By. Chris Stritzel
On August 15th, Green Street shared a photo on Twitter showing the interior of the historic Armory Building being gutted for their mixed use redevelopment. The hulking structure, that has sat dormant for years, is now being given a new life as a office building and retail center. After waiting to start, and even me thinking it may have been cancelled, it has begun construction and I am excited to see it happen. I have been excited since it was announced because, between this and the City Foundry project, a huge portion of midtown is being transformed from an industrial center into a area of innovation, preservation and enhancement. The neighborhood around the Armory and City Foundry (Vandeventer-Forest Park-Grand-Chouteau and Railways) has been renamed "Prospect Yards" to reflect this change. The success of the "Prospect Yards" area relies on redevelopment and infill projects in the neighborhood footprint.
While no tenants have been officially named for the Armory yet, construction is moving forward for, what is shaping up to be, one of the more anticipated projects of this development cycle. This project peaked my interest following the Tweet by Green Street, so I dug into news stories, videos and renderings that have been published to every single media outlet's, Arcturis' (architect) and Green Street's websites. When I previously did this, I found that Trivers designed a small, AC Hotel for the project. That is simply a concept to show what they can do and will not happen. But what I did find was this rendering/drawing in a video posted to YouTube, which has led me to search everywhere for better renderings.
The drawing shows a midrise building near the MetroLink Station, small infill and a amphitheater concept at the base of the tower. Arcturis is clearly visible on the drawing which lead me to believe that 500 and 502 Prospect would be demolished for new structures, which wasn't included in previous site plans and iterations.
I now have found new renderings, posted to Arcturis' website on a hidden page, showing detailed renderings of the new buildings previously never seen before, and changes to the main Armory Building. While the design of the main building remains the same, new signage peaked my interest. As seen in the gallery below, these two renderings look similar to previous ones shared but include signage for a hotel, meeting rooms and other things. The main takeaways from here are the addition of the hotel signage on the building's interior in the atrium section. But lets dig deeper.
Also included on the hidden webpage is a rendering titled, "Armory+Master+Plan+Render". However, no date of the rendering's posting has been included leading me to think one of two things, either this is a concept that never made it, or is something still in the planning phase. The same goes for the two above renderings. The large building from the drawing (mentioned earlier) is visible here along with a circular building that appears to be residential. The amphitheater is also gone. The bases of the buildings include spaces for retail and restaurants centered around a nice courtyard. The taller of the two appears to be 18 floors according to the rendering while the circular building appears to be 15 floors.
These buildings give the district significant density while also making it more of a district with places to shop and eat. It also gives the Armory District an iconic, modern flare to tie old and new together. Arcturis seems to have thought highly of these buildings to give them their time to come up with them and have thus led them to design something amazing. Very rarely to architecture firms invest tons of time into renderings and plans for something that is simply a fantasy.
Now, while I can't confirm that these renderings are concepts or for sure happening, I must mention something. These new buildings certainly look good and would dramatically change Midtown along with Lawrence Group's City Foundry Phase 2 Tower. In this case, whether or not Green Street will continue with their current plan, which restores the Armory Building, 500 and 502 Prospect, is their choice since it is their money to spend. They have, and continue to specify, that a hotel is planned for the site but whether or not it is designed to be tall and iconic remains the question. I honestly do not care which path GreenStreet takes since I am praising them for their audacity to take on the Armory Project and make something good out of it.
Regardless, I'll finish this story with something I would like to see happen. The I-64 bridge through Midtown is ugly as can be. The highway is meh all the way around, but if Green Street and Arcturis can take some nuisance and make it cool, I'll take it. I like the signage and art but I don't get the "Brooklyn-St. Louis" thing.