The anticipation for the new MLS stadium and team has been profound for St. Louisans across the metro area. A huge construction effort is currently underway in Downtown West, poised to bring significant activity to a neighborhood that has lacked significant investment, retail, or residential additions for decades. The new stadium and team are well positioned to help revitalize the area while also providing residents an incredible new entertainment option.
Still, the immense positives associated with the stadium and team do not immunize the project from criticism when promises and hype falter. The St. Louis CITY SC branding quite obviously leverages city imagery and loyalty for its brand. Their website for the stadium has an entire page dedicated to the “District” they hope to create alongside the stadium. A key note on this page is to “bring vitality and drive inspiration through inspiring architecture and public spaces, and through creative uses of infrastructure and technology”.
An ambitious plan is certainly good to have, and creating a true district “home to a diverse selection of restaurants, bars, living spaces and family experiences” has the potential to do wonders for Downtown West. Having a hub of entertainment, retail, and living options near the stadium contributes to a neighborhood that people stay in rather than simply attend for a game and then leave right away. For the City, that means dense, fun neighborhoods that contribute heavily to the tax base. For the stadium and team, it builds a true connection with the community that is longer lasting with higher revenue potential. While the Ballpark Village developments aren’t perfect, they are succeeding at creating a real neighborhood. With a hotel, office, high-rise apartment building, stadium, Starbucks, retail, and bars, the area supports a 24/7 atmosphere that is both convenient and enjoyable for tourists and locals.
Unfortunately, just-released renderings from St. Louis City SC depict a large parking structure on Olive with no activation whatsoever, save for a gaudy balcony and staircase. In order to build this parking garage, the soccer club demolished nearly an entire block of mixed-use buildings that could have housed bars, residents, and various other uses. If this rendering resembles the final product, then the built environment surrounding the stadium will be less of a district and more of a brief shop for a game and nothing else. The latter would be a loss for an area so central to the city and near many incredible amenities.
While pedestrians and the neighborhood more broadly lose out with this parking garage, the proposal also demonstrates a continued reliance on a mode of transportation that contributes heavily to our climate crisis. That is despite excellent transit proximity and St. Louis City’s ambitious climate goals, especially relating to new construction.
When developers promise the world and demolish the urban fabric of a city, ultimately underdelivering on their commitments and publicly stated mission, the city and its residents are harmed. This kind of practice is frequently applied, from Drury Hotels with their demolition-by-neglect strategy in Forest Park Southeast to Restoration St. Louis and its bait-and-switch just by The Grove. Until this strategy is reigned in, we are likely to see more developers preach wide ranging benefits and deliver little more than lipstick on a pig, like this very parking garage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
San Antonio, New Orleans, New Jersey, Baltimore – each city has found creative, bold ways to take advantage of their waterfronts. With special pedestrian walkways and commercial experiences, these cities were able to capitalize on their greatest geographical assets with productive, attractive, and impressive corridors. For residents and tourists alike, these places are landmarks that set cities apart, while simultaneously providing an excellent setup for businesses and tax revenue generation.
St. Louis has long held a distant relationship with the Mississippi River. Even now, most buildings have a considerable setback partly justified by flood risk. One might expect still that the nearest structures would be designed with street activation in mind, particularly with a National Park right around the corner. Instead, there are abandoned buildings like the long vacant Millennium Hotel and brutalist midrises like the Hyatt Hotel and Gateway Tower building that hardly offer any use for an active Downtown. Moreover, their designs evoke a cold and harsh feeling that cramps visitors and residents within the Gateway National Park.
The St. Louis riverfront’s lack of street activation is a relic of the compromise made for the Gateway National Park. In the early 1900’s, the city and Federal officials decided to raze a huge portion of Downtown, including residential and commercial buildings, to lay the groundwork for the site of the Arch. Of course, hosting a National Park in the most prominent location in a major Downtown seems positive on many levels. St. Louis City was an incredible population center in 1930, with over 800,000 residents (compared to around 300,000 today). At the time, it was the nation’s 7th largest city.
It’s understandable that some may have thought the Arch would cement St. Louis’ position in American culture, a mega-city with a history of Westward Expansion. Most residents love the Arch and its unmistakable design and prominence on our city’s skyline, and it undoubtedly attracts tourists and history buffs alike. The positives, however, came at a steep cost for the city, people of color, and urban density. As St. Louis rid itself of predominantly Black communities, it also engaged in redlining and restrictive covenants, essentially restricting Black residents’ right to live in the city.
The Arch, while impressive, does not replace the density and character lost in the demolition of hundreds of riverfront buildings – an entire district turned to rubble. Moreover, just North and South of the Arch grounds sit neighborhoods that have languished in the years since, despite their sizable potential and historic character. What remains is a long stretch of riverfront with little to no activity whatsoever, made worse by the even more egregious lack of activity, investment, and development on the East side of the river. Despite an impressive skyline and its status as a river city, St. louis fails to capitalize on its river on the East and West shores from North to South alike.
Chouteau’s Landing, which is just South of the Arch and the 64/40 ramp Downtown, is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and yet, woefully neglected. The neighborhood consists of a rather small 12 blocks, but holds some of the oldest buildings in the area that were built on the original city street grid. Unfortunately, some of the structures have succumb to fires and even accidental demolitions in the last decade, making any proposal for redevelopment all the more necessarily expansive and expensive.
The buildings that remain are predominantly warehouses and manufacturing sites, but to leave it at just that would be a disservice the historical architecture and grandiose of the structures. Many of the warehouses appear as though they would make excellent residential conversions, like the one pictured below, compared to Soulard Market Loft apartments. There is vast potential to create intricate, dense, and mixed use city blocks with the buildings that remain, and the neighborhood would evoke some of the best historical character of St. Louis.
The potential for redevelopment is huge, and Chouteau’s Landing could with some work become a dense urban community with a strong St. Louis architectural character. Much is the same for Laclede’s Landing, another historical neighborhood just North of the Arch. While Laclede’s Landing isn’t quite as abandoned or underutilized as Chouteau’s Landing, it has low commercial and residential occupancy with buildings in need of large rehabs. Making matters worse, the blocks that make up the neighborhood are unusually cut off from the street grid and very difficult to access from Downtown.
“The nine-block area of Historic Laclede’s Landing—once the manufacturing, warehousing and shipping hub of St. Louis—is today the home of more than a dozen local restaurants, clubs, and attractions in the heart of downtown St. Louis.”
The streetscape and design of Laclede’s Landing are second to none in the city, with incredible cobblestone streets, brickwork, and commercial storefronts (many of which vacant, unfortunately). There certainly are still some successful and well-known restaurants and bars, including Big Daddy’s on the Landing, Kimchi Guys, The Old Spaghetti Factory, and a few others.
The accessibility of Laclede’s Landing is such a hinderance that the lack of entrances to the district is often credited with hindering the rejuvenation of the area. Cut off by the highway and the Arch, there are few ways in or out. The issue is so pronounced that a parking lot owned by Drury Hotels was seen as possible a solution, with a plan to add a road connecting the district to the rest of Downtown through the parcel. Drury has long planned a hotel in Laclede’s Landing, and has since simply sat on its property with no action despite the hurting of the neighborhood. This strategy and speculation are common for the chain, most notoriously in the case of its demolition by neglect in The Grove as we covered here at Missouri Metro.
With no hotel developed by Drury over the last decade, Laclede’s Landing has been in a state of stasis, despite its incredible potential. With huge brick buildings and former warehouses primed for redevelopment similar to those in Chouteau’s Landing and their proximity to restaurants, the Arch, and the spectacular built environment, the area could become St. Louis’ best destination.
There is some good news, with St. Louis based Advantes Group beginning a major redevelopment of two historic buildings on Second Street in the Landing, with a price tag of at least $12.4 million. The developer is so bullish on the area that it has even relocated its headquarters to the district. Rejuvenating large and historic buildings is nothing new to the developer, which also rehabilitated an old school in Lafayette into 36 apartments. In 2018, Advantes began their work in Laclede’s Landing, taking their experience in historical renovation to the Christian Peper building at 701 1st St. With 49 gorgeous lofts completed in what was the first recent multifamily development in Laclede’s Landing, Advantes created a roadmap for success and increasing residential density in the neighborhood.
Advantes’ $12.4 million plan for the district will include two additional renovations, including the buildings at 618-624 North Second St. and 700 North Second St. The proposal calls for 76 new apartments and street-facing retail space. Combined with their completed Peper Lofts project, the developer is introducing over 100 residential units to a neighborhood that formerly had almost no permanent residents. There are huge benefits to a residential community joining a commercial district, with the added density providing critical economic support and demand for businesses in the area. The effect is even greater considering the historical nature of the community and proximity to a National Park.
Although Laclede’s Landing has seen some recent success, with people now calling the neighborhood home and millions in investment, Chouteau’s Landing is just now seeing some promising proposals. A to-be-announced developer has partnered with St. Louis based Arcturis for architectural plans. The extensive proposal, which you can read in detail at CitySceneSTL here, calls for thousands of square feet of office, residential, and street-facing retail. There would also be multiple new mixed-used buildings constructed, as well as significant rehabs throughout the district to modernize the physical landscape. The proposal is rather breathtaking, and would, if completed, be one of the largest redevelopments in St. Louis over the last decade. That said, while many are optimistic about the trajectory for the project, this is such a large plan that anything can happen. We hope that we will see this completed, but the neighborhood has seen hope and failure so many times before.
While St. Louis’ two most storied riverfront neighborhoods that remain have promising, ambitious paths forward, there is so much ground to make up. Cities across the nation have found smart and resourceful ways to repurpose their riverfront districts into lively neighborhoods that residents love. With a landmark right in the middle of the two neighborhoods, St. Louis has its work cut out to integrate the neighborhoods to the city more broadly.
The difference is stark when comparing St. Louis’ riverfront vibrancy to that of other cities like San Antonio and New Orleans, but we have immense potential that we can capitalize on if we set out to do so. The bones exist in both Laclede’s Landing and Chouteau’s Landing for high residential density and commercial activity, combined with historical architecture and charm that would give a distinct character unable to be matched by other cities. We also have the Arch, for all its flaws in relation to cutting off historic neighborhoods Downtown, to provide a jaw-dropping view and outlook for residents and tourists alike. It can complement these communities, if we do things right. It will take effort, investment, and perseverance to restore our riverfront, but if the last few years are any indication, momentum is on our side.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
As the Central West End has seen historic levels of investment with tens of millions of dollars of renovations and new construction over the last few years, neighboring communities like Skinker-DeBaliviere, Midtown, and The Grove have experienced significant ancillary growth. St. Louis neighborhoods that traditionally make up what is known as the region’s “Central Corridor” have strengthened, revitalized, and become substantially more wealthy. Over the last few years in particular, other communities adjacent to the Central Corridor have begun to enjoy the fruits of St. Louis’ newfound development and success, yet with some notable exceptions.
While South St. Louis has seen its population stabilize or even increase in previously hard-hit neighborhoods like Dutchtown, much of North St. Louis has continued to depopulate as development has struggled to even begin to cross the infamous “Delmar Divide”. The divide, which signifies a racial and wealth gap between communities North and South of the street, has been a fixture of St. Louis politics and community action for decades.
Segregation in St. Louis is just as present today as it was decades ago, even if many of the practices such as Redlining and Restrictive Covenants are no longer explicitly legal. De facto segregation is still horrifyingly apparent. Communities still experience the impacts of a legal system designed to oppress people of color, where segregation in the form of Jim Crow laws are outlawed but wherein the consequences and harm are not actively fixed or accounted for. The systems that kept Black St. Louisans in the North side of the city and prevented investment in Black communities caused generational harm, and with only a handful of decades between now and Jim Crow, it is ludicrous to expect an even playing field.
The divide is as much engrained in the physical environment of St. Louis as it is in the demographic makeup of our communities. From Downtown to Skinker-DeBaliviere, neighborhoods directly South of Delmar Blvd. contain a host of infill, renovations, businesses with high-paying jobs, and significantly better infrastructure. Most notably, the neighborhoods South of Delmar are predominantly white.
Such issues might best be classified as “Wicked Problems“, often used in the environmental context, because of the large-scale and complex policy solutions that take many years to unpack. To solve segregation in St. Louis, like most U.S. cities, there is no single solution. Instead, a host of attitude and policy changes must occur.
With that said, there are notable efforts in action here in St. Louis that take aim at the most infamous geographical segregation at the city’s “Delmar Divide”. Kevin Bryant, President of Kingsway Development, recently unveiled a massive, $84 million development at the intersection of Euclid and Delmar Blvd. Looking to leverage the strength and momentum of the Central West End neighborhood and bring its success due North where investment abruptly ends, Bryant is taking aim at reducing vacancy, providing affordable housing, and creating a community of mixed income levels.
The project is predominantly located within the Fountain Park neighborhood, lying just North of the Central West End. In 2015, 84.4% of Fountain Park residents were Black, whereas just south of Delmar in the Central West End, only 29% of residents are Black. Despite its proximality to the CWE, it has seen its fortunes decline over the past several decades. Even as rents rise consistently just South of Delmar Blvd., the buildings in which Kingsway Development hope to redevelop mostly sit vacant.
Like most big issues, there is considerable nuance. That is why developers should be cognizant of not just the negative impacts of gentrification, but also the historical character of a community and its demographic makeup. That is not to say that they cannot and should not build in certain communities, but that they should work with the community itself to make sure it can be part of the community, not taking advantage of it, but adding to it and providing value.
That careful planning is precisely what Kingsway Development has worked so hard to accomplish. Kevin Bryant, President of Kingsway Development, was kind enough to respond to my request for a comment with a substantial conversation on the merits and risks of his project.
Unlike other large, phased projects like the Centene Clayton Campus where the best, most impactful portions of the development are cancelled after being used to help push for tax incentives, Bryant and Kingsway are providing value instantly to Fountain Park. The first phase will include a mix of rehabs and new construction for affordable housing, capitalizing on historic, vacant housing stock and filling in vacant lots. Bryant believes that while gentrification is, and should be a concern to major developers, that this project brings more people in of mixed incomes where there weren’t residents already.
The Kingsway Development Corporation was created out of the necessity to cease the rapid decline of American neighborhoods and restore them to their potential of vibrancy and communal splendor.
Bryant is quite proud of where his opportunity to develop this tract came from. The Fountain Park neighborhood sought a developer for this land, specifically looking for a way to capitalize off of its major potential and proximity to the CWE without negatively impacting or taking advantage of its residents. Working in conjunction with the neighborhood, St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC), and their Alderman, Bryant has found a large base of support. Solidified by public meetings and community input, the plan originated from the neighborhood and immediately offers public benefit. Much of the support is public and visible with written endorsements here.
The plan will include five projects over 2 years alongside and North of Delmar Blvd. Construction will begin alongside Delmar, where the vacancy is immediately apparent across from The Lofts at Euclid, on the South side of the Euclid and Delmar intersection.
The first phase will include 22 affordable homes, below market-rate, aimed at creating a more “mixed”, dense neighborhood that residents of different incomes can enjoy. Bryant hopes to “set the precedent” with these homes, creating a model for other developers and investors to follow as he opens up later phases to other developers who go through their community approval process. If other individuals or companies seek to purchase adjacent LRA property, some of which can be found here, they must go to the neighborhood association, Kingsway Development, and ultimately through the LRA approval process. This methodology will prevent speculators and ill-equipped investors from hindering progress.
The first batch of construction will also include a $6.3 rehab of the building at 4731 Delmar Blvd. into office and commercial space, creating a more mixed-use neighborhood once each phase is built out. The gallery below showcases the current and future state of the large structure. This will be a significant street activation, where a blank wall currently meets the sidewalk.
Kingsway Development is seeking a $6.2 million subsidy in the form of tax-increment financing (TIF) from the St. Louis City TIF Commission, followed by a public hearing on December 9, 2020. While Missouri Metro shares the concerns of many St. Louis City residents regarding TIFs and utilizing public financing means as a tool for economic development, this project exists in an entirely different context than most big developments that receive TIFs. While this proposal runs along Delmar Blvd. and the blocks North of the infamous, long-lasting demographic divide, many others utilize public financing even in strong markets in the city’s Central Corridor.
TIFs are best used to eliminate the “market gap” that exists in developing or low-income areas, wherein the cost of development and revitalization exceeds the expected return on investment. They can be an incredible tool when used properly, aiding neighborhoods that traditionally wouldn’t see money flowing in. As Missouri State Auditor Galloway recently revealed in a public audit, however, St. Louis City leaders lack any formalized methodologies or goals when awarding TIFs, often aiding developers where there might not be any market gap.
With the office and commercial building at 4701 Delmar preleased already, according to Bryant, and poised to potentially break ground this December, they are preparing the subsequent phases for a quick rollout. Kingsway Development plans for a second office building with a $14 million price tag to begin shortly after construction at 4701 Delmar begins, with a rehab slated to begin around the same time at 4915 Delmar Blvd. The 4915 Delmar rehab is projected to cost $3.8 million and become a performing arts center to create a more vibrant, 24-7 district.
Late next year, perhaps the biggest portion of the project is slated to begin – a $43 million apartment complex, “The Bridge”, with 156 residential units. These units will add significant density to the Fountain Park neighborhood and fill out the vacant Northern section of the Euclid and Delmar intersection.
“We imagine creating a project that will be a symbolic unifier for both sides of the street,”
Many of the units offered will be market-rate, adding to the many affordable homes being renovated and built on neighborhing parcels. Some of those affordable homes will be restored LRA properties, which sit vacant and awaiting developers willing to salvage distressed properties. Unfortunately, the LRA is one of the few land banks in the country without funding sources (save for the sales themselves), and it generally does not have sufficient resources to put work into the thousands of homes it owns to fill the aforementioned market gap. As such, many LRA properties worsen in condition and become even harder to sell to investors. A significant purchase of these properties, with many being salvaged, is a big deal both in terms of historic preservation and because it perhaps saves these homes from the wrecking ball, freeing up other city resources.
While the project is certainly large in scope, Bryant and Kingsway Development are not going in alone. Alongside the full backing of the community and partners like the SLDC, his development team includes industry veterans such as Brian Pratt, a former Green Street executive, as well as Kwame Building Group and Trivers, a construction and architecture firm.
Missouri Metro has extensively covered phased developments that go wrong, like the Centene campus mentioned at the top of this article. That being said, development proposals like the project Kingsway Development has put forth, deserve extra focus, and perhaps even praise if done correctly. This is especially true when considering the impacts on a low-income, predominantly Black community that has seen decades, if not centuries of oppression. A large development could either the first domino that falls and triggers the transformation and empowerment of a community, or the erasure of one that has suffered so much already.
Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, who represents the 22nd St. Louis Ward in North City, was kind enough to make himself available to Missouri Metro to discuss the hardships Black people have historically faced that helped create the Delmar Divide as we see it today. We also were able to discuss the development patterns seen in the city, and Boyd specifically called out the tendency for officials to award public financing packages to projects in the Central West End while streets, homes, and whole neighborhoods crumble just North of Delmar.
Boyd stresses that the only major developments North City has seen, or that the city has generally helped to promote, are affordable housing units. While those have positive impacts and fill a specific need, Boyd worries that they don’t do much to attract any new families or investment to North City neighborhoods. They do not make it more desirable, rather, only solidify the low-income status of communities if they are the only major investment seen. He believes that the best developments would begin to make more mixed income communities, offering amenities that actually attract new residents, providing better amenities and a better built environment for existing residents as well. That is to say, while affordable housing would be a fundamental inclusion, investment should go beyond that and create, support, and foster diverse communities.
City support would go a long way for improving North St. Louis neighborhoods, where institutional barriers like access to financing already create a bleak picture for residents looking to better their own communities. Alderman Boyd and his wife, Patrice Boyd, grew up on the same street they now live on today, and after moving back following his time in the military, they looked to invest in real estate and restore housing stock.
At the time, they could hardly get a hold of their Alderman. They hunted for grants, and partnered with Northside Regeneration, which has now developed a reputation for sitting on land while promising major projects with pretty renderings. Finally, they sought their own financing with banking institutions like Landmarks, Gershland, and UMB. Each bank denied the Boyd’s mortgage applications. While you might assume, as the reader, that this was during the height of Redlining, this was actually in the 1990s – long after Redlining became explicitly illegal. None of the banks gave Boyd any reason for their rejection, until finally he strolled into UMB and demanded to know why they could not be approved for a mortgage. UMB claimed that it was due to credit card debt, which amounted to a couple hundred dollars spread over a few credit cards, despite their steady combined income.
It would be an easy fix under normal circumstances, but UMB forced Boyd to send physical copies of the money orders used to pay off the incredibly minor credit card debt to the bank. For those who have never experienced the process of applying for and receiving a mortgage, this is an inexplicably complicated process they forced Alderman Boyd through. The banks also did not follow one of the most important elements of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, passed in 1974, which requires lending institutions to always provide a clear reason for mortgage or loan denial.
Boyd ultimately resolved the issue, only to find himself hindered by the appraisal for his 3-family property he was revitalizing. The appraiser claimed that she could not provide an appraisal of the value he needed for his mortgage in their North St. Louis City neighborhood. The Boyd’s simply needed an appraisal of 50k or higher, and appraisals in Soulard, which was in poor shape and beginning to see more rehabs at the time, were significantly higher. They Boyd’s finally prevailed after significant effort with the bank and the appraiser, ultimately receiving an appraisal of 70k+. After the rehab, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and CDA featured the property under the “House of the Month” series run at the time, all the while not recognizing the many obstacles in place that prevent passionate neighbors of his improve their community.
Even more ironic, they became the “poster children” for UMB Bank, making massive posters of their home in their bank branches as an example of what was possible with their rehab loans, despite their initial denial and near refusal to appraise the home at the value necessary because of its neighborhood.
At the same time, his neighbors have been preyed upon by predatory lenders. First time homebuyers were buying mortgages that were sold as all-encompassing, as most mortgages are, but that ultimately did not package in property taxes, insurance, and mortgage interest into the loan. These residents were met with massive bills at the end of their first year of ownership and were either foreclosed upon or had to make major sacrifices. Most of those homes now sit vacant, dilapidated, and devoid of the life they used to hold.
Missouri Metro greatly appreciates the willingness Alderman Boyd to share his story that unfortunately is all-too-common among North St. Louis residents. These were not always low-income communities, where vacant buildings often outnumber those occupied. Boyd remembers being able to walk to the nearby JC Penny, and the many stores nearby that helped makeup a somewhat middle class neighborhood. There were concerted, systemic efforts made by large institutions that local governments either ignored or tacitly supported that decimated Black communities.
Alderman Boyd’s experience fills out the context for why the Kingsway Development proposal is so impactful and important to analyze. While he is not too familiar with the project, he knows of Bryant and the effort he puts into his work. This project also begins to meet Boyd’s criteria for positive development in North City communities, bringing real, sizeable investment and public financing to a neighborhood that needs it. Better yet, it brings a more mixed community, one with amenities that will serve a diverse population in a densely built environment.
While the development proposed just may make a big difference at this intersection, it will require much more than the laudable work of Bryant to restore North STL. It will require focus, oversight, significant financing, and buy-in from the broader St. Louis community. There must be a huge shift in how and where public financing is utilized in the city, founded upon a broad recognition and understanding of how St. Louis, like many other cities, has historically failed its Black residents and communities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The development boom in Forest Park Southeast continues, with Golden Grocer taking over and rehabilitating the former K9 Athletic Club building at 4501 Choutaeu Ave. Currently operating in the Central West End, the Golden Grocer offers plant-based food and smoothies, as well as a food subscription service intended to make consistent healthy eating easier.
The Golden Grocer will expand their operations with their Forest Park Southeast location, slated to open in October of this year. Plans include 2500 square feet of space with 18 foot ceilings to accommodate a cafe and bulk section, which will include bulk herbs and spices. They will also offer produce, grocery, and beauty aisles to complement the cafe. Their website also includes that their space will be open to various vendors offering plant-based food, adding a unique element to the open-concept space. Developments in St. Louis that operate with more than one food vendor are rising in popularity, from the City Foundry to Urban Eats in Dutchtown.
The Golden Grocer is extensively rehabilitating the building on Chouteau, as can be seen in the rendering above, contrasted to the old structure depicted just below. This location has been something of an eye-sore for the neighborhood, which effectively served as the entry to the community from the Central West End and Barnes-Jewish Hospital complex on Taylor Ave.
Much like the Drury buildings falling into disrepair closer to Kingshighway, this property has presented a false image of the Forest Park Southeast and Grove neighborhoods. They contrast the thriving retail corridor on Manchester, which is seeing new commercial and residential spaces added at an incredible pace. This addition to the neighborhood will begin to resolve these contrasts, while also contributing to the character the the community with a unique and modern offering.
While the Golden Grocer represents a new healthy offering to FPSE, it also introduces a Black-owned business to the neighborhood under the leadership of Jamila Owens-Todd. There are concerns, many of them reasonable, about the segregation of wealth in St. Louis. Forest Park Southeast and the Grove have enjoyed incredible growth, and seeing that at least in some way that the fruits of that success are shared in the community is something to be proud of in a neighborhood with a rich heritage of diversity and pride. Owens-Todd is also utilizing a local designer, Mwanzi Co., to bring about her vision for this space. This is the kind of local, neighborhood-level development that thriving neighborhoods should seek out and welcome.
The momentum downtown continues with the recently announced plans for 300 S. Broadway. With the occupancy and leasing at the new One Cardinal Way building inching closer to capacity, it appears the market for more residential units in the heart of downtown is strong, particularly near Ballpark Village.
Chris Strizel and CitySceneSTL first broke the news this week, revealing a historically conscious renovation with 80 new apartments, an extra floor added, and ground-floor retail space that will capitalize on the added commercial activity in the newest BPV phase. The apartments are tentatively called “Ballpark Flats”. It seems that rooftops are all the rage in recent city developments, from The Last Hotel to Form Skybar, and now this rooftop amenity space for residents. Tenants at the new One Cardinal Way will not have a monopoly on views of the game, with the 300 S. Broadway developers including a bleacher setup facing the stadium.
For those who have been following 300 S. Broadway, this development, courtesy of Bamboo Equity Partners and Pier Property Group, should come as a relief. As I covered earlier this month, the location has seen its ups and downs over the past few years. From grandiose skyscraper renderings to potential demolition, this property with so much potential has waited for far to long to see its revival.
St. Louis will now consider what incentives are necessary to help the project prevail, although CitySceneSTL reports a requested 10 year 90% tax abatement. While tax abatements are certainly controversial in a city with sometimes troubled finances, this appears to be a solid, long-term addition to the city poised to contribute to the tax base with increased sales tax activity in the area and the promise of substantial property tax revenue in the future. This, no doubt, is much better than the abandoned building standing today.
Drury Hotels scatter the St. Louis area, offering a value-focused hospitality experience in buildings that predominantly look alike. Friendly staff greet visitors who arrive with a clean room, a few free drinks per day, and a breakfast buffet. Drury now operates more than 150 hotels in 25 states, with 20 in St. Louis alone.
Drury’s growth has been remarkable, and their hotels have become staples in the many St. Louis area neighborhoods. Yet, it is becoming evident that their focus is beginning to shift away from St. Louis. Amidst Drury’s rapid growth is a strategic shift toward other markets and larger developments. Drury Hotels outlines on their website a list of future hotels, both large and small, from Richmond, Virginia to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
A quick glance at these developments reveals that while Drury is retaining their traditional hotel look for its Richmond and Knoxville hotels, it is branching out into larger, more modern structures elsewhere. Alongside the structural and stylistic shift is another strategic move, with none of these “Coming Soon” hotels coming to St. Louis or Missouri as a whole. This could be explained by St. Louis possibly being too saturated with Drury properties or hotels in general. However, hotels have been flocking to St. Louis in what has been called a “hotel boom” over the past two years, so it is clear that more rooms are demanded in the STL market. Drury has 20 hotels in St. Louis, so why invest more time and money in the St. Louis market?
It would be understandable and perfectly conceivable if the saturation argument were true that Drury would move on, expanding predominantly in other metropolitan areas. On first glance, it would seem that Drury Hotels is doing just that, with one critical exception. While Drury has constructed mega-hotels in other cities, it has simultaneously gobbled up property in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, slowly destroying historical property with demolition by neglect.
Those who commute to or live in the Central West End or Grove neighborhoods are probably be familiar with the site pictured above. Straddling Kingshighway are several multi-family buildings that deteriorate a little bit more each day. Going South on Kingshighway, one might assume they were entering a neighborhood devoid of investment or appreciation.
Instead, these structures mark the entrance to the popular Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, harboring the popular “Grove” neighborhood and a growing number of luxury rentals with rents to match. Housing stock in the community has been appreciating rapidly as doctors, medical students, and tech gurus working at the Cortex choose to live close to work and the many retail and dining establishments on Manchester.
Drury Hotels likely noticed the upward potential when their development arm, Drury Development Corporation, began acquiring neighborhood properties in 2007. Minutes from the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association detail a lengthy timeline marked by a notable lack of transparency or neighborhood involvement. The first acquisitions were located on Arco, Gibson, and Chouteau.
It seemed for a short moment that Drury Hotels and Drury Development Corporation would move quickly, realizing the potential of a hotel on the edge of Forest Park, the Central West End, and an attraction corridor with a vibrant history and growing popularity. Drury unveiled an early rendering of a potential hotel to occupy the property along Kingshighway and build not one, but two towers. Each tower would rise 16 stories above the neighborhood and the rendering depicted a large section of land being made available for parking.
At the time this project was proposed to the community, Drury was still completing their Brentwood hotel near the Galleria mall. Alex Inhen at NextSTL reported that Drury would then focus their attention in Forest Park Southeast / The Grove if the Brentwood hotel proved to be a success.
Although we are not privy to Drury Hotel’s occupancy statistics, my own anecdotal experience with family and friends staying regularly at the Brentwood Drury Hotel seems to indicate a relatively high occupancy. Even if my assumption proved incorrect, there is evidence that Drury has not yet completely given up on a Grove hotel and plans to develop, eventually.
At the time of their FPSE hotel proposal, Drury owned 5 parcels of land that the development would occupy. In 2014, NextSTL reported that Drury Development Corproation had acquired another 15 parcels. In those six years, Drury never presented any other renderings or plans for this location. Instead, they simply kept acquiring land at a snails pace, indicating that they were still bullish enough on the location to purchase relatively expensive land.
Although that might indicate that Drury intended to invest in the community and its success, their actions were far from that. While a hotel would surely add jobs to the neighborhood and improve the landscape for retail and restaurants, their property ownership and lack of maintenance has hampered growth, hindered other investment that could have taken place, and bothered residents.
As Drury continued adding properties to its portfolio in FPSE, they neglected even the most basic maintenance. The structures are slowly falling apart at the seams, endangering residents and skirting the requirements for demolition set out by Park Central Development.
Drury has looked to demolish this property at 1092 S. Kingshighway since 2016, and Park Central Development laid out a set of criteria Drury must follow. They include landscape maintenance, debris removal, regularly painted and maintained boards for all window and other openings, and all other Drury owned buildings not on Kingshighway must be renovated by December 2020, according to NextSTL.
Of course, this building is still standing, with Drury completing none of the requirements set forth by the community. Instead, they are letting the building fall by itself through a strategy of “Demolition by Neglect”. In doing so, a lack of maintenance will eventually bring the building to a state of disrepair wherein demolition is not an “if”, but rather a “when”, as the community pays the price.
As is evident in the photo, there are major portions of the structure that are fully exposed. Vegetation and weeds are found inside, on, and surrounding the property that have hardly seen any maintenance. Moreover, the fence hardly discourages any urban explorers or criminals from entering. This property is undeniably dangerous, unstable, and a disaster waiting to happen for children or scavengers. Bricks could easily fall off the side, rocks the same, and I would not wish to be the individual to test out a floor board inside.
While 1092 S. Kingshighway is being demolished by weather and neglect, Drury also is ignoring its other properties not located on Kingshighway. 4569 Oakland is in a drastic state of disrepair. That is despite the fact that all Drury poerties not facing Kingshighway should have until December to be rehabilitated and stabilized according to the agreement with Park Central Development. Instead, they sit vacant, contributing to blight in the community. Criminologist James Wilson posits a “Broken Window Theory” that suggests blighted buildings sitting vacant with broken windows or in otherwise various states of disrepair also invite crime to communities. Broken windows and abandoned housing provide areas that criminals may reside in, whether for drug use or various other acts, and the visual representation of blight encourages other actions that are damaging or harmful. While it is certain that Drury does not support crime, their actions in Forest Park Southeast absolutely endanger residents, either through a physical risk attributed to structures literally falling apart or by making the neighborhood more attractive to criminals.
Writing this story in the middle of August 2020, I am hardly expecting Drury to suddenly begin and then quickly complete their rehab of the 4569 Oakland property prior to December 2020. Yet, their properties are being brought down slowly without any care on Drury’s toward the wishes of a community that hopes to prevent several homes from suffering the fate of the six-family Oakland property pictured above.
I hoped to give Drury the benefit of the doubt. That is why I called Drury Development Corporation to try and ascertain what their current plants were in Forest Park Southeast. Tom Milford, Manager of Real Estate, would not reveal whether any plans were still in the works for this site. While the answers to all of my questions were some variation of “No Comment”, he suggested that COVID-19 had at least somewhat impacted their long term goals for this property. Tom claimed that he and Drury Development Corporation have held a steady, consistent presence with neighborhood groups like Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association and Park Central Development, and that they would work with the community and reveal plans as they come. However, we already know that residents have found Drury to be an inconsistent, relatively untruthful member of the community, not revealing what their plans are even as they accumulate and therefore deteriorate more land.
It has been almost 13 years since Drury began acquiring properties in Forest Park Southeast, an up-and-coming neighborhood that has seen tons of rehab, infill, and development. The community has evolved in spite of Drury Hotels and Drury Development Corporation, whose crumbling properties line the entrance of the neighborhood and contribute nothing but an increased likelihood of crime. How much longer will Drury string along this community, and how many properties will they demolish through neglect as neighbors cry foul and they ignore the sensible stipulations set out by community organizations? When will St. Louis and community leaders finally say enough and demand more of a corporation that has created almost a decade and a half of blight? Hopefully soon.