than what I am used to for a similar square footage.
Studios still boast a full-size kitchen with the same impressive set of appliances – even a kitchen island! Though, I do imagine that island will double as your only dining table. There is, of course, still a full bathroom with the same great materials, lots of storage space, and a washer and dryer in the hallway. While it may not seem like much to those who are used to more space, I hope you’ll take my word for it that this furnished studio is one of the best around.
Having never embarked on a 90+ minute tour before of an apartment building, I would have never quite expected the amount of fun activities and amenities that residents at The Chelsea will have access to. I have seen some of the most historic, expensive, and expansive units in the city, but this building does truly offer something special.
I’m encouraged to see this kind of investment in the city. Of course we need investments for all incomes and in all neighborhoods (some of which, as we discussed earlier, are in greater need than others), but having some place that’s a little extra, that goes a bit wild, brings me joy. Perhaps we’ll retain a few more college graduates or attract a few other young professionals, and one way or another, we’ll have more people enjoying our beautiful city.
QuikTrip, a privately held company with gas stations across the St. Louis metro area and beyond, is looking to expand their holdings in South County with a controversial new location. The company, with nearly 70 separate stations across Greater St. Louis, has its sights set on 5039 Lemay Ferry at Butler Hills Rd.
The location is currently occupied by the Kassebaum Building, a historic, two-story mixed use structure that is #26 on the list of Historical Landmarks in St. Louis County. Built in 1913, the building was just barely spared by a highway widening and was first constructed in what was at the time an unplanned settlement. The full building history is available on the St. Louis County website.
The Kassebaum Building – Google Maps
South County is not known for much urbanist and human-scaled architecture, home to relatively suburban municipalities and neighborhoods that are generally car dependent. The Kassebaum is one of the few remaining commercial structures in South County that was designed for people, not cars – with mixed uses and not overrun with parking. The intersection would lose its last breath of historic character should the demolition occur and upon the construction of new QuikTrip.
Mehlville, Concord, Sappington, and Green Park residents would have to drive significantly farther to escape the suburbs and experience mixed uses that have been preserved for over a century. Worse yet, residents gain very little with a new gas station. The Kassebaum is located in the highlighted section below, where residents already have easy access to over a dozen other options within just a few miles. That list includes a QuikTrip just North of 255.
St. Louis has a long history of demolishing historic, urban form for suburban developments that significantly lower tax revenues and preserve a car-centric culture. From the City and its legacy of urban renewal that tore down dense, predominantly Black housing to the County and its municipalities razing entire historic neighborhoods for highways, the region has a poor record of preservation. However, to place the blame entirely on the various local governments would be to ignore the fact that many corporations are primary offenders in this process.
QuikTrip, for example, has contributed significantly to the process. Razing the Kassebaum would not be its first transgression, with other recent stations tearing down historic buildings even closer to the Central Corridor. At its Jefferson and Chouteau location, two mixed-use buildings were torn down – NextSTL.
The Jefferson and Chouteau QuikTrip is perhaps nearly as harmful, if not more, in that it demolished urban form and good 2-3 story density very near to the City’s strongest urban corridor, Just a couple miles from Downtown and near some incredibly dense and thriving neighborhoods, opportunities for retail and residential living were taken away as St. Louis plunged itself even further down the rabbit hole of being unfriendly to pedestrians. Such decisions directly contradict other urban efforts like transit-oriented development, extended Metro access, and even tend to encourage harmful behaviors like driving (both in terms of how it affects the environment and the obvious notion that walking and biking is healthier).
While it is unlikely that the QuikTrip proposed at the Kassebaum site will be stopped or amended, St. Louis residents from the County and City alike should question whether a city is most successful as a suburban, sprawled, and car-oriented landscape versus a more urban, dense, and walkable city. Doubling down on an urban design focused on cars means doubling down on environmentally unsustainable practices instead of one that fosters healthier lifestyles, environmental sustainability, and successful corner shops with mixed residential uses. Change will take time, but St. Louis needs to really consider whether an additional gas station is worth erasing historical architecture and sliding the region backward.
For now at least, it seems that the Kassebaum QuikTrip will continue modeling the former. In respect of the rich history of the original building, QuilTrip plans to include a small brick “Kassebaum” sign at the corner.
Green Street has multiple projects underway in the St. Louis area, with hundreds of units coming online in St. Louis City and a humungous proposal to revitalize Old Webster in St. Louis County. We recently reported their quick growth as they are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars and tons of new infill to the region.
In their latest press release, Green Street announced that Thomas “Toby” Martin has been named Green Street’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective immediately. We have been told that the company is hiring quickly and reorganizing to accommodate for their growth, while the firm is also vertically integrating with its recent acquisition of HDA Architects.
Martin previously worked in senior roles at other large real estate firms including Cushman, Duke Realty, and NAI Desco Commercial. He also started his own real estate firm, Martin Properties, in 2004. Martin will work alongside Joel Oliver, who has been promoted to Managing Director and Senior VP of Development. They intend to work closely with CFO Luke Pope to identify new markets and opportunities for future developments.
“Joel has done an incredible job of sourcing creative financing to support our workforce housing model…With his guidance, we will be able to duplicate our efforts in multiple communities where the need is great.”
Phil Hulse, founder and CEO of Green Street.
Green Street recently completed HueSTL, part of the Chroma development, in FPSE. Missouri-Metro was invited by Liz DeBold Austin, SVP of Marketing, as it neared completion for a construction tour to share with our readers. Hue is now at or near occupancy, and Green Street is working quickly to complete the nearby Terra and Union-STL developments just south of Manchester in FPSE, often referred to as “The Grove”. We have included some recent photos of the construction below, where fences have just gone up and construction equipment is onsite.
Stay tuned for more development updates here at Missouri-Metro.
Developer Bamboo Equity Partners is moving forward quickly with their plans to redevelop the historic 300 S Broadway building just adjacent to the quickly-growing Ballpark Village. The building has seen a host of proposals, even a skyscraper concept that would be one of the tallest buildings in St. Louis if completed.
While the more flashy skyscraper proposal, created by HDA Architects, did not move forward, Bamboo Equity Partners decided to maintain the historic brick façade and renovate the vacant structure into ballpark adjacent apartments. Downtown’s residential population has steadily been growing over the past decade, with sky-high occupancy and multiple new multifamily projects either under construction or just proposed. Cordish’s One Cardinal Way is nearly 90% occupied just down the street, and it seems as though Bamboo Equity Partners saw value in being just next to a National Park, the Cardinals’, and the entertainment venues at Ballpark Village.
While their initial plans for the building included a penthouse addition to the roof of 300 S. Broadway with views into Busch Stadium, just revised plans amended the rooftop to be a smaller lounge and outdoor amenity space for all residents. However, some urbanists are disappointed that Bamboo Equity Partners appears to have scrapped their plans for ground-floor retail, opting instead for apartments directly on Broadway. For a development in the heart of Downtown and right next to Ballpark Village, this may be a missed opportunity, one albeit that may represent the new retail environment created by COVID-19.
“Penthouse addition with apartments and bleachers scrapped per plans posted on the SLDC planroom. Club room and terrace remains. Also interesting to note, the first floor will feature apartments facing Broadway. “
Regardless, this will likely still be a huge benefit for Downtown St. Louis, which has over the past few years chipped away steadily at the abandoned buildings that grace its skyline. Combined with other recent projects like the Jefferson Arms renovation and the incredible progress along Washington Avenue, Downtown may just run out of abandoned buildings in the not too distant future to rehabilitate. Moreover, this will contribute to the day and nighttime populations in the city’s urban core, helping provide stability to neighboring businesses. We hope that ground-floor retail may make a return sometime, but this will still be an excellent place for residents with the incredible amount of amenities nearby.