By. Chris Stritzel
What is currently a dead corner in Downtown should be one that is vibrant. On one corner you have the hulking Jefferson Arms Building, which is waiting for funding to be secured for redevelopment. On another corner is a parking lot for a US Bank branch. On another is a medical testing building and on the final corner is a large parking garage being held up by wood with no retail. It is really a dismal site. The old Parking Garage has been this way for the past 3 years. The former retail tenant, Papa John's Pizza, has moved a block and a half South to the Park Pacific Garage leaving the garage to rot. The garage has been stabilized by wood support beams inside because it is collapsing and poses a public safety threat.
The owner has neglected the parking garage and should've demolished it but instead, he called in the city to help stabilize the structure and now owes the city tons of money for a fix that does nothing to make money. Its a garage rotting away and one that should've been demolished a decade ago. The eyesore is clearly first and adds no value to Locust Street. It's a cancer attached to the beautiful Board of Election Commissioners Building. It's ugly all the way around. Downtown St. Louis is well over abundant with Parking Garages (both visible and hidden) and losing this garage wouldn't hurt. Its a place to waste money but it possess a great redevelopment oppurtunity.
As other large cities are demolishing parking garages for hotels and residential, St. Louis is building Parking Garages for what reason? None. Downtown is not going to thrive when you have a Parking Garage every other block. What Downtown needs is smart infill that is useful to the surrounding area. In this case, this corner deserves a building that adds value and character and not more cars. I could see a mixed use building being built here along the lines (design ands size wise) of this under construction Hyatt Centric Hotel in Downtown Philadelphia.
That hotel replaces a parking garage of similar size of the one that is the main subject of this story. Notice how the Hyatt has open store fronts with glass and a pretty classy design. This would do wonders to the corner of Locust and Tucker (if this was in our city) especially if the Jefferson Arms gets underway with it's redevelopment. That hotel is 15 floors and for Tucker in St. Louis, It would look nice considering that every single building on Tucker is of an era gone by or is just plain ugly. This corner doesn't deserve a parking garage or a pocket park, it deserves a nice sized building.
If we were to take the Hyatt Centric idea and apply it here, it would be a great investment. It fills the void for a hotel between the Marriott Grand and Courtyard Hotel on Washington and 9th Street to the Last Hotel at 14th and Washington. When the AC by Marriott at the Jefferson Arms comes into play, it offers a more upscale brand for those travelers who want luxury in a prime location. Nice small shops or restaurants could fill the retail spaces and draw people down Locust to other small businesses that line the street to the Old Post Office District. Or, if this building were to be mixed use, I could see apartments and a hotel being built here.
Apartments are a great investment Downtown especially near, or along, Washington Avenue. Retail would still be included in the mix. But for those who just need the parking, I give to you the block just North of here. The entire block is made up of about 75% surface parking with just a spattering of buildings. Find a place to park there and call it a day. This is a Downtown and not your suburban shopping mall (although this corner sure feels suburban).
This site is just to prime for a crumbling parking garage especially if the Jefferson arms is to eb redeveloped. If the company who owns the garage can't maintain it anymore or afford to keep it up, they should put out requests for demolition or hand it off to the city to demolish it. There is no need for the garage and but there is a need for other uses besides a garage. The ideas mentioned fit in perfectly here but until the site is put up for sale, this garage will continue to be an eyesore. I can picture developer wanting to build here for the reasons mentioned above but the garage has to go or be put up for sale.
Another thing that ahs to be fixed is Tucker itself. The street is way to wide for Downtown and could lose a lane in each direction for widened sidewalks and other pedestrian changes. The median could also be expanded for a place to reduce time to walk across the street. No matter what happens, with the Jefferson Arms redevelopment being the most likely project to happen at this corner, measures have to be taken to beautify it and not make the corner look so desolate. I don't care how it's done, just take the garage down and fix Tucker. It will spur new development along the way, I guarantee it.