New St. Louis CITY SC MLS Stadium Renderings Released!

As the St. Louis City SC MLS Soccer Stadium continues to rise at the massive construction site in Downtown West, the team has frequently released exciting new renderings that showcase the entertainment district, style, and amenities that guests will enjoy.

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The new renderings below include the team’s training center, lounge spaces, practice field, club HQ, fan pavilion, and a view of the larger campus overall.

Training Center & Lounge Spaces

Fan Pavilion

“Our welcoming pavilion is open year-round and includes a team store, café and second-floor space open for events and conferences.” – St. Louis City SC

Downtown West Campus

Downtown West Campus – St. Louis City SC Twitter

We already have an idea of what the stadium will look like from the exterior, as can be seen below, and on the interior in some lounge spaces.

Rendering of the complete stadium – St. Louis City SC

We cannot wait to see how the campus shapes up!

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St. Louis City’s First Foray With ‘Approval Voting’ Begins March 2nd

St. Louis City is poised to have its first municipal election utilizing ‘Approval Voting‘, a method of voting that voters overwhelmingly adopted in November 2020 with the passing of Proposition D. Tomorrow’s March 2nd municipal primary election will be the first time St. Louis voters get to vote for more than one candidate for a given office. St. Louis is one of the first U.S. cities to adopt such a measure, with Fargo being the first just under a year ago.

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While voters are used to choosing a single candidate, the city’s new voting system passes with Proposition D allows voters to choose multiple candidates that they approve of. There is still a primary and a general election, with the primary taking place March 2nd and the general/runoff on April 6th, but the candidates in the runoff will no longer represent the top candidate from either party.

Missouri-Metro & Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association Video on Approval Voting

Instead, Proposition D has instituted nonpartisan Approval Voting, which seeks to create more opportunity for different ideas and parties to gain momentum and make an impact on elections usually dominated by the two-party system. Moreover, the new system is intended to better reflect actual voting preferences. Proponents of Approval Voting explain that under the more traditional ‘Plurality Voting’ method utilized in most of the U.S. and formerly in St. Louis, voters often chose the “lesser of two evils” rather than their most preferred candidate. The reasoning behind doing so rested in seeking to prevent your worst case scenario rather than improving the chances for your favorite candidate.

“Approval voting gives voters more power by allowing them to select all the candidates they wish, avoiding issues with vote-splitting, spoiler candidates, and strategic voting. Many political scientists believe it is a very representative system.”

https://stlapproves.org/faq

Just how does Approval Voting supposedly better reflect real preferences? On the March 2nd primary ballot, voters will not see party identifications, despite each candidate (at least in the Mayoral race) publicly tying themselves to a party. Moreover, and perhaps the most significant difference to St. Louisans, is that voters may vote, or “approve”, of as many candidates as they like on tomorrow’s ballot.

A sample ballot wherein a STL voter would “Approve” of every Mayoral candidate on March 2nd

The top two “approved” candidates, which are intended to reflect voters’ real interests, then would advance to the general election runoff on April 6, where only two candidates for a given seat will face off. Proponents of Approval Voting suggest that the top two candidates who make it to the runoff in April will have broader support than candidates who squeak by on a plurality.

The list of candidates for the March 2 primary can be found via St. Louis city here. Polls are open from 6AM to 7PM, and you can find your polling place here.

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Park Central Development Awards Small Businesses with Critical Grants

Park Central Development, a group that works to strengthen and attract investment that creates and maintains vibrant neighborhoods and commercial districts in the City of St. Louis, announced this afternoon a major round of grants toward St. Louis City businesses. Park Central works in several central St. Louis neighborhoods, including the CWE, Tiffany, Botanical Heights, FPSE, DeBaliviere Place, Cheltenham, Academy/Sherman Park, and Botanical Heights.

Announcement from Park Central Development’s Twitter

Small businesses in St. ,Louis and across the country are facing unprecedented hardship in the midst of a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted the United States. With nearly twice as many COVID deaths as any other country and a caseload that has just recently dipped below 100,000 cases a day in the most recent 7-day average, the U.S. has only recently began to significantly curb community spread. This reality has forced businesses to make huge investments in marketing and health-related investments while many consumers stay home to avoid contracting COVID-19.

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While many communities, from the City of St. Louis itself and St. Louis County have been working to connect small businesses with CARES Act funding, there is still a massive hole in the budgets of many small businesses. With this in mind, community groups, like Park Central Development, are aiming to shore up businesses and the communities that run and support them. Local economic success is critical for cities and those who reside in their bounds.

With its COVID-19 Small Business Stimulus Grant, PCD is allotting $4,000 to the following small businesses: Saigon Café, Pharaohs Donuts, STL Elite Bets, Northwest Coffee Roasting Company, Revoaked Sandwiches, BBC Café and Bar, Kampai Sushi Bar, The BBQ Saloon, and Juniper STL.

The businesses receiving the grant can use the funds for launching an online presence, PPE and other safety supplies, short-term marketing, utility payments, replenishing inventory, interior modifications for health purposes, and rent/mortgage payments. Many of these are fixed and capital costs that simply must be paid, like a business’ rent or mortgage payments that are usually non-negotiable. For businesses seeing reduced sales during the pandemic, this grant might be the difference between closing now and renewed success 3 months form now.

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Park Central Development plans on announcing future grant awards in blocks of 5 over the next couple months, and they announced on Twitter that applicants will also receive business resource guides and direct contact to apply for separate PPP loans. If you are looking to donate to a resource where 100% of donations go directly to small businesses, you can donate to Park Central’s small business fund at this link.

Jefferson Arms Apartments Downtown Moving Forward – Reviving the Historic, Abandoned Building

Downtown St. Louis’ residential revival is moving at a very quick pace. While the urban core of the St. Louis region has its difficulties, residential occupancy is not one of them. The 2019 Downtown Residential Occupancy Report indicates that there is a 92.4% overall occupancy rate, with a 23% 5-year population growth. These numbers are staggering and reflect a Downtown with a strengthening residential component, creating a more mixed-use neighborhood.

Figure provided in the 2019 Downtown Residential Occupancy Report

Developers have been quick to notice Downtown’s residential growth and limited availability, completing dense new infill like at One Cardinal Way and proposing hundreds of new units on Washington Ave. and Spruce St. For Downtown St. Louis, a neighborhood that has a history of residential, commercial, and hotel abandonment, the recent decade has been one of significant revitalization as it works to recover its status as a 24/7, vibrant community.

Developer Alterra Worldwide is working on one of the larger proposals for Downtown STL with the Jefferson Arms Apartments, located at 415 N Tucker on the Western edge of Downtown. The building has a long history, first having opened to the public the day before the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis under the name Hotel Jefferson. The hotel hosted two Democratic National Conventions in the early 1900s, and for years offered luxury rooms and events to St. Louisans. After having been sold to different hotel chains a few times in the mid-1900s, it was converted to elderly residences in the late 1970s.

Google Maps view of Downtown St. Louis and the location of the Jefferson Arms building

The Jefferson Arms building has over a century of history and importance not just to the St. Louis area, but to the country as a whole and those who visited St. Louis at the height of its national reputation. In 2003, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, unfortunately just a few years before it would become vacant. In 2006, another developer, Pyramid Construction, emptied the building for planned condominiums, which never came to be. Since 2006, the building has remained vacant and deteriorated overtime, making the building one of the largest empty, abandoned buildings in Downtown.

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Alterra Worldwide acquired the Jefferson Arms building in 2017, but has since received considerable criticism for its anti-union stance with construction and significant delays in their proposed timeline. It has since resolved its labor dispute in late 2020, and received an extension from the City of St. Louis as it appears they just may be ready to gear up for construction soon. The City is giving Alterra until 2025 to wrap up their renovation, which is expected to cost just over $100 million.

UPDATE (2.21.2021): Media officials with connections to Alterra Worldwide have confirmed that all taxes owed have been completely paid to the city. There is not a tax burden remaining. Mayor Krewson confirmed today to Missouri-Metro that she required all taxes be paid before signing the Board Bill.

Alterra Worldwide is also hoping to help finance the proposal with a CID (Community Improvement District) and TDD (Transportation Development District), which would ensure that a small tax would incur for purchases made on the property, or sometimes just around the property, to aid the developers with large redevelopment costs. On December 16, a Board of Aldermen panel approved the proposal 7-1, with Alderman Cara Spencer being the only dissenting vote. On January 15, the full BOA approved the project, also granting the developers $17.3 million in TIFs (Tax-Incremented Financing). As the St. Louis Business Journal reports, the developer still owes multiple years of property taxes on the building to the city, totaling just over $119,000. However, the developer has paid some of their prior tax burden now, which previously totaled around $230,000.

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If this project does finally move ahead, it will offer a mixed conclusion for a huge, historic building. While the end result will certainly salvage a building that the city should absolutely preserve, the developer has shown it is struggling to bring the project to fruition, amidst their friction with organized labor and their tax burden. The project is only possible with quite a lot of financing provided by the city, at least according to the developers, and while it will eventually likely make up for the cost in eventual property and sales taxes, it is an investment with a large burden upon the city and its residents.

That said, revitalizing the city’s urban core likely will remain a top priority for St. Louis officials, and there is no doubt that significant progress has already been made to that end. Downtown St. Louis is the key to preserving an economically competitive, vibrant, and historic city, and regardless of the friction on this project, added density to the tune of 239 apartments and a 198-room Marriott branded hotel will bring life to a section of Downtown that certainly needs it.

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Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association to Host Ward 17 Aldermanic Candidate Forum

Following the surprise announcement that Alderman Joe Roddy would resign from his long-held seat, multiple candidates are running to replace Roddy in the rapidly densifying and developing Ward. Roddy, who has served for more than 30 years, is the longest-serving member of the Board and has worked with civic and business leaders alike on major projects along the city’s Central Corridor.

Three candidates are seeking Roddy’s soon-to-be former Aldermanic seat: Michelle Sherod, a CPA with 30+ years of experience and former McCaskill staffer; Tina “Sweet-T” Phil, a former head of the FPSE Neighborhood Association and social entrepreneur; and Donald De Vivo, member of the Green Party. (Unfortunately, we cannot find an active candidate website for De Vivo).

Michelle Sherod

Tina “Sweet-T” Pihl

With few options for neighborhood residents to safely meet the candidates due to COVID-19, the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association is holding a candidate forum over Zoom at its next regularly scheduled meeting, on Tuesday, 1/19 at 6:45PM. To access the meeting, join the Zoom meeting at: Webhttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/82903905861. You can also view the event details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/3768466896544367

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The winner will govern Ward 17 in an increasingly partisan political environment, both locally and nationally. While replacing Roddy could be transformative, the eventual victor will only serve a portion of their full term, assuming that Ward Reduction still reshapes the Board in 2023. The fate of Board Reduction is still uncertain, however, despite a citywide vote nearly a decade ago, with the Board voting narrowly to reintroduce the measure to city voters in April just this week. While proponents of the reduction are concerned about the Board’s actions that do not represent the will of the voters, they are cautiously optimistic that Mayor Krewson will veto the effort of the slim Board majority as she threatened to do in 2018.

They will also oversee a Ward that has been transformed over the past three decades. The Grove, now a major entertainment and dining district, is surrounded by tons of new residential infill and hundreds of new units in multifamily developments. The Cortex District, just East of the Central West End and North of Forest Park Southeast, continues to see more office-space and high paying jobs. With a new 11-story WashU Neuroscience building now under construction (the largest such facility in the country once complete), the district appears poised to maintain its momentum as the city’s premier innovation neighborhood.

Roddy’s tenure will certainly be celebrated for his consistent efforts to modernize his Ward and the city’s urban center, while critics maintain he represents interests of wealthy developers over lower-income residents in older housing stock South of Manchester Ave. Moreover, his politics is less progressive and sometimes more controversial than many of his younger peers, like Aldermen Green and Spencer.

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Disclosure: The author of this article, Brian Adler, is the newly elected Vice President of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association. This article is simultaneously the first piece of Missouri-Metro’s Politics section and an effort to ensure that voters in Ward 17 are educated on a once-in-a-generation ability to reshape their Ward’s leadership. To read more about the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association, visit its website here: http://www.forestparksoutheast.com/.

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

It might come as a surprise that in 2020, a year that has been defined by a global pandemic, deeply negative and often anti-democratic politics, and unprecedented and unequal economic hardship, that St. Louis has been host to an absurdly productive and healthy year of economic development. As December comes to a close, there is a good chance that the city will surpass $1 billion in building permits. Second only to 2018, this year represents a continued growth of the St. Louis real estate market and a renewed sense of confidence for investors and locals alike.

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

2020 may also be remembered as the year in which St. Louis finally began making real progress in communities that have traditionally seen far less investment or attention. The region’s policy towards majority Black and Brown neighborhoods North of Delmar Blvd. could for decades be summarized by intentional neglect. Through redlining, restrictive covenants, urban renewal, predatory lending, and aggressive policing, populous neighborhoods declined significantly throughout the latter half of the 20th century and then some.

The results of institutional and cultural oppression don’t just disappear overnight, or for that matter, after decades. It takes real effort to support and uplift communities that were deliberately denied access to wealth, education, safety, and equality. A recent study of U.S. metro areas and their demographics and geography gives us a frightening glimpse of how far St. Louis still has to go. In 2017, St. Louis was determined to be the 10th most segregated metropolitan area in the United States, with 39.3% of its Black residents living in majority Black neighborhoods with 3.5x the poverty rate of white neighborhoods.

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In a remarkable and unusual turn for St. Louis, some developers appeared interested in proposing real developments in the region’s North side. Many of these, like the Delmar Divine, Kingsway Development’s plans at Delmar & Euclid, Jefferson + Gamble, and the NGA expansion bring much needed infrastructure improvements, affordable housing, community spaces, and jobs. There is a school of thought in St. Louis that the recent announcements are a result of North St. Louis “bottoming out”, something that regional leaders have historically seemed to exacerbate, and whether that is true or not, it seems apparent that the momentum is certainly shifting.

2020 also brings an exciting new era for Downtown St. Louis with multiple high-density residential proposals that would fill vacant land and surface-level parking lots. Even more surprising, we saw a new residential tower completed at Ballpark Village, new Class A office space, residential conversions for historical buildings, and companies moving from the county back into the city. After decades of stagnant Downtown STL development, even as our peer cities like Kansas City and Indianapolis saw impressive proposals and infill, St. Louis finally seems to be making headway in improving its Downtown core.

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As we all embrace the hope that comes with a new year, something to save us from some of the most tumultuous times in recent history, we can hopefully look forward to real progress in our region as we may finally be turning some important corners. Much work remains – activists must hold regional leaders accountable, medical personnel must keep working to curb the spread of a deadly virus, and Americans and St. Louisans must continue supporting one another and act responsibly to keep our neighbors safe. We will get through this. We have a better year on the horizon.

Until then, continue reading to see some of the most promising developments of 2020 that are poised to substantially change our region.

TOP 10 OF 2020

MISSOURI -METRO.COM

ONE | 100 Above the Park

Image found at Liveat100.com

100 Above the Park is the first tower designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang in St. Louis, named the World’s Most Influential Architect of 2019 by Time Magazine. Rising 36 stories above Kingshighway and sporting direct, sprawling views of Forest Park and Downtown, 100 Above the Park brings perhaps the most luxurious residential units yet to the city and a unique geometric design. It also is one of the first new residential skyscrapers in the region, following the recent completion of Two Twelve Clayton just a few miles West in the County.

With studio, one, two, and three bedroom units ranging from $1,975 for a studio and over $7,000 for some three bedroom units, the building introduces a new price range for a city known for inexpensive housing prices. That said, the amenities, views, technology, design, location, and finishes go a long way toward justifying the high cost.

All units sport quartz countertops, 9″ ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, in-unit laundry, porcelain tile backsplashes, stainless steel appliances, custom solar shades, LED lighting, soft-close drawers, etc. Some units host humongous balconies overlooking the city and/or park, with the rest simply taking claim to some of the finest views in the city. Moreover, residents will have access to world-class amenities from a pool deck on the 7th floor to a secured parking garage, pet spa, electric car charging stations, secured bike stations, an onsite retail location (could be a café), covered dog run, and more. The building also is Green Globes certified for Sustainable and Energy Efficient Design.

100 Above the Park Under Construction – Brian Adler

St. Louis has long been known for some incredibly gorgeous and historical brick architecture, but we won’t complain one bit about a world-renowned architect completing a residential skyscraper on one of St. Louis’ most dense and active neighborhoods. 100 Above the Park definitely serves just a small subset of the population that can afford its units and lifestyle, but it is a good sign for a the city as it works to rebuild its economy and attract individuals and families to a region with a stagnant population. It is perhaps a sign of hope for an old city that hasn’t seen, until recent years, a sign of confidence that we are now beginning to get used to this year. We hope that incredible architecture and dense developments keep gracing St. Louis for years to come.

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TWO | Kingsway Development & Bridging the Delmar Divide

Kevin Bryant, President of Kingsway Development, recently unveiled a massive, $84 million development at the intersection of Euclid and Delmar Blvd. Looking to leverage the strength and momentum of the Central West End neighborhood and bring its success due North where investment abruptly ends, Bryant is taking aim at reducing vacancy, providing affordable housing, and creating a community of mixed income levels.

The project is predominantly located within the Fountain Park neighborhood, lying just North of the Central West End. In 2015, 84.4% of Fountain Park residents were Black, whereas just south of Delmar in the Central West End, only 29% of residents are Black. Despite its proximality to the CWE, it has seen its fortunes decline over the past several decades. Even as rents rise consistently just South of Delmar Blvd., the buildings in which Kingsway Development hope to redevelop mostly sit vacant.

The first phase will include a mix of rehabs and new construction for affordable housing, capitalizing on historic, vacant housing stock and filling in vacant lots. The first phase will include 22 affordable homes, below market-rate, aimed at creating a more “mixed”, dense neighborhood that residents of different incomes can enjoy. Bryant hopes to “set the precedent” with these homes, creating a model for other developers and investors to follow as he opens up later phases to other developers who go through their community approval process.

The first batch of construction will also include a $6.3 rehab of the building at 4731 Delmar Blvd. into office and commercial space, creating a more mixed-use neighborhood once each phase is built out. Late next year, perhaps the biggest portion of the project is slated to begin – a $43 million apartment complex, “The Bridge”, with 156 residential units. These units will add significant density to the Fountain Park neighborhood and fill out the vacant Northern section of the Euclid and Delmar intersection.

Rebuilding the North Side and responsibly tackling vacancy, affordable housing, and the lingering affects of segregation and oppression is vital to St. Louis and its future. This development will hopefully be a model for others to create diverse, mixed-income, and dense communities in neighborhoods that have seen little to no positive investment.

Read more in our coverage here.

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THREE | MLS Stadium

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

When St. Louis lost the Rams a few years ago in a bitter dispute still playing out in the courts today, there was a common sentiment that a passionate sports town was losing its steam. Thankfully, St. Louisans won’t have to wait long for a new sports team to remake its professional trifecta alongside the Cardinals and the Blues. A little over a year ago in August of 2019, the MLS announced that St. Louis would become the league’s 28th franchise. On August 13, 2020, the St. Louis MLS Expansion Team announced the team name and crest, officially introducing the St. Louis City SC to the city.

The project is moving very quickly, with a brand new stadium slated to be ready in time for the 2023 debut of the St. Louis City SC. Construction began in February on the site that will eventually seat up to 22.5 thousand guests and completely reshape Downtown West along Market St. The development will activate a less travelled section of Downtown, adding commercial retail space, infrastructure improvements, restaurants, and thousands of people to the neighborhood.

As can be seen in the rendering above, the project is more than the stadium itself. The proposal includes other new infill, including the corner building with a large terrace and commercial space on the left side of the photo. There will also be practice fields nearby that will host community soccer clinics and youth sports activities. The grand vision is to create a district comprising of bars, restaurants, concessions, retail, and open community spaces that will lead to street activation even on days without a game.

MLS Stadium with Union Station Wheel in the Background – St. Louis City SC

Located just west of the newly revitalized Union Station and at the end of the Mall that leads straight down market to the Courthouse and the Arch, the new MLS stadium will help create a unique attraction corridor built for walkability and activity. Combined with other recent developments like two residential proposals included in this article and new hotels sprouting up in Downtown West and Midtown, it appears the stadium is capping off a huge year for Downtown.

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Read more in our coverage here.

FOUR | The Changing Face of DeBaliviere

The Skinker-DeBaliviere and DeBaliviere Place neighborhoods are an excellent example of a dense, urban mix of residents across the income scale. Bordering Washington University, Forest Park, the Central West End, and Delmar Boulevard, the neighborhoods are home to those with extraordinary wealth to those with very little. The rapid growth of the Central West End and Washington University, however, have certainly been skewing the neighborhoods toward the wealthy end of that spectrum.

Three massive developments are underway right now, which will bring hundreds of expensive units and replace existing infrastructure. The three developments include The Chelsea on Pershing, the Expo at Forest Park on DeBaliviere, and The Hudson, also on DeBaliviere.

The Chelsea will rise seven stories above ground, add 152 apartments to the street, and several other impressive amenities. Some noteworthy additions include a two-story fitness center, “lobby bistro”, arcade bar, golf lounge, and even a rock-climbing wall. Lux Living hopes to open the Chelsea in late 2020, introducing some of the most unique apartments in St. Louis at one of the most uncertain times in recent history. Such a bet is supported, at least, by one of the most dense neighborhoods in St. Louis, rivaling even parts of New York City

The Hudson is set to bring added density and more options for residents in the city looking for a car-free lifestyle. With 150 units proposed and direct access to the Metrolink, residents will not need a car if they work within the central corridor or otherwise near a station. This is an amenity that, while growing in popularity in St. Louis, is still rather difficult to find given the limited size of the light-rail Metrolink. TOD is critical for good urban landscapes, helping people achieve healthier lifestyles, avoid traffic-filled commutes, and interact more with local businesses and their neighbors.

The Expo at Forest Park will be directly adjacent to the Metrolink platform as well, but will stretch down DeBaliviere all the way to Waterman as well as down De Giverville. This development is a behemoth, bringing 471,000 square feet of new construction and 287 new units, nearing the number of new apartments at the new One Hundred skyscraper in the Central West End. Current plans also call for 30,000 square feet of retail space across the two buildings (separated by De Giverville).

Read more in our coverage here.

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FIVE | City Foundry Phases I and II

Even though Phase I of the City Foundry hasn’t yet fully opened to the public, the food hall, retail space, soon-to-be grocery store, and offices are set to bring new life to the corner at Vandeventer and Forest Park Parkway. This stretch has seen significant investment over the past few years, with the city’s first IKEA, the new ELEMENT hotel by Westin, and the Standard St. Louis apartments. This is all part of a larger pattern of investment now reactivating St. Louis’ midtown corridor, bringing tons of new density, retail, and residential to the city.

The office space from the first phase is already 95% leased and open, giving The Lawrence Group confidence that there is real demand for their vision to continue. As CitySceneSTL reported earlier this December, the second phase is set to include two large structures pictured in the rendering above that will host:

  • Nearly 300 luxury residential units, many with balconies
  • Around 60,000 square feet of office space, complementing the over 100,000 square feet already built and leased
  • 20,000 additional square feet of retail space, some of which will be located on the ground floor of the parking structure activating Vandeventer and Forest Park Parkway
  • 490 parking spaces

The Lawrence Group hopes to begin construction on the second phase in the middle of 2021, hopefully at a time when guests may be able to safely begin patronizing the businesses like Punch Bowl Social and Alamo Drafthouse that make the first phase so exciting. The 14 story residential building, parking structure, and office space will also help complete the City Foundry, which always was intended to host a large residential component.

Read more in CitySceneSTL’s coverage here.

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SIX | Green Street & The Grove

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

It turns out that these were just the tip of the iceberg. Developer Green Street has huge plans for The Grove and Forest Park Southeast, making a hew headquarters for themselves alongside hundreds of new residential and commercial infill. Moving from Clayton, Green Street is hoping to double down on the city and these particular neighborhoods, creating a lively district home to mixed-income families and fun concepts like BarK, a bar and dog park combo that will join the many new developments planned.

The largest singular element of the proposal is Green Street’s ‘Terra at the Grove’, described as “Chroma on Steroids’ by a member of their team. For those unfamiliar with Chroma, it is a large residential building at the East end of The Grove, featuring hundreds of apartments, retail storefronts including Seoul Taco and Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, and luxury amenities that has consistently been essentially full occupancy.

Terra will contain over 300 residential units and massive amenity spaces. It will have a 50,000 square foot courtyard and pool area, in addition to walking and running paths, a dog park and pet wash station, fitness and yoga studios, club and movie rooms, convenience store, and a playground. The apartment building will have nearly as many units as the humongous One Hundred on the Park skyscraper in the Central West End, all situated in the Southwest corner of The Grove.

However, Green Street also has six other developments planned in the neighborhood, dubbed the Union at the Grove, each with a unique style and size. Together they will completely transform the streetscape, filling empty lots and adding tons of density. The six buildings will be called Booker, Blake, Knox, Ashe, Iva, and Marshall – each pictured in the gallery below.

Together, they will have 163 residential units, in addition to the 300+ at Terra and the 100+ at the just completed Hue. They offer some of the most contemporary and urban architecture to be found in the city, and may well begin to resemble a neighborhood with similar density and walkability to the nearby Central West End.

We talk about gentrification all the time here, something that is a real concern but contextually different in St. Louis than other bigger and higher in demand cities. We believe that there is a lot of nuance to the topic, especially so when we are talking about projects with a massive scale that fundamentally reshape particular neighborhoods like is being proposed here. That being said, we do want to let our readers know that we have spoken to people at Green Street who emphasize a commitment to mixed-income neighborhoods and affordable solutions, something that they are also committing to with a new investment group dedicated to affordable housing and investment in low income communities.

We won’t say what the verdict is on this large and complicated discussion, but this development certainly will add lots of new activity and plenty of new residents to a growing and exciting neighborhood.

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SEVEN | Delmar Divine

St. Louis’ Delmar Divide has plagued the region for decades. A miles-long physical manifestation of a racial and economic divide spans the metropolitan area from East to West, separating communities and hindering investment North of the boulevard. 2021 seems to be the first year in a very long time that substantial investment has been aimed at resolving this this pervasive issue. The Delmar Divine will consist of national and local non profits, capacity building and social innovation organizations that improve the lives of children and families in the metropolitan St. Louis area.

Maxine Clark, Founder of Build-a-Bear Workshop is heading the redevelopment of the former St. Luke’s Hospital closed in 2014 on Delmar Blvd. The large site will see a humongous renovation that will bring over 150 apartments “reasonably” priced and aimed at young, diverse working professionals.

The Delmar Divine tenants will consist of national and local not for profits, capacity building and social innovation organizations that improve the lives of children and families in the metropolitan St. Louis area.

Delmar Divine – Home

Clark aims to create a space where innovative and social minded professionals and their organizations can gather and build off of one another. It will essentially function as an innovation hub for non-profits and social-good organizations, as well as additional space for retail with easy access to nearby public transportation. At the heart of the proposal is a dedication to removing the racial and economic barriers in St. Louis, helping organizations and individuals reach “solutions faster while being more cost efficient”.

Racial segregation is at the heart of many of St. Louis’ biggest and most pervasive issues, and an effort that combines the talents of our many hardworking, innovative, and social-focused individuals and organizations is one that deserves praise and recognition. We cannot wait to see this come to fruition on 2021.

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EIGHT | Blackline Investments 12 Unit Infill in Dutchtown

Blackline Investments is moving toward the first new infill in Gravois Park in several years. Capitalizing off of the vacant land next-door to their original rehab, Blackline is planning a 12-unit, two-story building that with a decidedly modern aesthetic. First reported by Chris Strizel and his CitySceneSTL website, this development manages to introduce new residential units without demolishing historic brick homes. Each unit will be a one bedroom in a shotgun style, with a small parking lot behind the structure.

Coupled with the restoration of “Downtown Dutchtown” along Meramec St., with businesses offering innovative concepts like the Urban Eats food hall or cute clothing boutiques, Dutchtown is building its own unique character and picking up steam. With its very own retail corridor, residential conversions, and affordable housing stock renovations coming from Rise, the stabilization is already well underway. The Dutchtown CID is providing infrastructural support to retail along the street, and the Neighborhood Innovation Center is setting up its own plans to invigorate and support the business community.

That Dutchtown and Gravois Park neighborhoods are seeing positive developments that support current residents, maintain and restore historic architecture, infill vacant lots, and increase density is something of a wonder for the city. With development having catered to predominantly wealthier individuals and staying primarily within the central corridor neighborhoods, many St. Louis communities saw very little outside investment and contributed to tax subsidies for projects that did not benefit their residents directly. This finally seems poised to change.

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NINE | 1014 Spruce St.

Image found on CitySceneSTL here and the LCRA November Agenda here

Opus Group’s proposal at 1014 Spruce St. is poised to bring 146 residential units to the heart of Downtown St. Louis, directly adjacent to the popular Start Bar and just a couple minutes from Busch Stadium. Filling a large, vacant lot with a productive and dense residential development is a remarkable feat for Downtown, which has long struggled to attract significant new infill.

The structure will also host a 3,000 sq. ft. commercial space along Spruce, depicted in the rendering above, that will further activate a busy street already used to large crowds. While one new residential proposal in a Downtown area might not seem like a big deal at first, it has been a long time since St. Louis’ urban core has seen dense infill. The area is still resolving vacancy issues, particularly in the office sector. That being said, Downtown’s residential occupancy has gone up considerably and leaves very few units available – indicating a market need that 1014 Spruce will help fill.

This is a phenomenal indicator for the city, and we can’t sait to see more like it.

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

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TEN | 1801 Washington

Just North of the new MLS Stadium and on a lot currently used as parking for the iconic City Museum is the future site of 1801 Washington, a 184-unit multifamily proposal. First reported by CitySceneSTL, this apartment building will rise 7 stories and consist of over 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space fronting Washington Blvd. Parking will be in a hidden 220 space garage accessible from 19th and Lucas, allowing for a more consistent and activated corridor along Washington. The project is being developed by King Realty Advisors, an investment group that feels Downtown West has real momentum going forward.

There will also be just over 2,000 sq. ft. of retail space constructed on the 3rd floor, slated to become a restaurant or bar with a large outdoor terrace facing the street. This will likely help create a more exciting atmosphere along the already busy street, with activation both on the ground floor and above.

With 184 new residential units consisting of studio and 1 bedroom floorplans, 1801 Washington is poised to introduce some of the first new multifamily infill in Downtown and Downtown West. Moreover, it will replace a low-productivity parking lot with a dense, modern, and street-activating structure more well suited to a city and its urban core. The apartments are also going to be very modern, with granite countertops, in-unit washer and dryer, and individual balconies for each unit. There will also be a dog park and other amenity spaces like a beer tap, pool table, community kitchen, and more.

The apartment building itself is fairly consistent in terms of amenities with other new structures completed recently in the city and the county, with the exception of being located in a neighborhood that hasn’t seen new large-scale residential development in decades. This will significantly modernize and densify our urban core, and it hopefully represents a change in momentum for our city and its Downtown neighborhoods.

Read more on CitySceneSTL here.

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2020 still had way more to offer – check out our runner-ups below! 2020 was a phenomenal year for development, and we cannot wait to see what 2021 brings. Most importantly, we hope it is a year where our readers are safe, healthy, and happy, recovering from a year like we have never seen before. Thank you for reading.

Stay Safe & Stay Healthy.

Thank you for reading.

Missouri Metro Wishes you a Happy New Year.

Drury to Sell FPSE Holdings after long “Demolition by Neglect” Strategy

One of our first articles here at Missouri Metro covered the remarkably long-term and damaging strategy of Drury Hotels in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood. Conducting a de-facto “Demolition by Neglect” strategy, Drury allowed their nearly 30 properties in the neighborhood to decline despite consistent and strong community pushback. After nearly two decades, Drury has finally scrapped their plans for the neighborhood and listed each property for sale.

What began as an effort to build two hotel towers and a large surface parking lot extending from Kingshighway into the residential streets of Oakland, Arco, Gibson, and Chouteau ended with little success or fanfare. Members of the FPSE community have, for over 15 years, been subjected to increased crime, blight, and a striking lack of transparency for a project that would effectively raze the Western edge of the neighborhood.

2008 Drury Rendering – NextSTL

Although nearby residents were not too keen on the hotel proposal itself, the lack of any development turned out to be the biggest problem with Drury’s presence in the neighborhood. Their neighborhood stewardship could be characterized as “negligent”, as we covered in our prior article about Drury’s FPSE holdings.

“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.”

Brian Adler – Blight in Drury’s Wake: When Development Stalls and Buildings Crumble
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We have been hearing hints for the last few months that Drury would finally offload their properties due to neighborhood pushback, market conditions in a global Pandemic, and shifting priorities. Initially, this sounded like they would opt to find another large developer to purchase all of the holdings in the neighborhood.

The sizable tract of land directly neighbors the BJC Hospital complex and nearby commercial corridor along Manchester Ave. In other words, this is some of the most valuable land in the city in terms of nearby amenities and attractions. An acquisition by another large developer seemed almost guaranteed given the location and near total ownership of properties along the edge of the neighborhood. Another hotel, office, or large residential development could certainly find success at this site.

Drury FPSE Holdings located in the highlighted portion of the map – Imagery provided by Google Maps

Much to the surprise of FPSE residents and members of the community, each individual property will be listed for sale separately. While there could certainly be value to a larger development utilizing the properties together, this piecemeal strategy allows the neighborhood to recover and maintain its historical character. St. Louis has a long history of demolishing well-kept brick homes with unique architecture for uninteresting and unengaging developments, and the neighborhood just may avoid such a scenario.

If you are interested in learning more about Drury’s “Demolition by Neglect” strategy, we highly recommend you read some of the great articles from other St. Louis blogs. While our article does a pretty good job explaining the situational context, St. Louis has a host of incredible development bloggers doing great reporting around the city. You can also check out the listing for the most prominent Drury properties that directly face Kingshighway here.

NextSTL

ElevateSTL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Todd Swanstrom, source: NextSTL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The North Facing Mural on Hue@Chroma – Brian Adler

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

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Residential Development in The Grove meets controversy as Plans Change after Demolitions

The Grove is in the midst of a development boom, with a new project or business entry announced seemingly every week. There is an incredible amount of momentum, driven by a stable business and restaurant community on Manchester and the residential stability granted by the CWE, Cortex, and Forest Park’s amenities. Many of these developments are celebrated by members of the community for adding density, tax revenue, and support for the nearby businesses, which is of particular importance in the age of COVID.

The latest proposal, spearheaded by Amy and Amrit GIll of Restoration STL, instead finds itself in the middle of a controversy. The latest Forest Park Southeast Development Committee packet reveals a larger-than-expected residential structure, dubbed the Arbor on Arco, shown above. (Clarification: The Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association is a separate entity from the Forest Park Southeast Development Committee. The latter is run through Park Central Development and will see the proposal, the former has no control over the proposal despite efforts to become more involved in the process). The Arbor on Arco will offer 152 units atop of a wood-frame construction and one story podium. Also visible is an amenity deck supposedly with a pool on the second floor, a feature that is becoming very common and has a lot of potential benefits as residents increasingly seek outdoor space to complement their indoor units.

Added density is an important element for retail corridors like the one steps away from the proposal on Manchester, a benefit recognized by community members I was able to speak to regarding this project. However, it is within the business practices of developer Restoration STL where the controversy comes in to play. Those who have followed Restoration STL might know that this project has roots back to 2018, when Restoration STL provided a rendering of a 95-unit, brick-clad structure, shown just below. The initial rendering revealed an urban feeling designed to emulate a row of historic brownstones and maintain architectural compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood. Many of the units would be accessible from the street, and the structure had a greater emphasis on brick construction, not relying on a podium and enclosing residents off into an amenity space. This project, too, would provide significant added density.

Provided by user urban_dilettante on the UrbanSTL forums

This section of the street, from 4211 to 4239 Arco, previously contained a row of brick-clad single and multi-family residences. Each of them had their own entryways, similar to the feel and design replicated by the original 2018 rendering above. This is important because it is the very first 2018 rendering that Restoration STL used as the basis for their project, justifying their demolition. Most of these buildings were vacant and dilapidated according to Restoration STL, but in the The Grove housing market there is generally very little real vacancy when homes are listed, even when in need of renovation.

Location, provided by Google Maps

Some of these buildings, as can be seen below, were entirely salvageable, even in better shape than the buildings that Drury Hotels is demolishing through neglect. The leftmost building was demolished last month. While it looked less than perfect, was in a structural condition that could have been saved. With fresh brick tuck pointing on its side, and seemingly a relatively solid looking stone foundation, this building would be ripe for a redevelopment.

View of the structures on Arco, as provided by Google Street View

Residents I have spoken to expressed a feeling of dismay, feeling as though they have been victim of a “bait and switch” tactic by Restoration STL for demolishing historical structures under a false promise. Many had been excited by the original proposal, far-cry from NIMBY-ism, looking forward to the addition to the neighborhood and the added density. The rendering would have fit well with the form-based code of the neighborhood, honoring the history of the block.

Many residents feel that the strategy by Restoration STL leaves the community little choice but to approve of their new proposal. Because the demolition has already occurred, there is now nothing left to save. Yet, they did so under the guise of a development that actually fit the neighborhood’s architectural character. The old rendering and project details are still currently and publicly displayed on their website. Now that so much is gone, those residents prefer the new proposal to vacant land in the heart of the Manchester strip, where Manchester meets Arco. The added density is such a positive, and the design isn’t so bad that it should be rejected, but it reflects a business practice that is deceptive to members of the community who care about their physical surroundings.

The Arbor on Arco project cost is slated to come in at a total of $32 million, with 134 1-bedroom and 18 2-bedroom units. It will be presented at the Forest Park Southeast Development Committee meeting on September 15th at 5:30 PM. Those interested can listen in on Zoom, following the instructions in the packet.

A Sneak Peak at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea, coming to The Grove in October

Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea is coming to The Grove this October, with local owners Jason and Leah Rooney poised to introduce a the first of the premium-targeted and family-friendly coffee franchise to the St. Louis market. I had the pleasure of meeting Jason for a pre-opening tour of the facility and was given a rundown of all the intricacies of opening a new coffee shop in the middle of the pandemic.

Product Display

Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea was founded in 1993 in Ann Arbor, near the University of Michigan campus. With a focus on high-end, real ingredients and a love for coffee, co-founders Wei and Lisa now run several corporate locations, and together with locally owned franchises, the Sweetwaters brand can be found at 45 locations. Rooney hopes to expand on their success with what he intends to be the flagship Sweetwaters location in St. Louis, located in the “Heart of The Grove” on Manchester.

It is a strikingly challenging and complicated time to be a small business owner in the food and beverage industry, but Rooney intends to offer a unique set of drinks and activities in an accessible setting to a neighborhood with relatively little competition. The only other coffee shop in the vicinity is Rise Coffee, which Rooney himself praises. Rise offers more of an eclectic style, while Rooney intends for Sweetwaters to have a broader audience and a host of beverage options that will be new to the region.

Jason and Leah are aiming to open Sweetwaters within the first two weeks of October, first for a “Friends and Family Celebration” to give the staff a chance to practice for a four hour setting before opening to the public. A sizable portion of those proceeds will benefit charitable organizations.

Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea is very community oriented as far as charities and integrating with the community, being there for lots of local events.

Jason Rooney

There is a lot of opportunity and energy that Leah and Jason intend to capitalize on in the neighborhood. With a fresh and modern space in the Chomra luxury apartment community, Sweetwaters will capitalize on its storefront to create a “third space” for a recent and continued influx of nearby residents. Jason emphasized a desire to not just serve the local community, but also the greater St. Louis region, an ambitious task for any small business. Their physical space will be a platform not just for local community events, but for community non-profits and charities that need a retail partner. Jason, who grew up in St. Louis, decided with Leah that St. Louis was the best city to raise their family of four children and start their business, specifically choosing a Sweetwaters franchise because its mission relates to their own and expresses the values and importance of charitable impact they hold.

Jason and Leah Rooney

With only a few weeks left until their opening, the staff is working hard to prepare for the “Friends and Family Celebration”, the very first time that the shop will open its doors to members of the public. The celebration will be the official start of a Grand Opening week, taking lessons from their day of practice and then opening to the public with a special promotion each day to build excitement and ensure people try their more unique and different beverages.

It took a long time to get to this stage, however. The Rooney’s first intended to open Sweetwaters in March, but ended up pushing back their opening just as COVID-19 began to spread. While the virus was not the only factor in the delay, the time ended up helping the staff prepare and plan. The delay was a positive, but added to an already long process. Jason and Leah valued taking their time and getting things right, even charting their own path patiently as they looked for the perfect space for their coffee shop. When they first began looking for a space, their real estate broker found plenty of adequate locations, ones with drive-throughs, others in the suburbs, and some even Downtown, but nothing felt right. They ended up doing their own research, ultimately finding this location in The Grove themselves. They knew almost immediately that this space, in the “heart of The Grove” and in a contemporary, dense development, fit every criteria. It would not only fit the store, but the brand itself and their many ambitions for how they would serve the neighborhood.

We probably couldn’t have written a better location and a better fit for what the brand is.”

Jason Rooney

Picking The Grove and Chroma in particular made sense to the Rooney’s. With 235 units in the first phase of the development alone, Hue opening this fall with more than a hundred more, and 4400 Manchester opening shortly, there has been an influx of dense residential units in the neighborhood. These developments are just the tip of the iceberg with more along the way. Rooney hopes that Sweetwaters will complement Rise and help serve a growing, diverse demographic in the community.

There were so many neighborhoods Jason and Leah considered, from Maplewood to University City, but the density, walkability, and competitive landscape of The Grove were deciding factors. The encouragement and support of the neighborhood and building sealed the deal. This particular location offered a contemporary storefront that they felt would fit their premium brand well and would provide the best experience for nearby residents.

One of the more interesting final candidates for locations was a retail spot, now to be occupied by a Starbucks, in the newest Ballpark Village phase. They loved the new buildings, but felt that the stronger residential aspect of Forest Park Southeast and The Grove would contribute to a more stable business environment not dependent on a game day crowd. They would love to support Downtown St. Louis, but this problem emphasizes the type of issues Downtown, even as it sees a growing residential population, faces. St. Louis, with its fragmented neighborhoods, still has much to do to make its downtown attractive to families and businesses. It’s impossible to deny the progress it has made so far, however.

A view of Chroma from a table inside Sweetwaters

The support from the building management in Chroma has been outstanding, and Jason is grateful for the support from the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association. Residents have also provided incredible support and interest, fielding constant questions to their social accounts.

We are here to serve the community and give them a product they love and enjoy. We think this will enhance the neighborhood.

Jason Rooney

Meeting their expectations is paramount to the Rooneys. Opening a business during COVID, particularly one in the food-service industry, is complicated. The Rooney’s want to ensure everyone is safe and feels safe and will emphasize and abide by all city and CDC guidelines. They do not want anyone catching anything because they missed something. When things begin opening up and getting safer, they hope to fully realize a coffee concept built with events in mind.

From Friday Game Nights to live music to adult coloring evenings, etc., they hope to hold all sorts of events for community members. COVID unfortunately changes the equation a bit, but they hope to eventually implement these events at a large scale and then some to make Sweetwaters an event space that contributes to an active, social lifestyle for those in the neighborhood and beyond. Jason hopes to incorporate some events sooner, but does not yet know exactly what those will look like.

Coffee Bar

Jason is looking forward to winning people over and building brand awareness for Sweetwaters. In his mind, this is really the first and most important step. Sweetwaters has a number of proprietary drinks and blends that you can’t find elsewhere. You cannot even buy Sweetwaters blended coffee offered at any other coffee shop. One of Jason’s favorites is a special Ginger Lemon Tea, which complements their soda-like Ginger Lemon Fizz. That have that bottled now, in regular and raspberry flavors. The Ginger Fizz can be served hot, which apparently not only tastes great, but can be helpful when you have a cold.

They also have a couple of different frozen drinks, like the ice cream based cold brew based on Hawaiian coffee blends and Hawaiian coffee culture. Jason stands by it, proudly claiming that it is the best frozen drink he has had in his life. They also have Strawberry Lemonade and regular Lemonade freezes. These too use fresh berries and real ingredients. The Lemonade comes from lemons and actual lemon juice. Similarly, there is no strawberry syrup or juice – just strawberries.

Sweetwaters Interior

While there are many coffee shops and chains around St. Louis, this is a opening that I find truly interesting. It is not every day that a new chain starts up in the city, in particular one that offers something different. It also highlights the development and continued economic successes of neighborhoods in the Central Corridor and The Grove in particular, with the influx of residents and large residential complexes fueling small businesses. More than anything, it is refreshing to hear the passion of a local business owner who loves and sees value in St. Louis, and who plans to use his business as a platform to make peoples’ lives better.

Pastry Bar and Entry

Stay tuned for details on their Grand Opening as October gets closer! In the meantime, you can follow their social accounts here:

Facebook

Sweetwaters Website

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