KDG Nixes Clayton Developments, Doubles Down on City

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.

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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.

Rendering above attributed to U.S. Capital Development of the under-construction Forsyth Pointe office buildings

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.

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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.

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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.

Aerial Overview Rendering – St. Louis April 7 TIF Agenda

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.

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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.

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Cortex Master Plan

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.

St. Louis Post Dispatch Garners Criticism for “Irresponsible” Headlines and Racially Insensitive Editorials

The St. Louis Post Dispatch, like many print newspapers across the U.S., must confront a more difficult environment as online media diverts customers away from more traditional news sources. Even as legacy organizations like the Post seek to adapt, growth seems nearly out of the question. Rather, of the 25 largest legacy print newspapers across the country, including the Post, average weekday circulation was dropping at nearly double digit rates year over year as of 2010 – when the Post publicized its own circulation woes.

It is within this context of a changing media landscape and a shift to online readership that allows us to begin to make sense of the Post’s newer business model. Like many of its online peers, from legacy news media to online powerhouses like BuzzFeed, there has been a growing importance of a sensational headline. Angèle Christin, a researcher and Assistant Professor of Communication at Stanford found that newsrooms across the country are being transformed by metrics and data to increase advertising revenue, often utilizing “clickbait” to draw interest in to an article.

“As online advertising became increasingly competitive, news organizations did what they had to do to survive in this new environment,”

Angèle Christin
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The Post is doing just that, relying on clickbait to increase digital advertising revenues as a result of a greater number of clicks. Of course, as explained by the BBC, clickbait can also be a harmful journalistic strategy. With sensationalized headlines fueling clicks, and therefore revenue, the actual substance of the article behind the headline may be entirely unlike what readers expected. These headlines can be misleading, incorrect, or downright harmful. And while there is nothing inherently bad about news organizations utilizing more modern techniques to drive revenue, there is something wrong if this strategy puts real lives in danger or dilutes truly important stories.

Before diving too deep into the Post Dispatch, it’s important to recognize just how important local news organizations are. For reducing or exposing corruption, explaining hot-button political issues, or simply building community, local news is very valuable. Local issues can often be the most impactful and tangible issues that people face. Local corruption and potholes affect you every day. The decline of local news has already resulted in tangible harms to democratic norms. Of course, without the veneer of national political partisanship that national news organizations adhere to, they can also carry a greater degree of trust. That trust and responsibility can, however, be ignored or abused.

There are certainly enough examples of major publications using misleading or vague headlines to lure readers in. The Post Dispatch has plenty of company in this practice. In fact, CNN’s homepage on the morning of 4/21 has a COVID story with a headline that could possibly mislead.

Photo of a CNN article with clickbait title

In this example, the article pulls a reader in because vaccines are currently mired in partisan controversy despite the scientific evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective and remarkably safe. This article utilizes the public controversy to its benefit, ideally bringing in vaccine skeptics who wish to prove their viewpoint while simultaneously intriguing people who already view vaccines as safe. After all, if you see “concerning” next to “Covid-19 vaccine demand”, it raises some questions. While this headline might be dangerous, perhaps that is only the case on the margins. There are much more dangerous examples and this headline likely does nothing beside reinforce existing beliefs.

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Any action that reduces vaccine trust and subsequent demand puts the public at risk. There have now been over 560,000 deaths resulting from COVID-19 in the United States, with a total of 31 million infections. That puts the death rate from COVID-19 at approximately 1.8%. Of course, many skeptics suggest that a 98% survival rate makes the U.S. response COVID-19 nothing more than an overreaction, but this death rate is simultaneously incredibly high still and not the full story. There are often lingering effects ranging in severity for COVID survivors.

“Nearly one-third of people with COVID-19 had lingering symptoms a median of 6 months after infection onset”

Judy George, MedpageToday

The study also suggested that people who experience these long-lasting symptoms may face ranging effects from fatigue to persistent loss of smell or taste. As the study notes, many of these individuals are young and otherwise healthy, indicating that even those who are at low risk of death still may well face lasting effects.

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This is a long way of suggesting the very clear and obvious notion that the risks of getting COVID-19 on your health are substantially – almost unbelievably – higher than any risks from the vaccine. There are now over 86 million fully vaccinated individuals in the U.S. alone, and there have been some cases where fully vaccinated individuals get sick. The number, as of last week, was 5800 – a miniscule 0.006% of those fully vaccinated. We already knew the vaccines were not 100% effective, but these numbers suggest that they are even MORE effective than the numbers initially suggested. Of those infected post-vaccination, only 74 died. That means that your odds of being infected post-vaccination and dying are 0.00008%.

The Post Dispatch, however, went a full step further than CNN with a headline on April 19 that could fundamentally harm vaccine trust and increase hesitancy. Any person who subsequently choose to not get vaccinated puts their lives at significantly higher risk and damages the public health and potential for herd immunity for the entire region.

This headline is simple and impactful. Writing only that “71 in St. Louis County test positive for COVID-19 after full vaccination” leaves more questions than answers. Most of those questions intentionally would center around vaccine efficacy. The headline capitalizes off of vaccine concern and is the kind of material that can easily be shared as vaccine misinformation. Of course, reading the article or the very small text beneath clarifies that these cases are uncommon, but that’s not the part most people will notice.

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In other words, the Post Dispatch is using vaccine hesitancy as a source of profit through clickbait. They are doing so at a time where vaccine demand is meeting supply, both in the region and more broadly across the United States. The effort needed to push the U.S. and the St. Louis area toward herd immunity will be gargantuan, and it will require institutional stakeholders and media doing the opposite of fear mongering for profit. If the Post Dispatch had altered its headline to include a note about vaccine safety or the unlikely chance of “breakthrough cases”, then at least it could have been neutral.

Users on social media were quick to call this headline “irresponsible”, noting just how difficult it has been to coordinate a coherent public health response with a skeptical public. Giving material to conspiracy theorists who do not trust vaccines is certainly not helpful for beneficial for anything but their bottom line. But, as should be expected, evoking anger and anxiety leads to more clicks.

While there is certainly an argument to be made about the unhealthy connection between news media, particularly local news, and capitalism, that is not the point of this article even as it should still be explored. While local news can be instrumental for the health of a region through exposing corruption and informing the public, staff writers need to make enough to support themselves and the infrastructure of a print-media organization doesn’t come cheap either. Even here at Missouri-Metro, we use ads to pay for the site infrastructure. You’ve probably seen a few in this article alone.

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Of course, while we should be rooting for the success of the Post Dispatch and hoping for its staff to shape a positive presence in the region, neither their headline writers, editors, or Editorial Board seem particularly interested in doing so.

On the heels of Mayor Jones’ victory on April 6, a dramatic electoral shift we covered here, the Editorial Board at the St. Louis Post Dispatch quickly released a number of articles that showcased some extreme racial insensitivities and cognitive distortions.

The first dropped on April 8th, titled “Editorial: New Mayor, same jail crisis. Someone needs to convey a sense of urgency.” This article, as you probably noticed, similarly uses clickbait to lead the reader to incorrect conclusions. Of Course, Mayor Jones would not even be inaugurated for another 12 days and was still building her transition team following an electoral victory just 2 days prior. The headline is written to direct the reader to the conclusion that Mayor Jones had already been slacking on her job. It does not use the correct term for her position, which at the time was simply Mayor-Elect, not the actual St. Louis Mayor.

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While the article brings up valid concerns about how the city must address its jail crisis, it does so first by tearing down the city’s first Black woman Mayor 12 days before she’d even hold the role. The Editorial Board goes on to suggest that Mayor-Elect Jones’ plan to close the “workhouse” jail will just make the current situation worse at the Downtown jail.

That may or may not be true, but the article suggests that then Mayor-Elect Jones lacked a sense of “urgency” on the matter, using a loaded term that suggests a lack of preparedness or care. Where they could possibly reach that outcome is unclear given that Jones had released a statement about the Community Justice Center uprising the very next day.

In her statement, she addresses the very concerns noted about locks and conditions that the Editorial Board unceremoniously roasts her for not considering. They also give no airtime to the reason why Jones and other city progressives are looking to close the “workhouse” jail, simply chocking it up to adopting “the mantra of progressive activists”. However, this position completely talks down the importance of the various reasons progressives and others are seeking changes to the city’s jail and criminal justice systems. The average inmate at the Community Justice Center spends 344 days behind bars before their trial. The city’s other jail, known as the “workhouse” has an international reputation as a “modern-day debtors’ prison” full of black mold and rats.

Simply ignoring these horrendous conditions that predominantly impact the Black community in St. Louis, while writing off the preparedness and care for the issue of the city’s first Black Mayor, is not a good luck. 90% of those imprisoned at the workhouse are Black, and evidently their conditions are of little importance to the Editorial Board.

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In another April 8th piece, titled “Editorial: Jones must employ deft diplomacy to build bridges with those she has attacked”, the Editorial Board nullifies Jones’ regional relationships, diplomatic capability, and the validity of her entire campaign and the platform she ran on. Ignoring that the Post Dispatch Editorial Board endorsed her opponent, Cara Spencer, who ran on a fairly similar progressive platform, these claims should be validated if they bother to make them.

In one example of Jones’ supposedly having a tenuous relationship of those she must work with, the Editorial Board bring up Police Union head Jeff Roorda. Jones did in fact say that Roorda would not have a seat at her table, but Spencer also called for the very same thing. The Board calls this an example of Jones’ “vengeful tendencies”, but if that was the case, why is the same not applied to her opponents or most progressive St. Louis politicians? Moreover, why use Roorda at all when he lobbed insults at Jones like “laziest-legislator-of-all-time”, “cop-hater” and “race-baiter”. Despite his herculean efforts to appose police reforms, his own actions get no airtime with the Post Dispatch Editorial Board in this piece.

If the Editorial Board took the time to write a whole piece about her broken relationships, then there must be other examples, right? The only others mentioned are the Board of Aldermen, Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and the city bureaucracy itself. Perhaps there is some distrust between the Aldermen and the Mayor as that usually tends to be the case. It is not as though Mayor Krewson always got along with the legislative body. In fact Krewson was steadfastly in favor of Board reduction, a position that did not gain much favor with many Aldermen. Moreover, she had a tenuous relationship with the more progressive members of the legislative body.

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So where does Mayor Jones stand with these important relationships? Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed promised to endorse Jones if he did not proceed to the runoff, as would end up being the case. She already has his support, but what about the rest of the Board? With the success of the #FlipTheBoard and the newly dominant progressive majority on the Board, Jones has a rare opportunity to make progress on her progressive agenda. Jones had a full 14 current members endorse her run, versus just 4 for Spencer.

On the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, made up of just 3 elected officials including the Mayor, Board of Aldermen President, and Comptroller, Jones has similarly strong relationships. With Reed’s former endorsement and a strong statement of support by Comptroller Green, there seems to be far less strife than the Editorial Board would suggest.

With little real support for their strangely mean-spirited claims of poor diplomacy and relationships, the Board ends their piece with claims that Jones cannot be trusted with the $500 million windfall coming from the Federal Government and that her victory is anything but a mandate. They suggest that the money is not “solely hers to spend as she likes”, as though Jones had ever suggested that it would be. Rather, she has adopted a community input plan for the funds alongside a promise to “work with the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and Board of Aldermen to appropriate stimulus funds”.

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The Editorial Board falls victim to stereotypes about Black people that are still woefully common to see today. It’s a common stereotype that Black Americans just don’t know how to manage their money, or that they cannot be trusted with their finances. There is a rather good explanation on this stereotype here that I recommend you take a few minutes to read. Regardless, it is evident that the Post Dispatch Editorial Board simply does not trust Jones to uphold her responsibility even though the voters widely adopted her as their new Mayor. Even that victory is downplayed, with her majority 52% support not counting as mandate to the Editorial Board.

We’ve covered just how important the role of local media can be for cities. Here in St. Louis, the responsibility is even greater. With historic levels of violence, the COVID-19 pandemic, a State Government that seems intent on neutering big city agendas, and politicians who need to be held accountable, there is certainly enough material. Yet, instead of utilizing the very real issues responsibly, the Post Dispatch utilizes racial tropes and stereotypes to further false narratives. They also use fear mongering and misdirection through clickbait, influencing potentially deadly behaviors and sowing distrust in the most important public health battle of our generation.

Where did the Post Dispatch take this turn toward racism and irresponsibility? That will be important to explore, and even more important will be the necessity of resolving these issues to resume and correct its important role in our society. For now, it is incumbent on readers to beware of its recent tendencies and to demand better from what can and should be one of our greatest assets.

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First Look at St. Louis’ Newest Luxury Smart Apartments: The Chelsea by LuxLiving

Preface

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

Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro

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.

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Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro | The Chelsea is the larger building on the right, as its older cousin The Tribeca fills out the left side.

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.

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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.

Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro
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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.

Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro | The Lobby at LuxLiving’s The Chelsea

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.

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Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro | The Café at The Chelsea

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Photo by Brian Adler, Missouri-Metro | Living Room at The Chelsea
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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.

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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.

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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.

Missouri House Republicans Block Voter-Passed Constitutional Amendment for Medicaid Expansion

The Missouri House Budget Committee, led by Republican legislators who carry a supermajority, voted 20-9 along party lines to deny funding to the Medicaid Expansion. Missouri voters authorized the Medicaid Expansion last August, with just over 53% of voters choosing to back an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would expand Medicaid eligibility to individuals and families up to 138% of the Federal poverty line. As Missouri’s Medicaid program stands right now, most adults without children are not covered and its income eligibility is one of the lowest in the nation.

A comment from Rep. Walsh’s Twitter account

Republicans in Missouri have argued that Missouri cannot afford the expense of expanding Medicaid coverage. However, 90% of the funding is provided to states by the Federal government, and many believe that the program may even save Missouri taxpayers money. As reported by NPR, a Washington University in St. Louis study found that over 230,000 Missourians would benefit from the program in a state where over 9% are uninsured. The study also showed that Missouri may save nearly $39 million a year.

Although nearly 1 in 3 rural Republican voters in the August election voted in favor of the expansion, some Republican legislators are distorting the outcome of the election. According to House Rep. Sara Walsh of Ashland “Rural Missouri said no…I don’t believe it is the will of the people to bankrupt our state.” Democratic representatives have responded in force, arguing that with higher than expected state revenues, more than $1.1 billion from the Federal government specifically allocated to the expansion from the latest relief bill, and expected cost saves that Republicans are not following the will of the voters or the facts.

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Missouri Democrats plan on re-introducing the funding measure to the broader House floor alongside the rest of the budget presented. However, there is no guarantee that their efforts will be successful. The end result is likely to still result in a funded measure, but whether it is through legislative action or lawsuits remains unclear.

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300 S Broadway Plans Amended

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.

Featured Photo Credit: Bamboo Equity Partners
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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. “

Chris Stritzel summarizing the latest updates from the SLDC Planroom – 3/3/2021

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.

Map View of 300 S. Broadway from Google Maps
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Featured Photo Credit: Bamboo Equity Partners

St. Louis City’s First Foray With ‘Approval Voting’ Begins March 2nd

St. Louis City is poised to have its first municipal election utilizing ‘Approval Voting‘, a method of voting that voters overwhelmingly adopted in November 2020 with the passing of Proposition D. Tomorrow’s March 2nd municipal primary election will be the first time St. Louis voters get to vote for more than one candidate for a given office. St. Louis is one of the first U.S. cities to adopt such a measure, with Fargo being the first just under a year ago.

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While voters are used to choosing a single candidate, the city’s new voting system passes with Proposition D allows voters to choose multiple candidates that they approve of. There is still a primary and a general election, with the primary taking place March 2nd and the general/runoff on April 6th, but the candidates in the runoff will no longer represent the top candidate from either party.

Missouri-Metro & Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association Video on Approval Voting

Instead, Proposition D has instituted nonpartisan Approval Voting, which seeks to create more opportunity for different ideas and parties to gain momentum and make an impact on elections usually dominated by the two-party system. Moreover, the new system is intended to better reflect actual voting preferences. Proponents of Approval Voting explain that under the more traditional ‘Plurality Voting’ method utilized in most of the U.S. and formerly in St. Louis, voters often chose the “lesser of two evils” rather than their most preferred candidate. The reasoning behind doing so rested in seeking to prevent your worst case scenario rather than improving the chances for your favorite candidate.

“Approval voting gives voters more power by allowing them to select all the candidates they wish, avoiding issues with vote-splitting, spoiler candidates, and strategic voting. Many political scientists believe it is a very representative system.”

https://stlapproves.org/faq

Just how does Approval Voting supposedly better reflect real preferences? On the March 2nd primary ballot, voters will not see party identifications, despite each candidate (at least in the Mayoral race) publicly tying themselves to a party. Moreover, and perhaps the most significant difference to St. Louisans, is that voters may vote, or “approve”, of as many candidates as they like on tomorrow’s ballot.

A sample ballot wherein a STL voter would “Approve” of every Mayoral candidate on March 2nd

The top two “approved” candidates, which are intended to reflect voters’ real interests, then would advance to the general election runoff on April 6, where only two candidates for a given seat will face off. Proponents of Approval Voting suggest that the top two candidates who make it to the runoff in April will have broader support than candidates who squeak by on a plurality.

The list of candidates for the March 2 primary can be found via St. Louis city here. Polls are open from 6AM to 7PM, and you can find your polling place here.

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OPINION | St. Louis’ Earnings Tax Must be Preserved

St. Louis City has for years relied upon its Earnings Tax revenue for a significant portion of its annual revenues, now comprising of over a third of the city’s expected revenue each year. In 2020, St. Louis raked in just over $191 million, a sum that has quickly grown over the past few years. With the city seeing incredible investment and high paying jobs in the medical, geospatial, and tech sectors at the Cortex, Downtown, and beyond, it has seen a 9.97% increase in revenue over the last two years alone.

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Although there is a real and warranted debate over how the city allocates its funds in relation to equity and incentives, there is no doubt that eliminating the revenue in one swift motion would be disastrous for the city, its growth, and its most vulnerable communities. Gregory Daily, the city’s Collector of Revenue, has been waging a long education campaign on the tax for some time, pointing out the direct impact on city services that residents rely on every day. From parks to streets and lighting, the Earnings Tax impacts every city resident. While many communities might not know their Neighborhood Stabilization Officers by name, these civil servants work incredibly hard to make our communities safer and more economically resilient.

Parks are imperative for public health, while emergency services are critical for maintaining the day-to-day safety of St. Louisans. While I share the views of many in our city that St. Louis, among most U.S. cities, spends too much on policing with too few positive results, police are but one aspect of critical emergency services. Moreover, the City is just now experimenting and investing in community-driven violence reduction through Cure Violence and emergency dispatch that redirects some calls away from police. These measures are not enough, but they are an important start as we strive to prevent horrific tragedies that have predominantly affected communities of color. Even now, we have difficulty adequately funding these new services. While I share the hopes of many that some police funds will be redirected to other innovative and community-driven programs, addressing inequalities becomes many times harder when lower revenues have to be split among the same number of services.

Tax Revenue since FY 2018 – St. Louis City

Perhaps the conversation would be different if opponents of Proposition E, the Earnings Tax, actually presented an alternate funding source for the City. If you’ve been paying attention – they haven’t. There is no plan to replace these funds, and the end result would be a City that has its budget nuked, cratering its budget with little time for the City to prepare. If you felt that St. Louis Streets crews were slower than you’d like already with plowing snowy streets or filling potholes, I expect that their performance would decline much more with significantly less money for employees or vehicle maintenance. For our already cash-strapped fleet of refuse vehicles much in need of service, citizens might expect less consistent trash pickup and more frequently overfilled dumpsters.

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While some might feel this is a deserved consequence for a bureaucracy that has not served everyone adequately, such a drastic and reactionary loss of revenue would do nothing to resolve the City’s shortcomings. Instead, St. Louis would struggle that much more to attract investment, new residents, and to invest critical dollars into its low-income neighborhoods. Tax dollars should go back into our communities, and it would be incredibly difficult to pass individual tax measures for individual programs that would be lost. Others might argue that the Earnings Tax prevents growth, population, and investment. At first glance, that argument is reasonable, but with hundreds of municipalities across the United States levying income taxes, including cities like Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, New York City, Philadelphia, and more, this argument falls flat quickly. In fact, St. Louis’ Earnings Tax tends to not even fall in the higher percentages of income taxes levied in comparable cities.

I urge all St. Louis City residents to Vote YES on Proposition E, to preserve our Earnings Tax, and to preserve our critical city services.

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Featured Image Credit: Tysports

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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Park Central Development Awards Small Businesses with Critical Grants

Park Central Development, a group that works to strengthen and attract investment that creates and maintains vibrant neighborhoods and commercial districts in the City of St. Louis, announced this afternoon a major round of grants toward St. Louis City businesses. Park Central works in several central St. Louis neighborhoods, including the CWE, Tiffany, Botanical Heights, FPSE, DeBaliviere Place, Cheltenham, Academy/Sherman Park, and Botanical Heights.

Announcement from Park Central Development’s Twitter

Small businesses in St. ,Louis and across the country are facing unprecedented hardship in the midst of a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted the United States. With nearly twice as many COVID deaths as any other country and a caseload that has just recently dipped below 100,000 cases a day in the most recent 7-day average, the U.S. has only recently began to significantly curb community spread. This reality has forced businesses to make huge investments in marketing and health-related investments while many consumers stay home to avoid contracting COVID-19.

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While many communities, from the City of St. Louis itself and St. Louis County have been working to connect small businesses with CARES Act funding, there is still a massive hole in the budgets of many small businesses. With this in mind, community groups, like Park Central Development, are aiming to shore up businesses and the communities that run and support them. Local economic success is critical for cities and those who reside in their bounds.

With its COVID-19 Small Business Stimulus Grant, PCD is allotting $4,000 to the following small businesses: Saigon Café, Pharaohs Donuts, STL Elite Bets, Northwest Coffee Roasting Company, Revoaked Sandwiches, BBC Café and Bar, Kampai Sushi Bar, The BBQ Saloon, and Juniper STL.

The businesses receiving the grant can use the funds for launching an online presence, PPE and other safety supplies, short-term marketing, utility payments, replenishing inventory, interior modifications for health purposes, and rent/mortgage payments. Many of these are fixed and capital costs that simply must be paid, like a business’ rent or mortgage payments that are usually non-negotiable. For businesses seeing reduced sales during the pandemic, this grant might be the difference between closing now and renewed success 3 months form now.

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Park Central Development plans on announcing future grant awards in blocks of 5 over the next couple months, and they announced on Twitter that applicants will also receive business resource guides and direct contact to apply for separate PPP loans. If you are looking to donate to a resource where 100% of donations go directly to small businesses, you can donate to Park Central’s small business fund at this link.

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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