Butler Brothers Building next on the Downtown Revitalization Machine

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.

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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.

Location of the Butler Brothers building – Google Maps

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.

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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.

Green Street to Complete STL City HQ and BarK Dog Bar in Fall 21, sees Record Revenue

Real estate development firm Green Street and its younger counterpart Green Street Building Group are bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to St. Louis City and County in 2021, with hundreds of under construction units set to come online in the coming year. With its humungous Terra at the Grove and six smaller developments next-door, just South of Manchester in STL City’s historic Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, Green Street is doubling down on its investment in the city proper.

As part of its recent slate of investments in the city, Green Street is also moving its headquarters from Clayton, the region’s business and office hub, to a revitalized industrial building on McRee in the City of St. Louis in Botanical Heights. The development will see the space completely remodeled and will include the St. Louis region’s first BarK dog bar. BarK has been highly successful at its Kansas City location, and includes a restaurant, bar, and park for members to bring their dogs to play and socialize.

Rendering of the BarK and Green Street HQ – Green Street

The new HQ and BarK development will see a complete renovation of 4565 McRee, a 64000 square foot warehouse with nearly 2 acres of outdoor space. Despite the building’s proximity to Tower Grove and The Grove, the McRee corridor is more well known for its industrial warehouses than it is for residential or commercial uses. However, with the incredible growth and investment in the City’s Central Corridor and surrounding neighborhoods, even industrial sections are becoming more highly demanded as space becomes more of a premium.

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Many St. Louisans might be surprised to see the strength of the St. Louis City market, but the Central Corridor has seen billions in new investment over the past few years. With a new MLS stadium, residential skyscrapers like 100 on the Park and One Cardinal Way, and historic renovations including Green Street’s Armory project and the nearby City Foundry from The Lawrence Group, the city is regaining its reputation for attractive services and amenities.

With that said, there is still a significant disparity in St. Louis investment, one many readers may likely know well. The region’s “Delmar Divide” is a well-known phenomenon that represents the effects and continuation of historic and systemic racism and segregation. Even now, investment lags North of the Central Corridor more than anywhere else.

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Green Street recently introduced a new investment firm, dubbed Emerald Capital, with the intent to invest in historically low-income communities. Emerald Capital, according to Green Street’s recent press release, will collaborate with non-profit and for-profit entities, as well as their recently acquired architectural firm, HDA Architects, to utilize complex tax credits comprehensively in order to bridge the investment gap across St. Louis neighborhoods.

With the many upcoming developments including the under construction Union-STL project, Terra at the Grove, and the recently announced $250 million development in Webster Groves, we expect that we will have many more renderings and details to share soon for multiple developments. Their recent success with Chroma in The Grove, as well as the recently completed HueSTL, which we covered here at Missouri Metro while it was under construction, have already seen incredibly high occupancy and absorption. Enough so where Green Street released a presser announcing $20 million in additional revenue over the last year alone.

Rendering of Green Street’s proposed “Old North” Webster Groves development

While their units could be classified in the luxury segment, it certainly bodes well for the St. Louis market and the potential for future residential growth in the city that developers are bullish on providing hundreds, and cumulatively thousands of units, over the next few years. We hope that Green Street will continue including workforce housing in its developments, and share St. Louisans hope that other parts of the city will see equitable development and growth soon. The good news is, as Chris Stritzel at CitySceneSTL recently reported, it seems North City may finally be seeing some hints of growth and investment in his excellent article here.

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Jefferson Arms Apartments Downtown Moving Forward – Reviving the Historic, Abandoned Building

Downtown St. Louis’ residential revival is moving at a very quick pace. While the urban core of the St. Louis region has its difficulties, residential occupancy is not one of them. The 2019 Downtown Residential Occupancy Report indicates that there is a 92.4% overall occupancy rate, with a 23% 5-year population growth. These numbers are staggering and reflect a Downtown with a strengthening residential component, creating a more mixed-use neighborhood.

Figure provided in the 2019 Downtown Residential Occupancy Report

Developers have been quick to notice Downtown’s residential growth and limited availability, completing dense new infill like at One Cardinal Way and proposing hundreds of new units on Washington Ave. and Spruce St. For Downtown St. Louis, a neighborhood that has a history of residential, commercial, and hotel abandonment, the recent decade has been one of significant revitalization as it works to recover its status as a 24/7, vibrant community.

Developer Alterra Worldwide is working on one of the larger proposals for Downtown STL with the Jefferson Arms Apartments, located at 415 N Tucker on the Western edge of Downtown. The building has a long history, first having opened to the public the day before the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis under the name Hotel Jefferson. The hotel hosted two Democratic National Conventions in the early 1900s, and for years offered luxury rooms and events to St. Louisans. After having been sold to different hotel chains a few times in the mid-1900s, it was converted to elderly residences in the late 1970s.

Google Maps view of Downtown St. Louis and the location of the Jefferson Arms building

The Jefferson Arms building has over a century of history and importance not just to the St. Louis area, but to the country as a whole and those who visited St. Louis at the height of its national reputation. In 2003, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, unfortunately just a few years before it would become vacant. In 2006, another developer, Pyramid Construction, emptied the building for planned condominiums, which never came to be. Since 2006, the building has remained vacant and deteriorated overtime, making the building one of the largest empty, abandoned buildings in Downtown.

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Alterra Worldwide acquired the Jefferson Arms building in 2017, but has since received considerable criticism for its anti-union stance with construction and significant delays in their proposed timeline. It has since resolved its labor dispute in late 2020, and received an extension from the City of St. Louis as it appears they just may be ready to gear up for construction soon. The City is giving Alterra until 2025 to wrap up their renovation, which is expected to cost just over $100 million.

UPDATE (2.21.2021): Media officials with connections to Alterra Worldwide have confirmed that all taxes owed have been completely paid to the city. There is not a tax burden remaining. Mayor Krewson confirmed today to Missouri-Metro that she required all taxes be paid before signing the Board Bill.

Alterra Worldwide is also hoping to help finance the proposal with a CID (Community Improvement District) and TDD (Transportation Development District), which would ensure that a small tax would incur for purchases made on the property, or sometimes just around the property, to aid the developers with large redevelopment costs. On December 16, a Board of Aldermen panel approved the proposal 7-1, with Alderman Cara Spencer being the only dissenting vote. On January 15, the full BOA approved the project, also granting the developers $17.3 million in TIFs (Tax-Incremented Financing). As the St. Louis Business Journal reports, the developer still owes multiple years of property taxes on the building to the city, totaling just over $119,000. However, the developer has paid some of their prior tax burden now, which previously totaled around $230,000.

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If this project does finally move ahead, it will offer a mixed conclusion for a huge, historic building. While the end result will certainly salvage a building that the city should absolutely preserve, the developer has shown it is struggling to bring the project to fruition, amidst their friction with organized labor and their tax burden. The project is only possible with quite a lot of financing provided by the city, at least according to the developers, and while it will eventually likely make up for the cost in eventual property and sales taxes, it is an investment with a large burden upon the city and its residents.

That said, revitalizing the city’s urban core likely will remain a top priority for St. Louis officials, and there is no doubt that significant progress has already been made to that end. Downtown St. Louis is the key to preserving an economically competitive, vibrant, and historic city, and regardless of the friction on this project, added density to the tune of 239 apartments and a 198-room Marriott branded hotel will bring life to a section of Downtown that certainly needs it.

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