By. Chris Stritzel
2017 brought the St. Louis region surprises galore whether it be new construction or historic restoration and preservation. The list is in order of least (9) to most (1) significant projects announces this year or got under way. Let’s get started immediately.
9. Forsyth Pointe
The Forsyth Pointe office building project was announced in early 2017 and is put at the top of this list for a reason, it adds more office space to Clayton. While many say that this is a good thing, I beg to differ. Clayton is in a building boom currently with the massive Centene project which is going to bring hundreds of thousands square feet of Class A office space to Downtown Clayton. This small building though is pushing the limit of office space that Clayton needs. The project may even put Clayton into the overbuilt category in terms of office space. And while it is good to have a surplus of office space, to much is a problem and can cause problems down the road.
Those problems combined with both companies abandoning their suburban office space for other areas and at home positions could hurt the office space category as a whole. Downtown St. Louis currently has a massive 1.2 Million Square foot office building abandoned, we don't want to add to the growing number of square feet of office space that is abandoned or struggling to get tenants. That would just make our delicate national image even more fragile. Basically, we shouldn't build more office space unless tenants are already lined up and worries are squashed, this one I do not see having any of these as the project has been quiet since March when the last document was sent to the City of Clayton.
8. AC Hotel Central West End
While a new hotel for Central West End is good, it is also a bummer in many ways which basically solidifies it spot at number 9 on this list. There are three pros to this project. 1. It adds density to a already highly dense neighborhood. 2. It brings a new hotel brand to St. Louis. 3. It will bring more people to Central West End to patronize their businesses in the most walkable neighborhood in the City. While those three things may make it sound like a big win for St. Louis, it is the little things that count in regards to a hotel project of this manner.
There are 5 cons with the project which really reduce the favorability of this project in my opinion those are...
1. Views- The hotel will not have any good views besides the back portions of the Chasse Park Plaza, York House and Maryland Plaza not to mention two large parking garages on wither side of the hotel.
2. It is located on York avenue, which Is a pain in the ass to get to from Lindell and is basically an alley with no shops or things to make you feel good about waking back to the hotel late at night.
3. The design is not to be desired as it has no special features that pother hotels have. No rooftop bar. No retail. Plain materials and over all blah design.
4. Parking- Parking for hotel guests will be hard as the Chase Garage will most likely not allow any guests to park there and, if guests are stuck parking at the Argyle Garage, then you have to walk through a creepy garage across the alley and into your hotel.
5. Nightly prices- Most likely are going to be high because of location (but not worth it because of thee above listed things).
Even thought his project was moved forward by the Preservation Board on 12/18 with the hopes that the architect and developer add more brick to the faced, it is not a very good project over all but fills the void for hotel rooms in Central West End.
7. 6300 Clayton Avenue
The first new significant development in Dogtown in years, 6300 Clayton Avenue (Hibernia) will be a true game changer for Dogtown as a whole. Announced back in March, the 5 floor project will add several residents to Dogtown as well as a new retail amenity, a grocery store. That store is supposed to be a Fields Foods market. The only other one in the City is in Lafayette Square off of Lafayette near Truman parkway. A big plus of this project is the underground parking Garage for residents. Dome may be wondering, why is it as number 8 on this list? Well the answer is simple, design.
The design is very close to both Cortona and Encore at Forest Park in the Highlands development. The same types of design get boring after a while especially in such close proximity to one another. That is why this development is so high up on this list. Cookie cutter designs get boring after a while and just because the colors or materials used changed doesn't always mean that it will be unique. However, I do believe Dogtown needs something like this for it to play a key role in changing our path in the 2020 census. The more new apartments the better especially since it is close to both Washington University and the Forest Park Community College.
According to Scott Ogilivie, the Alderman for the Ward that this is in (Ward 24), the project should break ground in late January 2018 as developers have been working to get financing in place, contractors and more lined up to make construction as smooth as possible. If all goes according to plan, the development should open up sometime in mid to late 2019.
6. Shaw Park Apartments
Announced around the same time as the Forsyth Pointe project, this 22 (formerly 24) story apartment project. The project would replace a long vacant lot where proposals have come and gone. Most notably though, this would be the third major Clayton Residential project to happen since 2015, the other two are 212 and Ceylon. The tower would over look Shaw Park and add to the street wall facing Shaw Park. However, this project does have some things that do not put it into the top 5 on this list. Those issues are...
1. Height reduction- A tower floor height reduction is odd for a project at such a prime location.
2. a monster parking garage for the project will make some if the units have bad views.
3. Lower floors will be against the Forsyth Pointe project thus making several units worthless.
The should begin in early 2018 though, which is exciting. But those issues I cannot get over and I think they will cost the project dearly in revenue and potential.
5. Jefferson Connector
As far as historic preservation and new construction is concerned, this project addresses both of these and adds more to the Downtown West-Midtown area. The Jefferson Connector Project will be a true connector of Downtown West to Midtown Alley and will help spruce up a current desolate part of Locust Street. The project will
consist of the restoration of the old Mendenhall
Building east of Jefferson and the creation of a entirely new streetscape West of Jefferson. The new streetscape will be made up of a 10 Floor Hotel Building, a parking garage with retail at the base of the garage. Across Locust to the North will be a Shipping Container shopping center. Finally, the old Beaumont telephone building will be restored and turned into office space and apartments.
The mix of new construction and preservation will surely change the perception of Locust and Jefferson as a whole. The intersection is currently blah and this project will surely help with the way it looks. But, this doesn’t make it into the top 5 because of one issue that I cannot get over. That issue is the overall master planning approach. The idea of having shipping containers reused for retail usage may be unique but certainly not a must. We would be better off getting another residential building built on that vacant lot. That with the monstrous AT&T building, this property and strip is just not very valuable. But at least the city will be gaining a new development that will help our city in the long run.
4. Jefferson Arms Building
After being stalled for several years, the Jefferson Arms is finally ready to be brought back to life, this time, by Alterra International. Planned is the restoration of the building with street level retail and second floor office space. That is part of Phase 1. Phase 2 will bring hundreds of Apartments and a AC Hotel to the building. This also represents a pretty sizable chunk of abandoned space in Downtown being brought back to life. There are no major problems to complain about this project besides the two phases. I understand that the project is large and will take time, but by doing it in to phases, you are at risk of economic collapse which could lead to overall cancellation of the second phase. That would greatly reduce the value of the first two floors of the building.
On the flip side, construction on Phase 1 should begin sometime in 2018 and wrap up in 2019.
3. Railway Exchange Building
As the Old Macy's building wraps up its rough year and a half (water line breaking and flooding the building's lower floors, crumbling exterior, removal of the Famous-Barr marquee and awnings falling off), a new plan is starting to finally emerge for the massive block size city building. The Railway Exchange Building may see new life, this time, with Square. Preliminary plans presented give the idea that the developer, Hudson Holdings, is trying to get Square to move their local Headquarters to the building. Featured in the project will be street level retail, office space, residential and a hotel. The plans also include a market Hall within the building with cafes and what not.
It is about time a project comes to fruition to tackle Downtown's largest historic abandoned building. The Railway Exchange Building holds a key piece in our city's fabric, and it is about time that a plan is being made to bring that icon back to life. While details are limited at his time, this project made it to the list as being a surprise for a building that has been deteriorating since 2013s closure of the Macy's store. While no concrete plans have been made, this project will surely make a return In 2081 with more details, so we are looking forward to hearing that news. Until then, the hopes of Square moving into the building are ambitious but doable. A corporate movement to Downtown would change our perception. Who knows, maybe Square is already part of the project.
We will see in 2018.
2. Ballpark Village Groundbreaking
After being announced in October 2016, it finally broke ground but is far larger and more pricey than the original plan announced last October. The new plan is 7 times the size of the first phase and is worth $260 Million. The new plan also fulfills much of the original 2006 vision that both the Cardinals and Cordish companies had. The new plan also brings new brands and things to St. Louis. The biggest new brand is the Live! By Loews Hotel. Loews is a luxury hotel company and the fact that they chose St. Louis, and Ballpark Village for their flagship St. Louis location in particular must be an honor to have. Furthermore, the project welcomes One Life Fitness to St. Louis.
On the Eastern end of the site, a new tower of 330 feet tall and 29 floors will rise and will bring more new residents to the streets of downtown, in particular, the most desolate part of Downtown. Overall, this project will be great fro the City and Downtown as it displaces several blocks of surface parking for new uses that will benefit the City. Now that construction has started, the perception on out city will change as the construction of the tower will be visible from televised Cardinals games. The entire project's construction will be seen from Interstate 64 which gives a even bigger impression for travelers just passing through the city.
Construction should wrap up in 2020 and by then, I wouldn't be surprised to see a Phase 3 announced.
1. 300 South Broadway
Say what you will about the government process of getting this thing approved and ready to go, it is significant and is at number 1 on this list. The tower shows us that there is renewed interested to build new in Downtown St. Louis, and in particular, around the ballpark. This all came about because of what I believe is the Ballpark Village effect. As Ballpark Village begins construction on Phase 2, this project was announced as the developers clearly anticipate this area becoming its own neighborhood by the mid 2020s. Even though a historic building will go away to make way for this tower, it will be a fair trade off as most of the existing structure was altered or added on to in the 1980s.
The 33 floor passed the Preservation Board on December 18th with the idea that the architecture firm, HDA, will incorporate the existing façade into the new building and that the exterior would be covered in at least 75% of glass. These recommendations were over turned the following day as the neighborhood was blighted for this project and vacant lots and buildings near by. Basically, construction should start by July 2018 and will bring yet another major project to Downtown that will change the streetscape by 2020.
This project is my favorite announced this year and we will see what happens with it, but I believe it will happen.
And that is the 2017 Year in Review. I predict that 2018 will being at least 3 new high-rise/skyscraper proposals for St. Louis and Clayton. I also believe that many projects featured in the STL Projects page will get underway thus starting the regions largest construction boom since the early 2000s.