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.

The Changing Face of DeBaliviere

Development across St. Louis shows few signs of slowing down, even amidst a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. While there may be some evidence of reduced demand for office space as many companies adapt to remote work, residential development is chugging along at a rapid pace. Commercial leases have seen the largest impact during the COVID crisis, but residential payments have, at least so far, been consistent. Within St. Louis City, there are several hundred new rental units poised to enter the market over the next couple years, and that’s just including those currently under construction.

This incredible amount of residential demand might feel bizarre for a city hosting reports of record population decline. These reports hardly tell the full story of St. Louis demographics and historical population shifts, however. For those unfamiliar with some of the history of St. Louis, here is a little bit of a refresher to provide some context.

The city shed tens of thousands of generally more white, affluent residents to the county over the past several decades, while urban renewal programs simultaneously demolished Black-owned businesses and homes. Today, the cycle looks and feels different, in that the central corridor (generally referencing to the area stretching from Clayton to Downtown) is seeing incredibly high levels of residential occupancy and development to support high-paying tech and medical jobs. Just a few miles north, however, the city is seeing an exodus of Black residents who are leaving neighborhoods historically lacking investment that have been ravaged by urban renewal programs, redlining, and more.

This context is important to remember as we discuss the changing face of St. Louis. It is an uncomfortable juxtaposition as we have much to be proud of in the new and growing industries that pay well and require degrees that provide demand for more luxury housing. A healthy city must have possess and nurture these assets to attract residents and development. And yet, a healthy city also must support and revive its neighborhoods like in North St. Louis that it has done so much harm to.

WashU Neuroscience Research Building – Under Construction

That note is important when discussing the Skinker-DeBaliviere and DeBaliviere Place neighborhoods, which house a dense, urban mix of residents across the income scale. Bordering Washington University, Forest Park, the Central West End, and Delmar Boulevard, these neighborhoods and specifically DeBaliviere Avenue contain 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.

Alongside the demographic shifts underway in the neighborhood are physical, tangible changes in housing and amenities. Brick-clad duplexes are demolished in favor of hulking complexes with hundreds of units, like Tribeca on Pershing. These developments, again, often resemble healthy aspects of a growing city with more prosperous residents. This it is why I preface this article with the juxtaposition and struggles of St. Louis disinvestment in predominantly Black communities. I hope to suggest that while we can and often should be happy with developments like these, we need to be conscious and wary of investment patterns and racial discrimination to actually make the city whole. As great as large mutli-family complexes can be for urbanism, growth in central corridor occupancy will not and has not been making up for population decline in North St. Louis.

While Tribeca itself shifts the fabric of the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood with a multitude of new residents in luxury units, there is much, much more in the pipeline. Few places in St. Louis are experiencing quite as much change as the Skinker-DeBaliviere and DeBaliviere Place neighborhoods. 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 on Pershing is the most far along, bringing another luxury apartment community by Lux Living to Pershing. Lux Living also completed Tribeca in 2018, bringing “smart” amenities to the neighborhood, including a robot butler that would bring beer and other snacks to residents in their apartments. Although Mission Rock Residential recently acquired Tribeca, the new Chelsea community will look and feel very similar and remain operated by Lux Living, at least at the onset.

Tribeca on Pershing

The Chelsea will seem to retain similar structural themes and design elements, with a greater emphasis on brick than its Tribeca sibling. It will likewise 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.

The Chelsea – provided by Lux Living

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. DeBaliviere Place certainly has high residential demand and can likely support a coffee bistro, something it oddly lacks. With the relative density of the neighborhood, significant amount of mid-to-high income residents, and urban streetscape, there has been a strange lack of retail and commercial for years along Pershing, Waterman, etc. Outside of Pura Vegan Cafe and West End Bistro, residents had to make their way to Delmar or to the Central West End for the nearest dining options.

The Chelsea – Under Constructi

Just a two or three minute walk west of the Chelsea is the site for The Hudson (310 DeBaliviere), at the intersection of Pershing and DeBaliviere. Construction has already begun on the foundation for another large residential apartment community on what was formerly the St. Louis Italian Restaurant and Pizza Co.

Construction Site for 310 DeBaliviere

Lux Living’s second active construction in the neighborhood is considered transit-oriented-development (TOD), located just steps from the Forest Park Metrolink station and bus connectors. TOD is being actively pushed for across the transit corridor in St. Louis, with examples including the Sunnen Station Apartments, Everly on the Loop, and a 10 acre community to be developed by Pearl Companies next to UMSL.

The Hudson – rendering found on CitySceneSTL

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. St. Louis is somewhat behind on TOD, versus cities like Chicago, New York, or Boston. Granted, these cities are larger than St. Louis, but their metro systems are easily accessible to residents in urban settings and provide people the option of living car-free.

While we do not know exactly what amenities will be offered at The Hudson just yet, we have some information to work off of. Plans include a retail space at the corner, below what appears to be an amenity deck on the second floor in the rendering above. In a dense setting like what is being built on DeBaliviere and Pershing, mixed-use setups with retail go a long way toward increasing quality of life. For residents without cars, or who don’t want to go far for their services, dining, or casual necessities, nearby commercial spaces fill a critical void and add to a more urban, lively feel on the street.

The residents at The Hudson will have other options beside the corner retail space, however. While they can choose to walk down Pershing toward the cafe planned in The Chelsea, they will find even more just across DeBaliviere at Pearl Companies’ own TOD apartment project. The Expo on the 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.

The gallery just above showcases the Expo at Forest Park development from Forest Park Parkway (first), from DeBaliviere and Pershing (second), from Forest Park Parkway again (third), and on De Giverville (fourth). 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).

Those familiar with the area may have already noticed the demolition of the strip mall previously located on DeBaliviere, cleared to make way for the Expo development. The retail component of the new buildings will go a long way toward ensuring this section of DeBaliviere remains active and dense, but with a different feel than before. There were several smaller businesses in the old strip mall that may or may not find new homes. While the Expo at Forest Park undoubtedly creates a nicer, more modern atmosphere that will look and feel much more urban, these businesses are being pushed out of a very dense neighborhood and could struggle to recover.

The good news is that, for current residents, the new retail spaces will reportedly include a grocery store. Similar to the surprising lack of restaurants and retail space for the number of closely packed residents, there were also no grocery stores within walking distance to most houses and apartments in the Skinker-DeBaliviere and DeBaliviere Place neighborhoods. The nearest would likely be the United Provisions on Delmar or the Straubs in the Central West End, neither particularly convenient to access without owning a car. This is also the kind of retail that will be useful for residents across the income scale, assuming the grocery chain chosen is not ultra-luxurious or reflective of a very granular specialty.

With nearly 450 units in the Hudson and Expo at Forest Park projects and the additional 150 at The Chelsea, the DeBaliviere strip is poised to see a large influx of wealthy residents and an entirely new streetscape. This amount of residential development eclipses or matches almost anywhere else in the region, including the Central West End and Downtown.

While DeBaliviere Place and Skinker DeBaliviere have their own unique neighborhood assets and a “feel” that is different from that of the traditionally more urban Central West End, I suspect that the line is going to blur more than ever as the neighborhoods near the CWE quickly densify. With luxury apartments hosting hundreds of units and activated retail spaces, this corridor might soon resemble the kind of urban spaces found on Maryland and Euclid, or other special corridors filled with pedestrians, restaurants, and other commercial spaces.

This development is an intriguing, generally healthy aspect for St. Louis. My caution is less about this development as a whole, but more about the kinds of investment St. Louis is seeing. We can and should cheer for density, urbanism, and TOD, as long as we also advocate for urban policy and investment that creates places for the kinds of small businesses lost in the demolished strip mall, or the residents not even a mile north of these developments just past Delmar. These apartment communities will not end the reduction of population in St. Louis, rather, they will just slow them down. That is a good thing that they will do so, and I am happy to see St. Louis offer urban amenities not usually found in this region that others might simply expect in a top-tier city. But, as stewards of the city, let us at least be aware of the juxtaposition of the luxury and the poverty, and seek to simultaneously invest in industries unlike healthcare and tech that are accessible to those without degrees. That will be the day that St. Louis makes itself a truly better city.

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