This Week in Urbanism: A Growing Skyline | NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM

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You’re listening to This Week in Urbanism from Missouri-Metro

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.

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.

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

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

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

Rendering of the BarK and Green Street HQ – Green Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2020 In Review | St. Louis Development Skyrockets & Our Top 10

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.

Building Permits in St. Louis City – St. Louis, MO

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.

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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.

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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.

TOP 10 OF 2020

MISSOURI -METRO.COM

ONE | 100 Above the Park

Image found at Liveat100.com

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.

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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.

Read more in our coverage here.

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THREE | MLS Stadium

Dec. 2 Rendering of the St. Louis City SC Stadium – Image provided by St. Louis City SC

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.

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Read more in our coverage here.

FOUR | The Changing Face of DeBaliviere

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 Chelsea on 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).

Read more in our coverage here.

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FIVE | City Foundry Phases I and II

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.

Read more in CitySceneSTL’s coverage here.

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SIX | Green Street & The Grove

We’ve covered a lot about how The Grove is seeing an incredible wave of new development here over the past few months. Huge developments like Hue@Chroma, the Arbor on Arco, the Grove Lofts (following the recent completion of 4400 Manchester just nextdoor), are joined by a new wave of commercial activity ranging from gourmet restaurant concepts to organic grocers and new coffee shops.

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.

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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.

Delmar Divine – Home

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.

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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.

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NINE | 1014 Spruce St.

Image found on CitySceneSTL here and the LCRA November Agenda here

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.

Read more in Chris Stritzel’s coverage on CitySceneSTL here.

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TEN | 1801 Washington

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.

Read more on CitySceneSTL here.

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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.

Stay Safe & Stay Healthy.

Thank you for reading.

Missouri Metro Wishes you a Happy New Year.

Hue@Chroma Opening Soon in The Grove: A Review of Community Impact, Gentrification, and Urban Density

Only 2 and a half years after Green Street and the Koman Group opened Chroma and its chic 235 residential units to the public, Chroma’s sister property Hue is nearly complete with an additional 111 modern apartments. Together, their combined 346 luxury apartments and 18,000 sq. feet of ground-floor retail will significantly densify and urbanize the Eastern end of The Grove’s commercial corridor on Manchester.

We’ve covered a lot of development in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, particularly along Manchester, where hundreds of new residential units are rising quickly alongside new commercial spaces and restaurant expansions. For those who have not visited The Grove this last year, you might be in for a shock. The neighboring Central West End has largely and near exclusively been home to the most dense development and luxury apartment communities, but it seems readily apparent that Manchester might soon host a similar density to that around the BJC Medical Center.

Hue@Chroma facing East from Sarah St. – Brian Adler

There is no doubt that Hue@Chroma is seemingly poised to offer some gorgeous apartments to St. Louis, but before we get to the photos (some better than others, my apologies – didn’t realize some of my camera settings were off), let’s talk about some of the elephants in the room. With new development, particularly on such a large scale, we have to talk about the community that “was”, before we get to the community that “will be”. I’m specifically referring to that “G Word”, gentrification.

It seems that we talk about that, at least briefly, in many of our articles here at Missouri Metro. Humungous buildings constructed with multimillion dollar budgets ballooned by outside investors who might or might not live in the communities affected may drastically change the physical landscape of the communities they are built in. Not to mention concerns that outside investment adversely impacts current residents.

Before you make up your mind, remember that gentrification is much more complicated than many people attempt to make it seem. Like everything else, there is a good deal of nuance. A 300 unit luxury apartment complex built atop a previously vacant lot is significantly different than the same development constructed upon a street of just occupied homes razed only for newer and wealthier residents. Social scientists have studied vacancy for decades, and not only does it cost the city financially, it makes communities significantly less safe. Replacing vacant land with productive development can be very, very positive. That doesn’t mean that it always will be positive, but that we must keep an open mind and keep digging.

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As we have discussed before, the studies on gentrification put forth some mixed messaging. There is a general sort of “Classical Gentrification” that is often examined in some of the U.S.’ largest and wealthiest cities, wherein white, single, and higher income individuals move into a neighborhood and price out a more diverse and lower-income set of individuals who previously occupied that community. Todd Swanstrom, a Professor at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, published a study in 2014 that indicated St. Louis’ rebounding neighborhoods do not generally fit this model. As a recent student of Swanstrom myself in UMSL’s Graduate Public Policy program, we have had the opportunity to speak on this topic together to great lengths. You can read more in Swanstrom’s article he wrote about the study on NextSTL, but I’ll briefly describe it here too.

Even some of the most “gentrified” neighborhoods in St. Louis, like the Central West End, are retaining their diversity. There is a huge difference in the level of displacement found in a legacy city like St. Louis, where the housing market is under much less pressure and demand is slower and markets like D.C., Los Angeles, or New York City.

“In legacy cities housing markets tend to be “loose” and that may mean that displacement pressures are less severe in so-called gentrifying neighborhoods and that economic and racial diversity may be an asset for neighborhoods rather than a problem.”

Todd Swanstrom, source: NextSTL

The other studies, which focus on significantly larger metro areas, tend to show a mixed academic consensus, with perhaps still a tilt toward some negative consequences. Even though the most recent studies on gentrification suggest that there was no sign of “large-scale departure of elderly or long-term homeowners” in their Philadelphia experiment, they recognize a higher risk of tax delinquency for those long-term residents. Studies that have now been around a few years show that gentrifying neighborhoods lose their affordable units at five times the rate as non-gentrifying neighborhoods. There are also benefits noted by both studies, including better quality of life and services like education, safety, higher property values, access to groceries, etc. There are many of these benefits to be found in St. Louis neighborhoods, with perhaps fewer of the negative impacts as well.

We discussed gentrification in our article covering recent development in Gravois Park

The dense, urban fabric of the Central West End is something that can have immensely positive impacts for residents and visitors, not to mention the City’s tax base. Multifamily construction tends to not only increase property values of nearby homes, but also hosts significant advantages in city expenses, particularly when compared to single family homes in suburban areas. The city must only extend utilities once to reach hundreds of residents, whereas the street construction, street maintenance, and utility extensions to reach 300+ single family homes would be astronomical. Moreover, Multi-Family Residential apartment units traditionally are occupied by individuals without children, while taxed at an effective rate similar to single-family residential dwellings.

This would mean the development would subsidize schools and significantly add to the city’s tax revenues, as posited by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. This is complicated to some degree by St. Louis’ taxing subsidies often found, even in strong markets like in the Central Corridor, although these incentives are generally temporary, though usually still for several years. Public financing is very flawed in St. Louis and in need of new standards and transparency, showcased in a recent audit by Auditor Galloway, though that is a conversation for another time.

Of course, there are the human benefits too. Density builds community, and dense communities with large amenity spaces allow for events and informal connections in a world where distance is likely to keep growing between people, at least in the workplace where it appears work from home might become more of a norm. Combined with the ability to walk to restaurants, walk to stores, and potentially live car-free with nearby Metro access, density creates the potential for healthier neighborhoods and healthier people.

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That is all to say that gentrification is an incredibly complex issue, one that there might not be a convenient “good” or “bad” answer for in this context. What we can see are real benefits offered in a section of the community that transitions more into industrial activity than residential, leaving little room for displacement as a part of the discussion. It would be different in the context of Drury Hotels and their proposal on Oakland, Gibson, and Arco on the Western edge of The Grove and FPSE, where dozens of homes would be demolished for a surface parking lot and two towers. We covered that here, and we can say that at least right now, that project is stalled, if not cancelled.

One of many properties on the Western edge of FPSE owned by Drury – Brian Adler

We expect that this conversation surrounding gentrification and community impacts will continue for years to come. Research is still developing, and perhaps lacking in markets like St. Louis, where researchers like Swanstrom are shining a light on neighborhoods and developments in looser markets. Expect that Green Street will be a major player in these discussions as well, as the developer is also looking to build 6 new residential communities just South of Manchester. Most of these plans are not yet finalized or public, but expect them to include communities similar to Chroma, but “on steroids” with incredible amenities. There may also be rowhomes and smaller structures to add to the physical diversity of the neighborhood. We can also expect a significant amount of affordable housing to be included, something that is only financially feasible on their part with a massive scale. Missouri Metro will look forward to covering these as soon as we’re able, and we thank Green Street for including us in some of the discussions so far.

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On to Hue@Chroma itself, there is much to look forward to. I had the opportunity to see the progress firsthand on a tour of the construction and the amenity spaces its residents will have access to at the finished and fully occupied Chroma. Liz DeBold Austin, Vice President of Marketing at Green Street, granted Missouri Metro access to the quickly progressing construction, allowing photos of every space and unit.

All of Hue’s units will be studios and 1-bedroom apartments, although they are certainly fairly spacious. Even the studios have separate “rooms”, not necessarily closed off with a door, but otherwise sectioned off where a bed would clearly go, separate from the living room and kitchen.

Editor’s note: Brian and his wife, Lydia, used to live in a studio in Clayton spanning 400 sq. feet. It was only one room with a kitchen and separate bathroom. These studios felt downright spacious in comparison.

The most impressive thing about the units was the attention to detail and the feel of the materials. The countertops were a high quality material, either Quartz or Granite, and the appliances were all stainless steel and definitely not the cheapest kind. Each kitchen had more than enough space, and the larger 1-bedroom units even had large islands. Many units have large balconies as well, helping create a larger livable space for residents who otherwise don’t have separate bedrooms to lounge in.

Each unit also had a large bathroom with a big shower, storage space, and large mirrors. The attention to the space, making a small unit feel big, was something I kept noticing throughout. Many of the units had walk-in closets, others still hosting large spaces where one could easily store several large suitcases or many, many clothes.

While all Hue residents will be able to share the amenities in Chroma just next-door, they will also have access to a large courtyard in the middle. Residents will have a ton of amenities at their disposal, including an onsite Avenue C convenience store, pool, conference rooms, study spaces, BBQs, and more.

According to Liz, Green Street hopes to open Hue@Chroma to its first residents at the end of the year, an optimistic schedule but one that I assume they will be able to pull off. Many of the units appear just about complete, with just the finishing touches necessary. The only space still far from complete is the outdoor courtyard, which as of the tour, remained a pile of dirt with lots of potential.

Hue@Chroma also represents a joint venture between Green Street and KDG, formerly the Koman Group before a merger with Keeley Development Group. KDG will manage the property from a day to day basis and staff the building, providing exceptional customer service. KDG also manages Clayton on the Park just next to Shaw Park as well as Chroma, just next-door to Hue.

The North Facing Mural on Hue@Chroma – Brian Adler

The Grove is in the middle of a development renaissance, and it seems major developers from the St. Louis region are doubling down on the neighborhood, even in the middle of a global pandemic. We look forward to covering all of the changes and their impacts here at Missouri Metro.

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Bridging the Delmar Divide? Development at Euclid and Delmar Brings Big Promises

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.

Boutique studios and businesses like Cross Grand are booming in neighborhoods like Dutchtown – Brian Adler

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.

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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 Emerging Business Center – Image Found on CityScene STL

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.

Fountain Park Neighborhood – Image Provided by Google Maps

Often when large developments are proposed in lower income communities, ones that might be predominantly Black communities, gentrification reasonably becomes a major concern. While I have previously covered that social scientists generally have mixed views on the actual negative impacts of gentrification, some studies show that gentrifying neighborhoods lose their affordable units at 5x the rate of other neighborhoods. There is still active debate regarding how many residents are displaced or whether it is statistically significant when compared to how many residents might leave a neighborhood over several years in the first place, gentrification is a broader issue that covers more than simple physical displacement.

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.

Delmar & Euclid – Image Provided by Google Maps

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. 

Kingsway Development

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 Lofts at Euclid – Lofts at Euclid Website
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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.

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In this case, Kingsway Development plans for the TIF to primarily go toward streetscape improvements along Delmar Blvd., which is in poor shape thanks to the long-term lack of investment. Other financing is also expected, including Missouri & Federal Historic Tax Credits, Missouri Brownfields Tax Credits, and Federal New Market Tax Credits. While there is still a funding gap, Bryant and the SLDC are optimistic that the project will fill that void as it solidifies investor partnerships.

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.

4915 Delmar – Image Provided by Google Maps

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,”

Kevin Bryant – speaking to the TIF Commission

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.

The Bridge – Kingsway Development

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.

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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.

Alderman Boyd – St. Louis 22nd Ward

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.

One of the many distressed, historical LRA Properties (left) in Fountain Park – Image Provided by Google Maps

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.

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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.

Gourmet Nachos & Narwhal’s Concept coming to The Grove

Most of the articles I have written lately have begun with a note regarding the incredible amount of development taking place in Forest Park Southeast and The Grove. With this new dual-restaurant concept proposed at Chouteau and Vandeventer, not to mention 7 large residential projects expected soon south of Manchester by Green Street, that seems poised to be the case for some time.

Dubbed the “Narwhals Grove Project”, the former gas station occupying the corner lot at 4014 Chouteau is being redeveloped into a dual-restaurant space by Narwhal’s Crafted and Pickleman’s owners Brad Merten and Brandon Holzhueter. Currently vacant and recently utilized by U-HAUL, the structure will be significantly renovated and revitalized to maximize the odd characteristics of the triangular and narrow lot, shown below. This lot has been something of an eyesore despite being an entry point to the otherwise vibrant neighborhood.

Aerial view provided by the Forest Park Southeast Development Committee

Merten and Holzhueter are planning to rehab the existing structure and create a common point of entry for the two businesses that will be onsite. The Narwhal’s side will likely share similar branding as the Narwhal’s Crafted locations, but with some room for variation given the proximity of the Narhwal’s Crafted on Laclede in the Central West End. Even with the other Narwhal’s so close, Merten and Holzhueter noted the existing nightlife, density, and characteristics of The Grove as major factors of their decision.

The other restaurant is a new concept for the two owners, a fast-casual gourmet nacho eatery, with new takes on nacho dishes that are not yet available in the region. The nacho restaurant is likely to be called “Loaded Nachos”, and a sample menu that was shown in the Development Committee meeting on September 15 revealed a surprisingly versatile nacho selection, with appetizer and entre options that also offered options for those with dietary restrictions.

The focus on both will be fun, with games and activities on offer under a shared covered patio. There will also be an interior dining room and uncovered patio, offering several different spaces for patrons. Those who have visited other Narwhal’s locations will feel at home with the indoor/outdoor experience. However, there will be a new open-front kitchen to add an additional layer of engagement for guests.

Basic renderings and plans for the location provided by Forest Park Southeast Development Committee

The triangular lot will also see a large amount of beautification, with landscaping and improvements occupying parts of the lot that are not large enough for activity or for structures. There will be a permanent art installation incorporating their signage as well. Although the property is small, the owners are making sure to include ADA parking spaces.

The Park Central Forest Park Southeast Development Committee supports the proposal, although it does not have official approval capacity. Instead, it serves as a recommendation and review board. It recommends a series of variances that would approve a pick-up window, a lower height request for the patio wall facing the street, and the patio covering. Should there be any other proposed changes, the recommendation requires the owners to come back to the committee.

Notably, this lot is actually being sold by the Koman Group/KDG, who developed the CHROMA luxury apartments next-door. Koman/KDG have been heavily involved in the process of finding a suitable buyer that is beneficial for their residents next-door and that fits the vibrancy and eclectic atmosphere of the neighborhood as a whole. Although they had intended to build more residential units on this lot, the shape and size proved too difficult to design around. The good news is that instead of maintaining a vacant lot in The Grove that all visitors and residents coming from the East would have to drive through, they put in the effort to fill the space with a vendor that seems intent on adding to the neighborhood positively.

This should be a substantial improvement to this location, helping fill another lot at the corner of the neighborhood that might otherwise dissuade residents or patrons from entering and enjoying the neighborhood amenities.

Front view of the former gas station provided by Forest Park Southeast Development Committee

Stay tuned for news of official approval, opening dates, and more information on this development. Feel free to comment below or on our social channels.

STL Development Unfazed by COVID

Despite the economic downturn and rising COVID cases, St. Louis economic development is still churning along in a surprising manner.

Construction photo of One Hundred in the CWE, provided by CLAYCO: https://app.oxblue.com/open/clayco/100kingshighway

It’s true that St. Louis has, over the past several decades, been reeling from its industrial economy withering away and has not been a shining star of economic stability. Yet, the forces that made St. Louis economically unstable are themselves disappearing as new industries take hold in the metropolitan area and a greater trend toward regional collaboration and workforce development. With a steadily growing Biotech sector, incredible research universities including Washington University, SLU, UMSL, and others, a blossoming Geospatial Intelligence sector, and a diversifying startup community, St. Louis of today is much stronger.

The metropolitan area is starting to make a name for itself with these new industries, and with coordinated workforce development and more competent leadership, these industries are growing.

With the new NGA facility just north of Downtown, the Geospatial Intelligence sector is poised to create thousands of jobs and revitalize a section of St. Louis City that has historically struggled. At the same time, the Federal government is bringing over 1000 USDA jobs to Downtown St. Louis, just as Accenture announced 1400 new jobs in Town and Country, with many of those jobs working in Federal contract related roles.

In the Cortex, KDG is still planning its Cortex K development, and Washington University has a crane up for its 11-story Neuroscience facility, which would be the largest in the nation once complete. The Aloft hotel just opened its doors to visitors, supporting the innovation and startup community. Cortex leaders have signaled that there will be more to come soon.

Strong industries do more than provide jobs to their direct beneficiaries. They add to the tax base, supporting city functions in the future. Moreover, they contribute to the strength of their communities, making other new jobs and developments possible. With all of the activity in the Central Corridor, there is the capacity to support hundreds of wealthier residents, with the One Hundred luxury apartment building nearing completion. In Lafayette Square, a new luxury apartment building was just announced which presumably will house the residents occupying these higher paid positions in the growing industries.

Of course, there is also the City Foundry development in Midtown, which is supposed to open its doors this Fall with a new grocery store, cinema, and a food hall with a dozen or more entrants. We also covered on this site the hotel planned on Jefferson at the Wells Fargo campus.

Not everything is so rosy – there have been some developments that have stalled, such as the Armory building in Midtown. Although the developers at Green Street have completed most of the exterior work, potential leasing issues and a lawsuit are delaying further construction, much in part due to difficulties with financing and finding tenants during the age of COVID. It’s all but certain that developers are going to present new projects at a slower pace, but this is far from a situation where St. Louis stalls. Instead, St. Louis will keep seeing cranes in its skyline.

From the Chelsea apartments in DaBaliviere Place, Forsyth Pointe in Clayton, Clarendale in Clayton, to the Iron Hill development on Grand, we’re set to see so much more new construction over the next several years.

This is anything but a dull time in St. Louis, and hopefully this means our city and community will be in a good place for a solid recovery as our crises end sooner rather than later.  

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