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I’m your host, Brian Adler. This Week in Urbanism is designed to bring you up to speed on the latest in urban developments, infrastructure, policy, politics, rumors, and more that influence the urban experience in St. Louis. So, stick around and subscribe so you don’t miss the Friday morning shows as we take you on a journey showing how St. Louis is moving forward. If you want to listen a little early, check out our Patreon supporter page at patreon.com/brianadler to support this podcast.
Today is March 11th, 2022, and today, we’re going to talk about the many new high-rise towers that are going to change up the skyline and the St. Louis urban experience in the next few years.
Over the last few years, we’ve been on a building boom here in St. Louis. Our urban core has seen extensive investment ranging from Downtown St. Louis to Downtown Clayton, forming an ever-denser Central Corridor. We’ve discussed in the past how there is a large disparity in development based on race and location here in St. Louis, like in many other cities, but today we’re going to talk primarily about how this central corridor itself is really booming.
So why am I talking about towers? Well, I think they’re pretty cool for one! I like a good skyline. And you regular listeners know that I love some good density. One of the great things about high rise towers is that they’re efficient in land and utility usage, and when placed optimally, can really encourage walking, transit usage, and contribute to a 15-minute city and a more pleasant built environment.
Sometimes a tower isn’t what you want. Putting one in rural Missouri probably wouldn’t make sense, because you need enough demand to fill the many units and a location that serves the density. Without restaurants, transit, institutions, or other interesting things nearby, there’s little reason for people to live or work in one. Still, in an urban environment, they can be a great tool in city building. Of course, something awkward in STL is that we have an empty tower downtown – the AT&T tower. It’s actually under contract, and I’m hoping that the sale completes, but it’s important to note that sometimes when towers are built so large and with inefficient layouts, their reuse can be challenging because of the sheer cost.
Right, so let’s talk about some of what we’re going to see go up in the St. Louis area over the next few years. The first one that I want to talk about is really the one that I’m the most excited about. The Koplar family, a rather prolific developer in the region, announced a high-rise residential building to fill one of the vacant parking lots in the Central West End at Lindell and Kingshighway. I mean, you’ve got to go to the physical story I post on the website to check out the rendering. It looks incredibly. The building fronts Forest Park in one of the city’s best urban neighborhoods and will be directly adjacent to the impressive 100 on The Park building just next-door that keeps winning architectural awards. Anyway, this building will be just a smidgeon shorter and will have a curved, glass façade with rooftop amenities and balconies on some floors. It was designed to compliment both the 100 and the Chase Park Plaza next-door, a building designed by the grandfather of the Koplar family member who proposed this project.
The building is going to rise 30 stories above the park and have a total of 293 apartment units, with two ground-floor retail spaces and lots of amenities. So, to be clear, we’re talking about replacing a simple surface parking lot that was barely utilized with a gorgeous tower, retail, and density adjacent to one of the best urban parks in the country, tons of restaurants, and light-rail nearby. That’s phenomenal. The Central West End skyline is growing quickly, and the nearby 100 on the Park tower is leasing quickly and reliably as well even considering the high rents. It seems that demand within the city, at least within this neighborhood, is driving some incredible growth.
Speaking of the city, there are multiple other towers to speak of in varying stages of the proposal-to-construction process. Already underway at the massively successful City Foundry development, where a Fresh Thyme grocery store, future Alamo Drafthouse, mini-putting, retail, food hall, and office-space are located, the next phase of the project is already underway. Just along Vandeventer Ave., the developer (The Lawrence Group) is already moving dirt and beginning construction on a 14-story residential apartment tower and a 5-story office building. These will be connected to the City Foundry site that is already in place. We’re looking at about 270 apartments, many with balconies, a large amenity deck with a pool, 83,000 square feet of office space, and 25,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. According to CityScene-STL, the project will be the first in the region to utilize mass timber construction, a much more sustainable material.
Also interestingly, in part of the tax incentive process, a deal was arranged with the city that provides almost $2 million for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I’m hoping that we’ll see similar deals agreed upon in the region in the future. While subsidies might sometimes still be required for a project to actually be completed, it seems reasonable to arrange a win-win scenario for each party.
I think this project has a whole lot of potential, too. The residents will have access to an incredible list of amenities. They’ll be able to head downstairs to tons of entertainment, food, and even a grocery store. It’s also my favorite grocery store. It’s also part of Midtown, which has plenty of its own entertainment – not to mention the campus of Saint Louis University. It’s also close to the Cortex and Grand MetroLink stops, not to mention the #70 Grand bus route, which is the busiest in the state. In terms of reducing car dependence, this development, despite its large garage, has a whole lot of potential. It’s also going to truly change the skyline for Midtown, while also fostering a connection to the nearby Central West End.
So, speaking of Midtown, there’s quite a lot more to speak of. While not a tower specifically, just adjacent to the second Foundry phase is a 7-story residential apartment proposal that will actually wrap around the fire station and connect to the Foundry. This whole area is getting denser and denser, and there’s nothing better than that in an area that can truly support that density.
But, of course, there are more towers to speak of too. Green Street, another large developer in the region who actually has another project that I’ll discuss on this podcast episode, has two towers planned in Midtown just along Grand Ave in the middle of the SLU medical and main campuses. These towers will be dubbed “40 Grand”, and each 14-story tower will have 266 apartments. They’ll be connected to Grand as well as the soon-to-be RecHall at the Armory building nearby. They are one of the largest transit-oriented developments in the region when combined, comparable to the projects going up on DeBaliviere Ave – but simply larger and taller.
It’s significant to see any towers going up in the city, but to have so many at the same time is really almost unprecedented save for the last few years. These two will also contribute to the great transit network along Grand and allow their residents to enjoy the plethora of jobs and amenities nearby, while also allowing for car-free life to be a real, tangible option. Hopefully the project will break ground soon. Demolition is already underway for the warehouses that previously sat on the site, and Green Street is hoping to get started on the actual construction soon and has submitted the required zoning changes.
Just a little West, back in the Central West End, Barnes Jewish Hospital has its own skyline-changing projects well underway. The most significant of which is the replacement for the Queeny Tower that previously sat alongside Kingshighway at the southern edge of the complex. Now demolished, BJC is already working on the replacement with multiple tower cranes currently moving materials. The new patient tower will look a bit like the Siteman Cancer Center, with the cool, rounded portion extending from bottom to top and likely to have some pretty cool lighting elements. The goal is to really modernize the patient experience and increase what they’re able to offer. BJC states that they’ll be able to offer 224 private impatient rooms, 56 ICU units, surgery, prep, recovery, imaging, and cafeteria areas. The building isn’t slated to open until 2025, but we’ll probably start seeing it rising up in the near future. It’ll be a full 18 stories, so its presence will be huge coming from the highway, park, or Metro.
BJC isn’t done there. At Taylor and Forest Park Parkway, they’re already building a new Ambulatory Cancer Center, connected to Siteman. Set to open in 2024, the building will consolidate their outpatient cancer treatment and 7 or 8 floors of usable space. It will actually be dwarfed a little bit by another project, which you’ve probably already seen, just a couple blocks down on Duncan in the Cortex. The Neuroscience research building will be one of the largest in the world with over 600,000 square feet and 11 stories in the already growing innovation community. Together, these BJC and WashU buildings are going to go a long way in connecting the CWE to the Cortex to Midtown, and their presence will really feel substantial in just a couple of years.
Now, there’s one more I want to mention before I let you go on to your day. Green Street has a huge tower they just announced for Downtown Clayton at the intersection of Central and Forysth. They’ve announced a 25-story, all glass, mixed-use building with some great angles and lines that look like they’ll add a lot of dramatic flare to a skyline that could really use it. Unlike a lot of the other high rises going up, this one is actually going to primarily be for hotel and condo usage. We don’t know the hotel brand just yet, but we should expect about 180 hotel rooms, in addition to 75 condos – which is great such that more people can live and own in Downtown Clayton, where there are really few options for doing so.
The building will have a rooftop bar, ground-floor retail, and supposedly have one of Hilton’s newer brands to fill out the $100 million dollar project.
Anyway, when people might suggest that St. Louis is stagnant, I just encourage you to shout, “look up!”, because the region is going to look a whole heck of a lot different soon, and hopefully for the better.
So, This Week in Urbanism, keep an eye on the sky! Hopefully we’ll have even more of this to talk about soon, and I can’t wait to keep you updated.
Have a great day, St. Louis. To the rest of the country, we’re here in the middle, finding our place in the 21st century. Get ready.
UPDATE: The construction appears to be for the nearby Neuroscience building under construction just down the block. Although the construction is on the site of the 4210 site, this may not yet be an indication of the project being restarted. The story will be updated as more information unfolds.
St. Louis is on the precipice of becoming a major city for fostering startups, seeing massive venture capital growth over the last several years and now regularly finding itself topping coveted lists. One recent study from JobSage found that St. Louis was the top city in the nation for successful minority-owned businesses, finding that 25% of STL startups were minority-owned with average annual sales totaling almost $200,000.
The St. Louis Business Journals also reported that St. Louis saw a regional record-setting amount of investment dollars, totaling almost $250,000,000 in 2021 alone. The amount of investment has swelled in recent years as the city finds itself in the top 30 markets for investment from Bay Area and New York based firms, having attracted only around $30-$40,000,000 annually between 2010 and 2013. That growth is remarkable and palpable for St. Louis area businesses and can likely be attributed to the major investments in infrastructure and networks within the Cortex Innovation Community.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Cortex, it’s an innovation community sandwiched between Forest Park Southeast, the Central West End, and Midtown. It’s several acres of high tech office space, innovation hubs, restaurants, research labs, a hotel, and soon to be residential space once KDG’s Cortex K project gets off the ground. Over the past decade, it has seen several new buildings rise and has attracted businesses including Boeing, Microsoft, and labs from WUSTL and BJC.
One office in particular, to be located at 4210 Duncan, has been an object of interest in the local urbanism community for some time. The development has been stalled since late 2020, perhaps due to leasing issues rooted in the effects of the pandemic. This building would total over $100 million dollars in investment and has a fascinating design and would have a huge presence in the community should it actually get built. With 8 and a half levels of office space, labs, and retail, it would fill out the Eastern edge of the district with a sizable presence and the façade is unlike anything we’ve seen before in the St. Louis market.
Without a whisper, it seems as though the developer has finally restarted their efforts. Over the last couple of days, the construction gates have been open as workers returned to some incomplete foundation work. Some witnessed cement trucks entering the gates and workers seemingly restarting construction. What we haven’t seen yet are the building permits, so time will tell if this is only a temporary measure, or really the start to one of the most architecturally interesting office buildings in STL getting underway.
After weeks of speculation and curiosity among CWE residents and St. Louis urbanists that enveloped a highly visible lot in the heart of the Central West End, Washington University School of Medicine has finally revealed their highly anticipated plans to the community.
Although a massing study (shown below) indicated that a large building would front Forest Park Parkway, work was beginning before official renderings were publicized – an unusual step for an organization that generally does the opposite. The rendering and a news release from Washington University School of Medicine shares information on a brand new facility in the Central West End. The site, located at the intersection of Forest Park Parkway and Taylor Ave., fronts a building occupied by the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy and is currently just a surface parking lot.
The Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish complex continues to grow as the hospital solidifies its status as one of the best treatment centers in the United States. In particular, the Siteman Cancer Center was recently rated as the 11th best cancer center in the country by U.S. News and World Reports. As its capacity is still limited, WU Med is embarking upon the project rendered below to add to their capacity to treat and support its patients.
The Siteman Ambulatory Center is intended to consolidate most outpatient care needs into one facility. The plan calls for over 650,000 square feet of total usable space. As the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports, there will be “96 exam rooms, 88 infusion pods for chemotherapy and immunotherapy, plus radiology, breast imaging, and hematology and chemistry laboratory space”.
Although work on the foundation is now underway, the estimated completion date for the project is in 2024. By then, the Cortex, CWE, and Midtown will host a number of new, dense constructions. With the neighboring Neuroscience facility underway less than a mile away on Duncan, the Cortex K project on Sarah, and apartments proposed on Lindell by Lux Living, the area will see a continued emphasis on density and walkability in the coming years.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It might come as a surprise that in 2020, a year that has been defined by a global pandemic, deeply negative and often anti-democratic politics, and unprecedented and unequal economic hardship, that St. Louis has been host to an absurdly productive and healthy year of economic development. As December comes to a close, there is a good chance that the city will surpass $1 billion in building permits. Second only to 2018, this year represents a continued growth of the St. Louis real estate market and a renewed sense of confidence for investors and locals alike.
2020 may also be remembered as the year in which St. Louis finally began making real progress in communities that have traditionally seen far less investment or attention. The region’s policy towards majority Black and Brown neighborhoods North of Delmar Blvd. could for decades be summarized by intentional neglect. Through redlining, restrictive covenants, urban renewal, predatory lending, and aggressive policing, populous neighborhoods declined significantly throughout the latter half of the 20th century and then some.
The results of institutional and cultural oppression don’t just disappear overnight, or for that matter, after decades. It takes real effort to support and uplift communities that were deliberately denied access to wealth, education, safety, and equality. A recent study of U.S. metro areas and their demographics and geography gives us a frightening glimpse of how far St. Louis still has to go. In 2017, St. Louis was determined to be the 10th most segregated metropolitan area in the United States, with 39.3% of its Black residents living in majority Black neighborhoods with 3.5x the poverty rate of white neighborhoods.
In a remarkable and unusual turn for St. Louis, some developers appeared interested in proposing real developments in the region’s North side. Many of these, like the Delmar Divine, Kingsway Development’s plans at Delmar & Euclid, Jefferson + Gamble, and the NGA expansion bring much needed infrastructure improvements, affordable housing, community spaces, and jobs. There is a school of thought in St. Louis that the recent announcements are a result of North St. Louis “bottoming out”, something that regional leaders have historically seemed to exacerbate, and whether that is true or not, it seems apparent that the momentum is certainly shifting.
2020 also brings an exciting new era for Downtown St. Louis with multiple high-density residential proposals that would fill vacant land and surface-level parking lots. Even more surprising, we saw a new residential tower completed at Ballpark Village, new Class A office space, residential conversions for historical buildings, and companies moving from the county back into the city. After decades of stagnant Downtown STL development, even as our peer cities like Kansas City and Indianapolis saw impressive proposals and infill, St. Louis finally seems to be making headway in improving its Downtown core.
As we all embrace the hope that comes with a new year, something to save us from some of the most tumultuous times in recent history, we can hopefully look forward to real progress in our region as we may finally be turning some important corners. Much work remains – activists must hold regional leaders accountable, medical personnel must keep working to curb the spread of a deadly virus, and Americans and St. Louisans must continue supporting one another and act responsibly to keep our neighbors safe. We will get through this. We have a better year on the horizon.
Until then, continue reading to see some of the most promising developments of 2020 that are poised to substantially change our region.
ONE | 100 Above the Park
100 Above the Park is the first tower designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang in St. Louis, named the World’s Most Influential Architect of 2019 by Time Magazine. Rising 36 stories above Kingshighway and sporting direct, sprawling views of Forest Park and Downtown, 100 Above the Park brings perhaps the most luxurious residential units yet to the city and a unique geometric design. It also is one of the first new residential skyscrapers in the region, following the recent completion of Two Twelve Clayton just a few miles West in the County.
With studio, one, two, and three bedroom units ranging from $1,975 for a studio and over $7,000 for some three bedroom units, the building introduces a new price range for a city known for inexpensive housing prices. That said, the amenities, views, technology, design, location, and finishes go a long way toward justifying the high cost.
All units sport quartz countertops, 9″ ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, in-unit laundry, porcelain tile backsplashes, stainless steel appliances, custom solar shades, LED lighting, soft-close drawers, etc. Some units host humongous balconies overlooking the city and/or park, with the rest simply taking claim to some of the finest views in the city. Moreover, residents will have access to world-class amenities from a pool deck on the 7th floor to a secured parking garage, pet spa, electric car charging stations, secured bike stations, an onsite retail location (could be a café), covered dog run, and more. The building also is Green Globes certified for Sustainable and Energy Efficient Design.
100 Above the Park Under Construction – Brian Adler
St. Louis has long been known for some incredibly gorgeous and historical brick architecture, but we won’t complain one bit about a world-renowned architect completing a residential skyscraper on one of St. Louis’ most dense and active neighborhoods. 100 Above the Park definitely serves just a small subset of the population that can afford its units and lifestyle, but it is a good sign for a the city as it works to rebuild its economy and attract individuals and families to a region with a stagnant population. It is perhaps a sign of hope for an old city that hasn’t seen, until recent years, a sign of confidence that we are now beginning to get used to this year. We hope that incredible architecture and dense developments keep gracing St. Louis for years to come.
TWO | Kingsway Development & Bridging the Delmar Divide
Kevin Bryant, President of Kingsway Development, recently unveiled a massive, $84 million development at the intersection of Euclid and Delmar Blvd. Looking to leverage the strength and momentum of the Central West End neighborhood and bring its success due North where investment abruptly ends, Bryant is taking aim at reducing vacancy, providing affordable housing, and creating a community of mixed income levels.
The project is predominantly located within the Fountain Park neighborhood, lying just North of the Central West End. In 2015, 84.4% of Fountain Park residents were Black, whereas just south of Delmar in the Central West End, only 29% of residents are Black. Despite its proximality to the CWE, it has seen its fortunes decline over the past several decades. Even as rents rise consistently just South of Delmar Blvd., the buildings in which Kingsway Development hope to redevelop mostly sit vacant.
The first phase will include a mix of rehabs and new construction for affordable housing, capitalizing on historic, vacant housing stock and filling in vacant lots. The first phase will include 22 affordable homes, below market-rate, aimed at creating a more “mixed”, dense neighborhood that residents of different incomes can enjoy. Bryant hopes to “set the precedent” with these homes, creating a model for other developers and investors to follow as he opens up later phases to other developers who go through their community approval process.
The first batch of construction will also include a $6.3 rehab of the building at 4731 Delmar Blvd. into office and commercial space, creating a more mixed-use neighborhood once each phase is built out. Late next year, perhaps the biggest portion of the project is slated to begin – a $43 million apartment complex, “The Bridge”, with 156 residential units. These units will add significant density to the Fountain Park neighborhood and fill out the vacant Northern section of the Euclid and Delmar intersection.
Rebuilding the North Side and responsibly tackling vacancy, affordable housing, and the lingering affects of segregation and oppression is vital to St. Louis and its future. This development will hopefully be a model for others to create diverse, mixed-income, and dense communities in neighborhoods that have seen little to no positive investment.
When St. Louis lost the Rams a few years ago in a bitter dispute still playing out in the courts today, there was a common sentiment that a passionate sports town was losing its steam. Thankfully, St. Louisans won’t have to wait long for a new sports team to remake its professional trifecta alongside the Cardinals and the Blues. A little over a year ago in August of 2019, the MLS announced that St. Louis would become the league’s 28th franchise. On August 13, 2020, the St. Louis MLS Expansion Team announced the team name and crest, officially introducing the St. Louis City SC to the city.
The project is moving very quickly, with a brand new stadium slated to be ready in time for the 2023 debut of the St. Louis City SC. Construction began in February on the site that will eventually seat up to 22.5 thousand guests and completely reshape Downtown West along Market St. The development will activate a less travelled section of Downtown, adding commercial retail space, infrastructure improvements, restaurants, and thousands of people to the neighborhood.
As can be seen in the rendering above, the project is more than the stadium itself. The proposal includes other new infill, including the corner building with a large terrace and commercial space on the left side of the photo. There will also be practice fields nearby that will host community soccer clinics and youth sports activities. The grand vision is to create a district comprising of bars, restaurants, concessions, retail, and open community spaces that will lead to street activation even on days without a game.
MLS Stadium with Union Station Wheel in the Background – St. Louis City SC
Located just west of the newly revitalized Union Station and at the end of the Mall that leads straight down market to the Courthouse and the Arch, the new MLS stadium will help create a unique attraction corridor built for walkability and activity. Combined with other recent developments like two residential proposals included in this article and new hotels sprouting up in Downtown West and Midtown, it appears the stadium is capping off a huge year for Downtown.
The Skinker-DeBaliviere and DeBaliviere Place neighborhoods are an excellent example of a dense, urban mix of residents across the income scale. Bordering Washington University, Forest Park, the Central West End, and Delmar Boulevard, the neighborhoods are home to those with extraordinary wealth to those with very little. The rapid growth of the Central West End and Washington University, however, have certainly been skewing the neighborhoods toward the wealthy end of that spectrum.
Three massive developments are underway right now, which will bring hundreds of expensive units and replace existing infrastructure. The three developments include The Chelseaon Pershing, the Expo at Forest Park on DeBaliviere, and The Hudson, also on DeBaliviere.
The Chelsea will rise seven stories above ground, add 152 apartments to the street, and several other impressive amenities. Some noteworthy additions include a two-story fitness center, “lobby bistro”, arcade bar, golf lounge, and even a rock-climbing wall. Lux Living hopes to open the Chelsea in late 2020, introducing some of the most unique apartments in St. Louis at one of the most uncertain times in recent history. Such a bet is supported, at least, by one of the most dense neighborhoods in St. Louis, rivaling even parts of New York City.
The Hudson is set to bring added density and more options for residents in the city looking for a car-free lifestyle. With 150 units proposed and direct access to the Metrolink, residents will not need a car if they work within the central corridor or otherwise near a station. This is an amenity that, while growing in popularity in St. Louis, is still rather difficult to find given the limited size of the light-rail Metrolink. TOD is critical for good urban landscapes, helping people achieve healthier lifestyles, avoid traffic-filled commutes, and interact more with local businesses and their neighbors.
The Expo at Forest Park will be directly adjacent to the Metrolink platform as well, but will stretch down DeBaliviere all the way to Waterman as well as down De Giverville. This development is a behemoth, bringing 471,000 square feet of new construction and 287 new units, nearing the number of new apartments at the new One Hundred skyscraper in the Central West End. Current plans also call for 30,000 square feet of retail space across the two buildings (separated by De Giverville).
Even though Phase I of the City Foundry hasn’t yet fully opened to the public, the food hall, retail space, soon-to-be grocery store, and offices are set to bring new life to the corner at Vandeventer and Forest Park Parkway. This stretch has seen significant investment over the past few years, with the city’s first IKEA, the new ELEMENT hotel by Westin, and the Standard St. Louis apartments. This is all part of a larger pattern of investment now reactivating St. Louis’ midtown corridor, bringing tons of new density, retail, and residential to the city.
The office space from the first phase is already 95% leased and open, giving The Lawrence Group confidence that there is real demand for their vision to continue. As CitySceneSTL reported earlier this December, the second phase is set to include two large structures pictured in the rendering above that will host:
Nearly 300 luxury residential units, many with balconies
Around 60,000 square feet of office space, complementing the over 100,000 square feet already built and leased
20,000 additional square feet of retail space, some of which will be located on the ground floor of the parking structure activating Vandeventer and Forest Park Parkway
490 parking spaces
The Lawrence Group hopes to begin construction on the second phase in the middle of 2021, hopefully at a time when guests may be able to safely begin patronizing the businesses like Punch Bowl Social and Alamo Drafthouse that make the first phase so exciting. The 14 story residential building, parking structure, and office space will also help complete the City Foundry, which always was intended to host a large residential component.
It turns out that these were just the tip of the iceberg. Developer Green Street has huge plans for The Grove and Forest Park Southeast, making a hew headquarters for themselves alongside hundreds of new residential and commercial infill. Moving from Clayton, Green Street is hoping to double down on the city and these particular neighborhoods, creating a lively district home to mixed-income families and fun concepts like BarK, a bar and dog park combo that will join the many new developments planned.
The largest singular element of the proposal is Green Street’s ‘Terra at the Grove’, described as “Chroma on Steroids’ by a member of their team. For those unfamiliar with Chroma, it is a large residential building at the East end of The Grove, featuring hundreds of apartments, retail storefronts including Seoul Taco and Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, and luxury amenities that has consistently been essentially full occupancy.
Terra will contain over 300 residential units and massive amenity spaces. It will have a 50,000 square foot courtyard and pool area, in addition to walking and running paths, a dog park and pet wash station, fitness and yoga studios, club and movie rooms, convenience store, and a playground. The apartment building will have nearly as many units as the humongous One Hundred on the Park skyscraper in the Central West End, all situated in the Southwest corner of The Grove.
However, Green Street also has six other developments planned in the neighborhood, dubbed the Union at the Grove, each with a unique style and size. Together they will completely transform the streetscape, filling empty lots and adding tons of density. The six buildings will be called Booker, Blake, Knox, Ashe, Iva, and Marshall – each pictured in the gallery below.
Together, they will have 163 residential units, in addition to the 300+ at Terra and the 100+ at the just completed Hue. They offer some of the most contemporary and urban architecture to be found in the city, and may well begin to resemble a neighborhood with similar density and walkability to the nearby Central West End.
We talk about gentrification all the time here, something that is a real concern but contextually different in St. Louis than other bigger and higher in demand cities. We believe that there is a lot of nuance to the topic, especially so when we are talking about projects with a massive scale that fundamentally reshape particular neighborhoods like is being proposed here. That being said, we do want to let our readers know that we have spoken to people at Green Street who emphasize a commitment to mixed-income neighborhoods and affordable solutions, something that they are also committing to with a new investment group dedicated to affordable housing and investment in low income communities.
We won’t say what the verdict is on this large and complicated discussion, but this development certainly will add lots of new activity and plenty of new residents to a growing and exciting neighborhood.
SEVEN | Delmar Divine
St. Louis’ Delmar Divide has plagued the region for decades. A miles-long physical manifestation of a racial and economic divide spans the metropolitan area from East to West, separating communities and hindering investment North of the boulevard. 2021 seems to be the first year in a very long time that substantial investment has been aimed at resolving this this pervasive issue. The Delmar Divine will consist of national and local non profits, capacity building and social innovation organizations that improve the lives of children and families in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
Maxine Clark, Founder of Build-a-Bear Workshop is heading the redevelopment of the former St. Luke’s Hospital closed in 2014 on Delmar Blvd. The large site will see a humongous renovation that will bring over 150 apartments “reasonably” priced and aimed at young, diverse working professionals.
The Delmar Divine tenants will consist of national and local not for profits, capacity building and social innovation organizations that improve the lives of children and families in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
Clark aims to create a space where innovative and social minded professionals and their organizations can gather and build off of one another. It will essentially function as an innovation hub for non-profits and social-good organizations, as well as additional space for retail with easy access to nearby public transportation. At the heart of the proposal is a dedication to removing the racial and economic barriers in St. Louis, helping organizations and individuals reach “solutions faster while being more cost efficient”.
Racial segregation is at the heart of many of St. Louis’ biggest and most pervasive issues, and an effort that combines the talents of our many hardworking, innovative, and social-focused individuals and organizations is one that deserves praise and recognition. We cannot wait to see this come to fruition on 2021.
EIGHT | Blackline Investments 12 Unit Infill in Dutchtown
Blackline Investments is moving toward the first new infill in Gravois Park in several years. Capitalizing off of the vacant land next-door to their original rehab, Blackline is planning a 12-unit, two-story building that with a decidedly modern aesthetic. First reported by Chris Strizel and his CitySceneSTL website, this development manages to introduce new residential units without demolishing historic brick homes. Each unit will be a one bedroom in a shotgun style, with a small parking lot behind the structure.
Coupled with the restoration of “Downtown Dutchtown” along Meramec St., with businesses offering innovative concepts like the Urban Eats food hall or cute clothing boutiques, Dutchtown is building its own unique character and picking up steam. With its very own retail corridor, residential conversions, and affordable housing stock renovations coming from Rise, the stabilization is already well underway. The Dutchtown CID is providing infrastructural support to retail along the street, and the Neighborhood Innovation Center is setting up its own plans to invigorate and support the business community.
That Dutchtown and Gravois Park neighborhoods are seeing positive developments that support current residents, maintain and restore historic architecture, infill vacant lots, and increase density is something of a wonder for the city. With development having catered to predominantly wealthier individuals and staying primarily within the central corridor neighborhoods, many St. Louis communities saw very little outside investment and contributed to tax subsidies for projects that did not benefit their residents directly. This finally seems poised to change.
NINE | 1014 Spruce St.
Opus Group’s proposal at 1014 Spruce St. is poised to bring 146 residential units to the heart of Downtown St. Louis, directly adjacent to the popular Start Bar and just a couple minutes from Busch Stadium. Filling a large, vacant lot with a productive and dense residential development is a remarkable feat for Downtown, which has long struggled to attract significant new infill.
The structure will also host a 3,000 sq. ft. commercial space along Spruce, depicted in the rendering above, that will further activate a busy street already used to large crowds. While one new residential proposal in a Downtown area might not seem like a big deal at first, it has been a long time since St. Louis’ urban core has seen dense infill. The area is still resolving vacancy issues, particularly in the office sector. That being said, Downtown’s residential occupancy has gone up considerably and leaves very few units available – indicating a market need that 1014 Spruce will help fill.
This is a phenomenal indicator for the city, and we can’t sait to see more like it.
Just North of the new MLS Stadium and on a lot currently used as parking for the iconic City Museum is the future site of 1801 Washington, a 184-unit multifamily proposal. First reported by CitySceneSTL, this apartment building will rise 7 stories and consist of over 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space fronting Washington Blvd. Parking will be in a hidden 220 space garage accessible from 19th and Lucas, allowing for a more consistent and activated corridor along Washington. The project is being developed by King Realty Advisors, an investment group that feels Downtown West has real momentum going forward.
There will also be just over 2,000 sq. ft. of retail space constructed on the 3rd floor, slated to become a restaurant or bar with a large outdoor terrace facing the street. This will likely help create a more exciting atmosphere along the already busy street, with activation both on the ground floor and above.
With 184 new residential units consisting of studio and 1 bedroom floorplans, 1801 Washington is poised to introduce some of the first new multifamily infill in Downtown and Downtown West. Moreover, it will replace a low-productivity parking lot with a dense, modern, and street-activating structure more well suited to a city and its urban core. The apartments are also going to be very modern, with granite countertops, in-unit washer and dryer, and individual balconies for each unit. There will also be a dog park and other amenity spaces like a beer tap, pool table, community kitchen, and more.
The apartment building itself is fairly consistent in terms of amenities with other new structures completed recently in the city and the county, with the exception of being located in a neighborhood that hasn’t seen new large-scale residential development in decades. This will significantly modernize and densify our urban core, and it hopefully represents a change in momentum for our city and its Downtown neighborhoods.
2020 still had way more to offer – check out our runner-ups below! 2020 was a phenomenal year for development, and we cannot wait to see what 2021 brings. Most importantly, we hope it is a year where our readers are safe, healthy, and happy, recovering from a year like we have never seen before. Thank you for reading.
As the Central West End has seen historic levels of investment with tens of millions of dollars of renovations and new construction over the last few years, neighboring communities like Skinker-DeBaliviere, Midtown, and The Grove have experienced significant ancillary growth. St. Louis neighborhoods that traditionally make up what is known as the region’s “Central Corridor” have strengthened, revitalized, and become substantially more wealthy. Over the last few years in particular, other communities adjacent to the Central Corridor have begun to enjoy the fruits of St. Louis’ newfound development and success, yet with some notable exceptions.
While South St. Louis has seen its population stabilize or even increase in previously hard-hit neighborhoods like Dutchtown, much of North St. Louis has continued to depopulate as development has struggled to even begin to cross the infamous “Delmar Divide”. The divide, which signifies a racial and wealth gap between communities North and South of the street, has been a fixture of St. Louis politics and community action for decades.
Segregation in St. Louis is just as present today as it was decades ago, even if many of the practices such as Redlining and Restrictive Covenants are no longer explicitly legal. De facto segregation is still horrifyingly apparent. Communities still experience the impacts of a legal system designed to oppress people of color, where segregation in the form of Jim Crow laws are outlawed but wherein the consequences and harm are not actively fixed or accounted for. The systems that kept Black St. Louisans in the North side of the city and prevented investment in Black communities caused generational harm, and with only a handful of decades between now and Jim Crow, it is ludicrous to expect an even playing field.
The divide is as much engrained in the physical environment of St. Louis as it is in the demographic makeup of our communities. From Downtown to Skinker-DeBaliviere, neighborhoods directly South of Delmar Blvd. contain a host of infill, renovations, businesses with high-paying jobs, and significantly better infrastructure. Most notably, the neighborhoods South of Delmar are predominantly white.
Such issues might best be classified as “Wicked Problems“, often used in the environmental context, because of the large-scale and complex policy solutions that take many years to unpack. To solve segregation in St. Louis, like most U.S. cities, there is no single solution. Instead, a host of attitude and policy changes must occur.
With that said, there are notable efforts in action here in St. Louis that take aim at the most infamous geographical segregation at the city’s “Delmar Divide”. Kevin Bryant, President of Kingsway Development, recently unveiled a massive, $84 million development at the intersection of Euclid and Delmar Blvd. Looking to leverage the strength and momentum of the Central West End neighborhood and bring its success due North where investment abruptly ends, Bryant is taking aim at reducing vacancy, providing affordable housing, and creating a community of mixed income levels.
The project is predominantly located within the Fountain Park neighborhood, lying just North of the Central West End. In 2015, 84.4% of Fountain Park residents were Black, whereas just south of Delmar in the Central West End, only 29% of residents are Black. Despite its proximality to the CWE, it has seen its fortunes decline over the past several decades. Even as rents rise consistently just South of Delmar Blvd., the buildings in which Kingsway Development hope to redevelop mostly sit vacant.
Like most big issues, there is considerable nuance. That is why developers should be cognizant of not just the negative impacts of gentrification, but also the historical character of a community and its demographic makeup. That is not to say that they cannot and should not build in certain communities, but that they should work with the community itself to make sure it can be part of the community, not taking advantage of it, but adding to it and providing value.
That careful planning is precisely what Kingsway Development has worked so hard to accomplish. Kevin Bryant, President of Kingsway Development, was kind enough to respond to my request for a comment with a substantial conversation on the merits and risks of his project.
Unlike other large, phased projects like the Centene Clayton Campus where the best, most impactful portions of the development are cancelled after being used to help push for tax incentives, Bryant and Kingsway are providing value instantly to Fountain Park. The first phase will include a mix of rehabs and new construction for affordable housing, capitalizing on historic, vacant housing stock and filling in vacant lots. Bryant believes that while gentrification is, and should be a concern to major developers, that this project brings more people in of mixed incomes where there weren’t residents already.
The Kingsway Development Corporation was created out of the necessity to cease the rapid decline of American neighborhoods and restore them to their potential of vibrancy and communal splendor.
Bryant is quite proud of where his opportunity to develop this tract came from. The Fountain Park neighborhood sought a developer for this land, specifically looking for a way to capitalize off of its major potential and proximity to the CWE without negatively impacting or taking advantage of its residents. Working in conjunction with the neighborhood, St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC), and their Alderman, Bryant has found a large base of support. Solidified by public meetings and community input, the plan originated from the neighborhood and immediately offers public benefit. Much of the support is public and visible with written endorsements here.
The plan will include five projects over 2 years alongside and North of Delmar Blvd. Construction will begin alongside Delmar, where the vacancy is immediately apparent across from The Lofts at Euclid, on the South side of the Euclid and Delmar intersection.
The first phase will include 22 affordable homes, below market-rate, aimed at creating a more “mixed”, dense neighborhood that residents of different incomes can enjoy. Bryant hopes to “set the precedent” with these homes, creating a model for other developers and investors to follow as he opens up later phases to other developers who go through their community approval process. If other individuals or companies seek to purchase adjacent LRA property, some of which can be found here, they must go to the neighborhood association, Kingsway Development, and ultimately through the LRA approval process. This methodology will prevent speculators and ill-equipped investors from hindering progress.
The first batch of construction will also include a $6.3 rehab of the building at 4731 Delmar Blvd. into office and commercial space, creating a more mixed-use neighborhood once each phase is built out. The gallery below showcases the current and future state of the large structure. This will be a significant street activation, where a blank wall currently meets the sidewalk.
Kingsway Development is seeking a $6.2 million subsidy in the form of tax-increment financing (TIF) from the St. Louis City TIF Commission, followed by a public hearing on December 9, 2020. While Missouri Metro shares the concerns of many St. Louis City residents regarding TIFs and utilizing public financing means as a tool for economic development, this project exists in an entirely different context than most big developments that receive TIFs. While this proposal runs along Delmar Blvd. and the blocks North of the infamous, long-lasting demographic divide, many others utilize public financing even in strong markets in the city’s Central Corridor.
TIFs are best used to eliminate the “market gap” that exists in developing or low-income areas, wherein the cost of development and revitalization exceeds the expected return on investment. They can be an incredible tool when used properly, aiding neighborhoods that traditionally wouldn’t see money flowing in. As Missouri State Auditor Galloway recently revealed in a public audit, however, St. Louis City leaders lack any formalized methodologies or goals when awarding TIFs, often aiding developers where there might not be any market gap.
With the office and commercial building at 4701 Delmar preleased already, according to Bryant, and poised to potentially break ground this December, they are preparing the subsequent phases for a quick rollout. Kingsway Development plans for a second office building with a $14 million price tag to begin shortly after construction at 4701 Delmar begins, with a rehab slated to begin around the same time at 4915 Delmar Blvd. The 4915 Delmar rehab is projected to cost $3.8 million and become a performing arts center to create a more vibrant, 24-7 district.
Late next year, perhaps the biggest portion of the project is slated to begin – a $43 million apartment complex, “The Bridge”, with 156 residential units. These units will add significant density to the Fountain Park neighborhood and fill out the vacant Northern section of the Euclid and Delmar intersection.
“We imagine creating a project that will be a symbolic unifier for both sides of the street,”
Many of the units offered will be market-rate, adding to the many affordable homes being renovated and built on neighborhing parcels. Some of those affordable homes will be restored LRA properties, which sit vacant and awaiting developers willing to salvage distressed properties. Unfortunately, the LRA is one of the few land banks in the country without funding sources (save for the sales themselves), and it generally does not have sufficient resources to put work into the thousands of homes it owns to fill the aforementioned market gap. As such, many LRA properties worsen in condition and become even harder to sell to investors. A significant purchase of these properties, with many being salvaged, is a big deal both in terms of historic preservation and because it perhaps saves these homes from the wrecking ball, freeing up other city resources.
While the project is certainly large in scope, Bryant and Kingsway Development are not going in alone. Alongside the full backing of the community and partners like the SLDC, his development team includes industry veterans such as Brian Pratt, a former Green Street executive, as well as Kwame Building Group and Trivers, a construction and architecture firm.
Missouri Metro has extensively covered phased developments that go wrong, like the Centene campus mentioned at the top of this article. That being said, development proposals like the project Kingsway Development has put forth, deserve extra focus, and perhaps even praise if done correctly. This is especially true when considering the impacts on a low-income, predominantly Black community that has seen decades, if not centuries of oppression. A large development could either the first domino that falls and triggers the transformation and empowerment of a community, or the erasure of one that has suffered so much already.
Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, who represents the 22nd St. Louis Ward in North City, was kind enough to make himself available to Missouri Metro to discuss the hardships Black people have historically faced that helped create the Delmar Divide as we see it today. We also were able to discuss the development patterns seen in the city, and Boyd specifically called out the tendency for officials to award public financing packages to projects in the Central West End while streets, homes, and whole neighborhoods crumble just North of Delmar.
Boyd stresses that the only major developments North City has seen, or that the city has generally helped to promote, are affordable housing units. While those have positive impacts and fill a specific need, Boyd worries that they don’t do much to attract any new families or investment to North City neighborhoods. They do not make it more desirable, rather, only solidify the low-income status of communities if they are the only major investment seen. He believes that the best developments would begin to make more mixed income communities, offering amenities that actually attract new residents, providing better amenities and a better built environment for existing residents as well. That is to say, while affordable housing would be a fundamental inclusion, investment should go beyond that and create, support, and foster diverse communities.
City support would go a long way for improving North St. Louis neighborhoods, where institutional barriers like access to financing already create a bleak picture for residents looking to better their own communities. Alderman Boyd and his wife, Patrice Boyd, grew up on the same street they now live on today, and after moving back following his time in the military, they looked to invest in real estate and restore housing stock.
At the time, they could hardly get a hold of their Alderman. They hunted for grants, and partnered with Northside Regeneration, which has now developed a reputation for sitting on land while promising major projects with pretty renderings. Finally, they sought their own financing with banking institutions like Landmarks, Gershland, and UMB. Each bank denied the Boyd’s mortgage applications. While you might assume, as the reader, that this was during the height of Redlining, this was actually in the 1990s – long after Redlining became explicitly illegal. None of the banks gave Boyd any reason for their rejection, until finally he strolled into UMB and demanded to know why they could not be approved for a mortgage. UMB claimed that it was due to credit card debt, which amounted to a couple hundred dollars spread over a few credit cards, despite their steady combined income.
It would be an easy fix under normal circumstances, but UMB forced Boyd to send physical copies of the money orders used to pay off the incredibly minor credit card debt to the bank. For those who have never experienced the process of applying for and receiving a mortgage, this is an inexplicably complicated process they forced Alderman Boyd through. The banks also did not follow one of the most important elements of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, passed in 1974, which requires lending institutions to always provide a clear reason for mortgage or loan denial.
Boyd ultimately resolved the issue, only to find himself hindered by the appraisal for his 3-family property he was revitalizing. The appraiser claimed that she could not provide an appraisal of the value he needed for his mortgage in their North St. Louis City neighborhood. The Boyd’s simply needed an appraisal of 50k or higher, and appraisals in Soulard, which was in poor shape and beginning to see more rehabs at the time, were significantly higher. They Boyd’s finally prevailed after significant effort with the bank and the appraiser, ultimately receiving an appraisal of 70k+. After the rehab, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and CDA featured the property under the “House of the Month” series run at the time, all the while not recognizing the many obstacles in place that prevent passionate neighbors of his improve their community.
Even more ironic, they became the “poster children” for UMB Bank, making massive posters of their home in their bank branches as an example of what was possible with their rehab loans, despite their initial denial and near refusal to appraise the home at the value necessary because of its neighborhood.
At the same time, his neighbors have been preyed upon by predatory lenders. First time homebuyers were buying mortgages that were sold as all-encompassing, as most mortgages are, but that ultimately did not package in property taxes, insurance, and mortgage interest into the loan. These residents were met with massive bills at the end of their first year of ownership and were either foreclosed upon or had to make major sacrifices. Most of those homes now sit vacant, dilapidated, and devoid of the life they used to hold.
Missouri Metro greatly appreciates the willingness Alderman Boyd to share his story that unfortunately is all-too-common among North St. Louis residents. These were not always low-income communities, where vacant buildings often outnumber those occupied. Boyd remembers being able to walk to the nearby JC Penny, and the many stores nearby that helped makeup a somewhat middle class neighborhood. There were concerted, systemic efforts made by large institutions that local governments either ignored or tacitly supported that decimated Black communities.
Alderman Boyd’s experience fills out the context for why the Kingsway Development proposal is so impactful and important to analyze. While he is not too familiar with the project, he knows of Bryant and the effort he puts into his work. This project also begins to meet Boyd’s criteria for positive development in North City communities, bringing real, sizeable investment and public financing to a neighborhood that needs it. Better yet, it brings a more mixed community, one with amenities that will serve a diverse population in a densely built environment.
While the development proposed just may make a big difference at this intersection, it will require much more than the laudable work of Bryant to restore North STL. It will require focus, oversight, significant financing, and buy-in from the broader St. Louis community. There must be a huge shift in how and where public financing is utilized in the city, founded upon a broad recognition and understanding of how St. Louis, like many other cities, has historically failed its Black residents and communities.