The Definitive Platform for Rebuilding St. Louis in the 21st Century

St. Louis City is at a critical fork in the road. With some of the biggest political leaders recently indicted by the Federal Government for corruption, a variety of infrastructure improvements and funds still stuck in limbo, a declining population, and our many Aldermen essentially running their own kingdoms with distinct capital funds, coordinated progress is difficult to achieve.

As this website shifts toward operating more as an idea-based, urbanist ‘think-tank’, it seems prudent to outline some key ideas in an organized fashion that just may give St. Louis City practical solutions to a growing list of pressing needs.

Our problems will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome without a substantial effort to reform our governance and priorities. Doing so now is increasingly important to reverse the negative feedback loops already negatively impacting the city. Moreover, upcoming challenges to individual liberties, safety, and equitable economic development are in the pipeline from Missouri’s legislative branches.

The following is a platform rooted in equitable growth and land use, safety & wellbeing, pride, and looking toward the future. The purpose of this platform is to provide a distinct set of ideas and purpose to our elected officials and to give the public a list of solutions to lobby for.

THE PLATFORM:


LAND USE & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  1. Completely remove single family zoning.
    1. Single Family Zoning is incredibly effective at keeping people out of neighborhoods, an exclusionary practice that increases housing costs, segregates communities, and contributes to the climate crisis. Single Family Zoning does not mean that your home must become a multifamily dwelling. Instead, it means that you could decide to build more units on that property should you choose to do so. Density is critical for supporting transit and neighborhood commercial opportunities.
  2. Allow ADUs.
    1. Accessory Dwelling Units can provide critically important additional housing in high-demand neighborhoods. A garage can be converted at significantly less cost to new housing versus entirely new construction on a vacant lot.
  3. Fee for unit removal.
    1. As is already being considered, this type of ordinance discourages flippers from taking dense housing stock and reducing the number of units available on a given parcel. The fee would be akin to a ‘sin tax’ for smoking, still preserving liberty in real estate transactions while also providing an opportunity for the city to then invest those funds in positive social uses.
  4. Eliminate community and aldermanic review for housing proposals.
    1. Community and aldermanic review serve to prevent or otherwise housing proposals and thus affordable housing more broadly. Empirical research routinely showcases that even market-rate housing construction lowers housing pressures even for low and middle income earners and as such still provides benefits.
  5. Increased property taxes to fund infrastructure.
    1. Property taxes are comparatively low in the City of St. Louis despite its large geography and service responsibilities. Increased property taxes would direct more revenue to schools within the city and ensure that land is valued accordingly. However, efforts should be made for property tax assistance for homeowners on fixed incomes.
  6. Tie development incentives to a tangible percentage affordable and/or workforce units.
    1. Development incentives often may be necessary to make a project feasible, which should be the goal in a city that is losing population. However, development incentives are effectively public funds and thus should deliver concrete public benefits. A percentage of units for large developments with tax incentives should deliver a percentage of more affordable units. However, this should be a concrete policy and not determined on the fly. SLDC should have a tiered list of percentages for project cost and units.
  7. Funding for elderly home repair.
    1. The University of Missouri – St. Louis is currently conducting a study that explores the impact of home repairs for elderly citizens in the region. If it showcases tangible positive benefits such as keeping the home in the family and making the residence safer, this can be an investment that helps produce and maintain generational wealth.
  8. Prioritize land use over historical preservation with the recognition that housing affordability, density, and the impacts on people and environment outweigh poor historical land use.
    1. St. Louis has an incredible historic built environment, and historic preservation can be an important tool. However, when facing crises like Climate Change and Housing Unaffordability, historic preservation should not prevent higher value land uses. For example, many preservationists opposed the renovation of the Optimist International building in the Central West End into over 150 apartments. The building was in poor shape, the non-profit who owned it wanted to sell it, and the parcel thus provided almost no benefits to the community save for its design which is fundamentally exclusively subjective in benefit. That is rather than the concrete benefits of dense housing that can contribute a more widespread benefit than a derelict building that, even if remodeled, would contribute little aside from its design to the city.
  9. Reform SLDC such that it does not rely so heavily on outside consultants.
    1. A burgeoning field of research on ‘State Capacity’ showcases that governments of all sizes and shapes across the U.S. have steadily found themselves with less capacity and ability to take on large projects and to do so effectively. A negative feedback loop is thus spawned as it faces punitive budget cuts and relies on outside consultants for difficult projects. Such takes away the sovereignty of the organization and makes it reliant on private interests, costs, and timelines. Such should not be the case for St. Louis’ development arm and the recent corruption case showcases how outside consultants poison the well in this capacity.
  10. Empower Greater STL Inc. and work with neighboring counties and municipal governments to restrict inter-region infighting and to offer the region’s collective benefits to lure new investment.
    1. Regional infighting is not a real economic development solution. If Maplewood sees stealing a business from the City or another municipality as a realistic option to raise its revenues, it simply harms its next-door neighbor and even then, probably just temporarily. The region must act collectively to lure new businesses with Greater STL Inc. rather than continuing to split hairs internally.
  11. Further funding the Prop. N.S. Program to reduce the market gap in housing rehabilitations in lower demand sections of the city.
    1. A ‘market-gap’ has been identified in research over the last few decades that showcases how real estate investment will not occur in given areas due to a non-existent market. For example, the City may offer a property through the LRA for $10 – which sounds like a steal, but if the buyer needs to put in $100,000 for a building that would at best sell for $70,000 then they will not make that investment and the building will continue to rot. Prop. N.S. begins to address this problem by addressing key issues and stabilizing the properties, usually through roof and foundation repairs, beginning to fix the market-gap. This should continue and be bolstered.

TRANSIT

  1. Complete build-out of the N/S MetroLink line and connect to North County.
    1. The MetroLink expansion will be critical as a means to connecting people in lower-income communities with fewer jobs to areas where jobs are in abundance. This is an investment in our people and in the environment. This also would reduce auto-dependence for communities where auto-ownership is a major financial burden.
  2. Increased funding for bus and train operator salaries.
    1. A sizable number of people rely on bus and train service, and ideally this number must grow as we face a climate crisis fueled in some part by car dependency. With this in mind, the City must work with Bi-State in any way required such that these operators earn a competitive salary and routes do not see their frequencies cut. These individuals are the backbone of our region.
  3. Increased funding for bus shelters.
    1. Bus shelters are a critical piece of infrastructure for safety and comfort and represent a relatively insignificant capital investment versus infrastructure that we dedicate toward cars. These are of reduced importance with high frequencies, but no individual should have to wait in the sun for 30 minutes waiting for a bus. This is a standard met by world-class cities, and St. Louis will not be world-class or competitive if it misses key infrastructure opportunities that take care of its people.
  4. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along #95 and #70 bus routes.
    1. BRT is being adopted in forward-thinking cities across the country as a relatively low-cost method to increase bus frequency by dedicating a lane for bus transit. The Kingshighway and Grand routes have abundant space for a dedicated bus-lane and dedicated, built-out stops can even rival fixed light-rail in some instances at significantly lower costs.
  5. Increased funding for station maintenance and accessible features.
    1. Our major Downtown MetroLink stations should never sit for weeks without working elevators or escalators. IT is an embarrassment to visitors and regular transit users. It again reflects all-too-low state capacity and, if Bi-State needs more engineers and cannot fund this by themselves, then it should be addressed by partners in the City. These are key accessible features, particularly with regard to elevators, and it is indeed too much to ask that a low-mobility individual bypass their stop.
  6. Increased frequency on major bus corridors and MetroLink routes.
    1. Frequency is a driver of ridership and contributes to economic mobility. An individual should never have to allocate 2 or 3 hours to get to work, but this is the reality for many St. Louisans not because the route doesn’t exist, but because the frequencies leave them waiting for significant periods along their route. Reducing frequency can often reduce ridership, contributing to urges by communities to further reduce funding because of low ridership. We must not fall into that trap.
  7. Ensuring that Lambert International Airport officials incorporate MetroLink into revised terminal plans.
    1. One of our greatest regional assets is a light-rail system that brings riders to and from the airport, something that world-class cities like Los Angeles are just now trying to build out. We must ensure that as Lambert undergoes planning for a renewed, singular terminal that transit access continues to be a strength.

ROADWAYS

  1. Take roadway capital improvement projects away from Aldermen and incorporate into the responsibilities of BPS and Streets Department.
    1. Aldermen should not be making capital improvement/urban planning decisions, particularly those that impact residents in other words as well. These are largely untrained elected officials who, again, largely do not hold expertise in urban planning decisions save for a few particular individuals. Leave city planning and streets decisions to experts in a city with the capacity to make these decisions. This is fragmented decision making as it stands today with domino-impacts from individual aldermanic decisions.
  2. Incorporate ‘Road Diets’ along Kingshighway, Grand, and Jefferson corridors and along most roadways in Downtown to rebalance toward pedestrian safety in an era of bigger and heavier vehicles.
    1. Road Diets are one of the best tools for improving pedestrian and bike safety, and for some of these corridors, trying to be either is a frightening proposition. Research showcases that reducing lanes does not increase traffic due to the principals of reduced demand. This is hard pill to swallow for many and a tough political line to sell, but the City should follow empirical evidence and incentivize other forms of transportation. Road Diets can make our roadways safer across the region and they are cheap to implement and of higher importance as cars continue getting bigger and deadlier for non-car users.
  3. Additional tax on heavy-duty vehicles (large SUVs and pickup trucks) incorporated within personal property taxes to afford the additional damage they cause to the built environment and infrastructure, as well as the environment more broadly.
    1. These vehicles have negative externalities that are not accounted for when purchased by the end-user. Heavier vehicles cause significantly more damage to road infrastructure, and when they occasionally drive off the road, to our buildings as well. They are becoming significantly more deadly to pedestrians and cyclists as well, wreaking havoc to all those not within the vehicle. These amount to increasing costs that should be addressed and then utilized to improve and prepare infrastructure to keep people across all transit modes safer.
  4. Continue the build-out of dedicated cycle tracks along major roadways.
    1. Dedicated cycling paths are important for cycling safety and, in many cases, even for the safety of drivers. They are relatively cheap to implement and we have a growing number of examples, like the protected cycle paths on Union north of Forest Park, that showcase how easy they are to implement and how efficient they can be. With current infrastructure, cycle users may often avoid major, and the most efficient, corridors when reaching their destination because they opt for a higher chance to make it home to dinner in one piece. If other great cities can do it, so can we.

GOVERNANCE

  1. Transition municipal government away from the Weak-Mayor system with the Board of Estimate and Apportionment into a Council-Manager government with a professional city manager.
    1. Cities with City Managers and a Council dedicated to legislative actions can be much better equipped to collectively and coherently tackle city-wide issues. The current state of various fiefdoms stifles cooperation and takes decision making down to individuals who are not equipped generally to be making huge capital improvement decisions. We don’t need to look far to see higher efficiency: our neighbors across the state in Kansas City showcase just how effective a City Manager can be. Crucially, Kansas City is also growing and a coherent vision is key to that.
  2. Double the salaries of Aldermen and professionalize their offices with a community liaison and legislative specialist.
    1. Although elected offices should and must be accessible to people of all walks of life, the current low salary and part time nature of the job effectively rule out a large amount of people who simply could not afford to serve without having to take on other responsibilities. Legislating a big city is and should be a full-time job, and its one that also requires a lot of community input and legislative know-how. Let’s modernize and professionalize the Board and ensure that members are prepared financially and logistically to succeed.
  3. Work toward reducing fragmentation with duplicated services particularly with regard to the municipalities bordering St. Louis City.
    1. Police
      1. Multiple police departments impacts service delivery, reliability, data collection, and quality. Differing training regiments, accreditations, community relations requirements, force regulations, salaries, etc. harms safety and credibility.
    2. Dispatch
      1. The City has struggled to maintain an effective dispatch center and is already making improvements, but there are inherent inefficiencies to multiple different dispatch systems for multiple neighboring police departments. The redundancy carries extra costs and potentially sub-optimal outcomes for people on the other end of the line.
    3. Schools
      1. This is unpopular particularly in some inner-ring suburbs who fear sharing their school resources with less-well funded school systems. However, the difference in school quality and funding leads to an unequal foundation for our youth and contributes to inequality, often intersected with race and zip code. By increasing property taxes as described elsewhere in this platform, the city can make its foundation for schools more sizable and relieve concerns.
  4. Reform service delivery and development, reducing unnecessary reviews when possible. No cycle track should take years to approve.
    1. Efficiency has to improve such that idea to finished product for a roadway improvement, bike path, or sidewalk repair to take years. This is another culprit of state capacity and can likely be traced to excess reviews, approvals, and a bureaucracy hampered by withering technology and unacceptably low levels of accountability and ability to take action.
  5. Increase salaries of city personnel across the board to be more competitive with industry. The city should be the best place to work in St. Louis.
    1. How could we expect great city services from a government effectively operating as though it has adopted austerity? Low budgets and inflexible salaries lose qualified individuals to industry. Public service should not be as much a sacrifice as it is made to be, because such sacrifice is burdened by our entire city, not just that individual.
  6. Reduce reliance on external consultants. To do so, St. Louis needs to build state capacity such that project costs and timelines are not dictated on exterior schedules and cost overruns.
    1. External consultants are much a product of all-too-limited state capacity and they introduce private interests, leading generally to increased costs and longer timelines. See the high-speed train fiasco in California as an example, or even the many private, consultant-run studies on light-rail transit that we’ve explored over the last two decades here in St. Louis that eat up millions of dollars with no tangible product. In-house can equal efficient and bring about cost savings if we equip our government with the qualified personnel necessary to make engineering and planning decisions.
  7. Consider a 0.5% increase in the City Earnings Tax to be more competitive in city services with other peer cities that have similar or even higher tax rates.
    1. Good city services to not naturally occur under austerity conditions. Many cities actually have higher than St. Louis City’s 1% earnings tax. Cleveland, for example, has a 2.5% earnings tax and, despite that, is growing (albeit slowly) while St. Louis is doing the opposite. Our 1% earnings tax is not the problem, but increasing it to 1.5% could be part of the solution toward providing city services and infrastructure that attract and maintain residents.
  8. Remove the residency requirement from most, if not all, city bureaucratic positions such that the local government is less of a jobs program and more a delivery service of excellent and professional city services.
    1. St. Louis City represents approximately 10% of the total MSA population, but the entire region is home to qualified professionals in all fields. St. Louis City is largely prohibiting some of our region’s best from working for us on the basis that these roles should pay salaries to only those who live in the city. The presumption is that our city residents hold all the key qualifications necessary, but that argument becomes more and more strained overtime as our population decreases and city jobs remain vacant while dumpsters don’t get emptied in our alleys.
  9. Preserving the new ‘Approval Voting’ mechanism to reduce partisanship and produce candidates who better reflect collective interest rather than those at partisan extremes who otherwise may win with a plurality.
  10. Approval Voting
    1. As described in our video below, Approval Voting can be an excellent tool to ensure that elected candidates are more likely representing a larger share of interests than in our standard primary system.

SAFETY

  1. Restrict firearms to the extent possible and encourage private institutions with more ability to do so to meet stringent firearms requirements.
    1. Doing so will be difficult as gun rights continue extending due to court decisions. However, empirical research almost exclusively showcases a connection between more guns and more killing. Regardless of the political reality, whatever efforts that can be made should be made and that means relying on private partners when possible to enact gun restrictions on as much private property as possible where it is still legal to do so.
  2. Merge city and inner-ring suburb police/EMS departments and have the combined force meet the absolute highest accreditation possible.
    1. Increase funding where necessary to ensure fewer officers work overtime in accordance with improvements documented in empirical criminology literature such that violent and property crimes are reduced. However, those improvements are not inherent to having more officers – fundamental improvements to training and scheduling must be made such that officers are less likely to be in situations where they’re 12 hours into a shift making sub-optimal decisions with insufficient training.
    2. Many of the city’s lowest income neighborhoods, and even Downtown, report frequently seeing few officers.
  3. Combine dispatch centers and increase salaries, wellness benefits to completely eliminate 911 call wait-times.
    1. 911 wait-times are unacceptable for those in emergency situations and the lack of operators comes down to multiple key issues: (1) Salary – workers go where they see an acceptable financial return; (2) Fragmentation – some municipalities likely have too many operators while the City has too few; and (3) It is a difficult, mentally taxing job – and as such, these roles should come with great benefits and wellness programs to ensure that when your call is answered, they’re up to the job all the time.
  4. Allocate funding toward the fire department’s efforts to document vacant building status such that firefighters are less in danger when putting out blazes in vacant structures.
  5. The St. Louis City Fire Department has begun building a collection of buildings that they will not enter due to the inherent and real risks that these buildings pose upon their personnel. However, this is a process that should be expedited and likely more the responsibility of other City departments and should thus be supported substantially.
  6. Utilizing road diets and taxes on excessively large vehicles to reduce pedestrian injuries and casualties.
  7. As described above, Road Diets will keep pedestrians and cyclists safer while also not contributing to worse traffic.
  8. Non-enforcement of non-violent drug crimes and sex work.
  9. These crimes intersect with strong moral and religious beliefs, but regardless of those and whether or not they’re valis as public policy solutions, the enforcement of crimes of these natures that are violence-free and victimless should not take any capacity away from our overtaxed police enforcement. From a practical perspective, these activities will likely continue despite the laws and actions should be taken to make them safer without filling our prisons – a cost we all bear.

WELLBEING

  1. Consider bond programs for city home repair programs to maintain existing residents and build generational wealth.
    1. Keeping people in their homes and building generational wealth is a means of battling income inequality, particularly that which is present for marginalized groups. Making relatively minor repairs on the homes of our elderly neighbors may be a positive investment from a human perspective, but also possibly from the perspective of the alternative costs of a vacant building that becomes more expensive to repair as it attracts crime in accordance with the Broken Window Theory.
  2. Subsidize and/or insure home loans, particularly in neighborhoods that have a history of redlining.
    1. Home ownership is one of the best tools for building wealth and stability, but residents in primarily North-City neighborhoods cannot access financing for rehabs or new constructions due to market-gaps, informal redlining, etc. oftentimes even if they have excellent credit. The City stands to gain from these revitalized neighborhoods and stability and thus should explore subsidizing or insuring loans in these neighborhoods to help build equity for qualified buyers.
  3. Ensure transit routes have a frequency that can support longer distance city travel and thus support individuals who cannot move but need to access job centers.
    1. Frequency is a critical factor for someone without a car to find job stability and have the freedom of mobility.
  4. Support individual rights and freedoms for the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalized groups who routinely face attacks from the Missouri State Government.
    1. The City has the inherent duty to protect its residents, and that duty is likely to face increasing threats from Missouri’s State Government that is increasingly interested in reducing freedoms for LGBTQIA+ people and allowing for discrimination on the State level. St. Louis City should take on these in court and create funds where necessary to provide defense for those who may be persecuted.
  5. Adopting local ordinances in the workplace and housing to prohibit discrimination.
    1. Just as above, these ordinances may be necessary in an increasingly hostile state government and can at least protect residents from local enforcement mechanisms.
  6. Contributing to funds for legal defenses if necessary for individuals if, like in the State of Texas, may find themselves prosecuted by their state government for healthcare for trans children.
    1. These are unacceptable intrusions upon personal liberty and healthcare and pose significant threats to the wellbeing (emotional and financial) for members of our community, many of whom would be unable to protect themselves legally from these attacks should they take place. The City must prepare and be ready.
  7. Non-enforcement of potentially incoming state legislation that may criminalize abortion access.
    1. Similar to protecting other rights and freedoms, abortion falls into a category of personal healthcare that is under increasingly hostile attacks from the State government. St. Louis City should ensure easy access to states like Illinois across the river and ensure that every action is taken to support those in need of those services. This is something that we’re beginning to see discussed among the Board.
  8. Creation of a Tenant’s Bill of Rights.
    1. Tenants in rental units are prized neighbors and community members and should not be subject to some of the most relaxed laws in the nation for tenant protections. As we encourage more development, we should ensure that tenants have protections and do so through coherent city policy rather than through individual neighborhood pushback.

PRIDE

  1. Build infrastructure that does more than meet the bare minimum. Our built environment is one of the key assets of the city, and the higher-quality, attractive streetlights and street features that used to be more commonplace can provide hope and pride for city residents.
    1. Build out in neighborhoods beyond the Central West End. Every city resident should feel pride in their city and see investment.
    2. This will carry an increased cost, but it’s important to recognize that existing streetlight infrastructure, for example is already very expensive and investments in pride and built environment can pay dividends in the future.
  2. Offer best-in-class services that make people proud to live here.
    1. We need to offer reasons for people to stay and, in a large country with many incredible cities, offer unique infrastructure and city elements to attract more residents. We are so used to dumbing down our infrastructure and finding the lowest costs rather than delivering something special.
  3. Properly maintain city parks and revitalize connections to these major community assets.
    1. A Southwest Garden resident has almost no safe way to cross over to Tower Grove Park as Kingshighway and the current streetscape almost completely separate a major asset from its closest neighbors.
    2. A Dutchtown or Wells Goodfellow resident might routinely see unexpectedly tall weeds in their city parks.

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE

  1. Turn budget reserves into a well-managed endowment/sovereign wealth fund similar to that of nations like Norway to invest in our collective future.
  2. Take advantage of low-interest debt to finance infrastructure and community projects. Focusing on less debt is a low-productivity strategy that fails to capitalize on growth.
  3. Invest in St. Louis’ key location along the Mississippi River for freight transportation.
  4. Invest in St. Louis as a tourism destination by better connecting the Arch Grounds to commercial corridors as well as creating riverfront attractions for riverfront cruises.
  5. Coordinating legislation with empirical, academic literature – particularly alongside partnerships with our world-class educational institutions.
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Major CORTEX Project Inches Forward

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.

Listen to the story in the new This Week in Urbanism Podcast BONUS feature.

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.

CORTEX – Source: 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.

OPINION: St. Louis CITY SC Disappoints with Downtown Parking Garage despite plans for “District”

The anticipation for the new MLS stadium and team has been profound for St. Louisans across the metro area. A huge construction effort is currently underway in Downtown West, poised to bring significant activity to a neighborhood that has lacked significant investment, retail, or residential additions for decades. The new stadium and team are well positioned to help revitalize the area while also providing residents an incredible new entertainment option.

Still, the immense positives associated with the stadium and team do not immunize the project from criticism when promises and hype falter. The St. Louis CITY SC branding quite obviously leverages city imagery and loyalty for its brand. Their website for the stadium has an entire page dedicated to the “District” they hope to create alongside the stadium. A key note on this page is to “bring vitality and drive inspiration through inspiring architecture and public spaces, and through creative uses of infrastructure and technology”.

Rendering of the MLS Stadium in Downtown West when completed (Does Not Include Parking Garage)
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An ambitious plan is certainly good to have, and creating a true district “home to a diverse selection of restaurants, bars, living spaces and family experiences” has the potential to do wonders for Downtown West. Having a hub of entertainment, retail, and living options near the stadium contributes to a neighborhood that people stay in rather than simply attend for a game and then leave right away. For the City, that means dense, fun neighborhoods that contribute heavily to the tax base. For the stadium and team, it builds a true connection with the community that is longer lasting with higher revenue potential. While the Ballpark Village developments aren’t perfect, they are succeeding at creating a real neighborhood. With a hotel, office, high-rise apartment building, stadium, Starbucks, retail, and bars, the area supports a 24/7 atmosphere that is both convenient and enjoyable for tourists and locals.

A Rendering of the St. Louis City SC Garage

Unfortunately, just-released renderings from St. Louis City SC depict a large parking structure on Olive with no activation whatsoever, save for a gaudy balcony and staircase. In order to build this parking garage, the soccer club demolished nearly an entire block of mixed-use buildings that could have housed bars, residents, and various other uses. If this rendering resembles the final product, then the built environment surrounding the stadium will be less of a district and more of a brief shop for a game and nothing else. The latter would be a loss for an area so central to the city and near many incredible amenities.

While pedestrians and the neighborhood more broadly lose out with this parking garage, the proposal also demonstrates a continued reliance on a mode of transportation that contributes heavily to our climate crisis. That is despite excellent transit proximity and St. Louis City’s ambitious climate goals, especially relating to new construction.

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When developers promise the world and demolish the urban fabric of a city, ultimately underdelivering on their commitments and publicly stated mission, the city and its residents are harmed. This kind of practice is frequently applied, from Drury Hotels with their demolition-by-neglect strategy in Forest Park Southeast to Restoration St. Louis and its bait-and-switch just by The Grove. Until this strategy is reigned in, we are likely to see more developers preach wide ranging benefits and deliver little more than lipstick on a pig, like this very parking garage.

New Midrise Proposal in St. Louis’ Central West End

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.

Optimist International on Lindell – Google Maps
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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.

4490 Lindell from Taylor – LuxLiving

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.

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Additional Renderings Below:

DeBaliviere Place Construction Check-In

DeBaliviere Place is one of St. Louis’ fastest-growing neighborhoods, home to one of the most dense residential populations in the region. With a unique mix of historic brick architecture, dense multi-family dwellings, and even some single-family interspersed throughout, the neighborhood can often feel like it was taken right out of a New York City borough. While St. Louis architecture is certainly different from elsewhere in the country, DeBaliviere Place feels special in that there are people everywhere who reside in the many tall apartment buildings. Some of the larger buildings have also been converted to condos, helping create an opportunity for ownership even in a high-demand area. A walk along Pershing Ave showcases the diverse, often young residents who utilize the MetroLink light rail system just around the corner at the intersection of DeBaliviere and Forest Park Parkway. Indeed, this is a transit reliant neighborhood, quite suitable for the young professionals and students who make up a significant portion of the population.

With a light rail station that also happens to be the main transfer stop between the red and blue lines, this area is a prime candidate for TOD – otherwise known as Transit-Oriented Development. TOD is critical for encouraging a healthier, more active lifestyle that reduces reliance on cars. While St. Louis has been making progress encouraging such development over the past several years, perhaps the best example of effective TOD resides right here in the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood. Pearl Companies and LuxLiving are transforming the intersection, adding hundreds of residential apartment units and commercial storefronts – including a grocery store – just adjacent to the MetroLink station.

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We covered this development last year and even featured it in our 2020 Top 10 article. Now that construction is well underway, we are excited to share some recent construction photos of the two major projects and other neighborhood assets and architecture.

Of the developments underway along DeBaliviere Ave., the Expo at Forest Park is easily the largest. Pearl Companies is using Trivers and HOK architects to create two large structures divided by DeGiverville Ave. comprising of nearly 300 apartments and around 30,000 square feet of retail, including a grocery store. The renderings in the gallery below showcase about what St. Louisans can expect when the project is complete.

While the project is still far from complete, wood framing has begun and is steadily progressing. The steel beams are also visible from those driving along Forest Park Parkway. The scale of this development is truly massive, and should the Loop Trolley ever rise from the dead, it will find much of its stretch to become a lot more interesting.

Expo at Forest Park looking North – Brian Adler
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Just across the street from the Expo at the Park sits The Hudson, developer LuxLiving’s nearly complete residential apartment building. The crane just came down (inconveniently right after my photos), indicating that the rest of the work that needs to take place is related to exterior finishes and interior amenities. The structure is just about complete.

The Hudson is set to offer about 150 apartments in a package that LuxLiving claims will be just as modern, if not even more so, as the recently completed Chelsea just down Pershing Ave. We released a “First Look” of the Chelsea building earlier this year, and the amenities on offer are certainly unique for the St. Louis area. The Hudson will also offer ground-floor retail, helping further activate the intersection sitting just next to the MetroLink stop. The renderings below showcase what we can expect when the development is complete.

The Hudson at night
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These photos below showcase just how large the presence of the building will be. With that said, there is already significant density along the Pershing corridor within DeBaliviere place. Most structures are at least 3 stories tall, with others rising to nearly a dozen as you get closer to Union Blvd. Rather, the intersection at DeBaliviere and Pershing was the exception to the existing density until these developments were proposed – despite their proximity to transit.

The Hudson – Brian Adler
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By Fall, this intersection should look and feel dramatically different. However, longtime residents will still find the same historic and lively feel that has long existed within the DeBaliviere area. Most buildings in the neighborhood date back to near the 1904 World’s Fair, and a walk down Pershing reveals some of the finest architecture in the city. There are mixed uses as well, with small fitness businesses, dance studios, and even restaurants like Mack’s Bar and Grill and PuraVegan Café. The photos just below show just how gorgeous one street in the large community is. If you haven’t visited the neighborhood over the past few years, you may be surprised at just how well it holds up today.

Butler Brothers Building next on the Downtown Revitalization Machine

Downtown West has been picking up significant momentum over the last couple years. The most well-known project will bring a brand-new Soccer Stadium for St. Louis City SC, and advocates have long argued that it would contribute to positive growth in the corridor. It appears, not even two full years later, that those advocates may be pleased with their predictions.

Although there is lots of academic debate surrounding whether incentivized professional stadiums positively improve a city’s economy, the St. Louis MLS Stadium is unique in that it received no tax-incremented-financing (TIFs) from the city. Unlike many other Central Corridor investments, this one in particular is mostly privately financed without taking from future local tax revenues. Rather, the only incentives received by the stadium were granted by State lawmakers and still mostly a drop in the bucket.

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The Butler Brothers building is one of the largest vacant buildings within Downtown St. Louis with 8 floors of usable space and a presence that takes up an entire city block. In Downtown West, just East of Jefferson, there has been much less investment in recent years than neighboring areas. The stadium seems to have kicked off a recent spate of investments all seeking to capitalize on the anticipated success of the MLS site, with residential redevelopments like 1800 Washington, 1801 Washington Ave, and even a few more along the way totaling hundreds of new units.

Location of the Butler Brothers building – Google Maps

With the sheer size of the Butler Brothers building, it will activate a significant portion of Downtown West. Better yet, in addition to its anticipated 384 residential units (greater in number than recent towers like One Hundred on the Park), Development Services Group plans on adding 2 retail spaces with a total of around 15,000 square feet. Mixed-use could be something of a gamechanger for this part of Downtown and contribute to a growing neighborhood feel that St. Louis City SC hoped on achieving with their new stadium and adjacent developments. The retail spots add additional reasons for residents and tourists alike to stay in the area and spend their money locally.

The building will likely have similar amenities to other recent large developments. According to CitySceneSTL, the plans call for an “amenity lounge, fitness center, juice bar, bike storage, dog spa, game room, and screen room.”. Of the 384 apartments, 295 will be one-bedrooms units, 24 studio, and 65 two-bedroom. Some developers have found their one-bedroom units to be the most in demand, which likely explains the composition of units in this building.

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The developer hopes to begin construction in Q4 2021 and to wrap up construction in Q2 2023. This is a very ambitious construction and approval timeline, but there certainly is cause to shoot for wrapping up around the start of the new St. Louis City SC team at the neighboring stadium. In just a few years, Downtown West may well feel more like a natural extension of Downtown rather than a missing link in the Central Corridor.

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.

Green Street Reorganizes Leadership as it Continues Breakneck Development in STL City

Green Street has multiple projects underway in the St. Louis area, with hundreds of units coming online in St. Louis City and a humungous proposal to revitalize Old Webster in St. Louis County. We recently reported their quick growth as they are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars and tons of new infill to the region.

One of the several developments underway in FPSE – Marshall, Union-STL from Green Street

In their latest press release, Green Street announced that Thomas “Toby” Martin has been named Green Street’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective immediately. We have been told that the company is hiring quickly and reorganizing to accommodate for their growth, while the firm is also vertically integrating with its recent acquisition of HDA Architects.

Martin previously worked in senior roles at other large real estate firms including Cushman, Duke Realty, and NAI Desco Commercial. He also started his own real estate firm, Martin Properties, in 2004. Martin will work alongside Joel Oliver, who has been promoted to Managing Director and Senior VP of Development. They intend to work closely with CFO Luke Pope to identify new markets and opportunities for future developments.

“Joel has done an incredible job of sourcing creative financing to support our workforce housing model…With his guidance, we will be able to duplicate our efforts in multiple communities where the need is great.”

Phil Hulse, founder and CEO of Green Street.

Green Street recently completed HueSTL, part of the Chroma development, in FPSE. Missouri-Metro was invited by Liz DeBold Austin, SVP of Marketing, as it neared completion for a construction tour to share with our readers. Hue is now at or near occupancy, and Green Street is working quickly to complete the nearby Terra and Union-STL developments just south of Manchester in FPSE, often referred to as “The Grove”. We have included some recent photos of the construction below, where fences have just gone up and construction equipment is onsite.

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Stay tuned for more development updates here at Missouri-Metro.

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

New Luxury Hotel in Clayton Revitalizing an Aging Landmark

The City of Clayton, just outside of the City of St. Louis limits, is in the middle of a fast-paced transformation that is reshaping its skyline and densifying its streets. From the under construction Forsyth Pointe towers, the Ritz Carlton renovation, Centene Centre, a new Bank of America branch, a new AC Hotel, to a new Residence Inn, there is so much underway that it would seem unlikely for the municipality to have a geographical area only 1 square mile larger than Tower Grove South.

And yet, that list is actually incomplete. Missing is the Le Meridien on Bonhomme, opening this Fall in the middle of a pandemic and a historic decline in tourism and business travel. While that might sound crazy, the demand for nicer accommodations in Clayton has been publicly stated by officials for years. The Clayton government has sought a Ritz Carlton competitor for years, which would help shore up solidify business travel in the hottest St. Louis area office market. Moreover, the development is a top-to-bottom renovation, so it is not actually bringing more rooms on market than existed prior to its renovation.

While the exterior is nearly covered in windows bringing a nearly floor-to-ceiling view experience to all guests and abundant, fresh accent lighting gives a modern feel, the original structure dates back to 1965. HOK Architects was chosen to take what is something of a landmark in the City of Clayton, with its wavy, brutalist street facing wall and overall aged façade into a hotel worthy of the wealthy visitors gracing Clayton with their business.

The Sheraton – Pre Renovation, St. Louis Post Dispatch

The Sheraton, a value-focused Marriott brand, was slowly becoming a poor fit for the neighborhood. With high-priced consultancy firms, tech startups, and banks filling Clayton’s impressive Downtown, a market strategy based on value exclusively – coupled with a need for massive capital improvements – led to the Sheraton’s demise. The structure, which occupies a large and visible parcel in the core of Downtown Clayton, was also quickly appearing less and less impressive in the face of the development boom surrounding it. The glass-clad towers and newly renovated spaces made its age all the more apparent.

The top-to-bottom renovation and upgraded brand position to a Le Meridien by Marriott is an admirable attempt to change course and bring about an offering more suited to the Clayton market. 268 modern rooms with luxury amenities, a rooftop pool and event space, “state of the art fitness center”, and proximity to neighboring businesses are all part of a new value proposition hinging on far more than price, which is still likely to be lower than its neighbor, the Ritz Carlton.

The panoramic views of Downtown Clayton, an attempt at a stylish mid-century modern design, and a fresh brand will really complement the Downtown Business District. The changes are comprehensive, going beyond improving the amenities and finishes inside, with a complete re-design of the exterior. Even the wavy street-facing wall is seeing a modernization. The wavy design is a much brighter gray, replacing the dirty beige seen for decades. It is important to note that although this is a big change, it is still a preservation of an old design – bringing it closer to today’s standards, but respecting the original intent in 1965. The guest room windows are perhaps the most striking difference to me, replacing small windows with nearly floor-to-ceiling glass panels, which not only makes a huge difference on its appearance, but also makes for a better experience inside.

St. Louis has experienced explosive growth in its hotel sector over the past few years, and it is certainly possible that the pandemic will significantly harm the service and hospitality industry in the region. With that being said, I would highly expect this renovation to withstand the economic challenges better than the many innovative spaces in Downtown St. Louis. While St. Louis City is resilient and hosts plenty of attractions, the Clayton office segment is incredibly strong. Even as the national conversation about office space centers around the work-from-home and its devastating impacts on commercial real estate, Clayton is leasing new towers before they are even complete like in the under-construction Forsyth Pointe. St. Louis City is not yet in that position, even though it is headed in that direction.

Regardless of where the development is in the region, the good news is that the St. Louis area is strong and attractive to businesses and developers alike even in these challenging times. From the Arch to Chesterfield, not even a pandemic can halt the progress and explosive growth of the region. Let’s keep that progress going.

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