Saturday, December 31, 2016

Former Praxair Site in Lafayette Square - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my top twenty announced or under-construction projects from 2016, we move to Lafayette Square with a development announcement for the former Praxair site along Chouteau Avenue.

I'm amazed at how long this property has sat vacant in such a desirable neighborhood (2005). We've seen plans floated before as far back as 2007. But, maybe the economy is back on its feet and the time is right to make the development work.

I'm confident the people in Lafayette Square will demand quality and will be very involved in the process. They have worked so hard in this neighborhood, and I expect that will continue here.

So what are we talking?

Now Pulte Homes has a plan to build 64 townhomes on the Praxair site bounded by Chouteau, Missouri Avenue, MacKay Place and a separate parcel fronting Hickory Street to the south. The developer is planning to meet next week with neighborhood residents living adjacent to the site. A larger Lafayette Square community meeting is planned to follow before the end of the year. No images or site plans have been made available.
Pulte Homes? Not a name I've heard before, they've never done a project in St. Louis, but they've done many in the suburbs. And it shows, but this site is unique. I don't think the suburban stuff will work here and I don't think the neighbors will let it. Pulte have done some decent work in other parts of the country including the following:
 Pulte project in Alexandria, Virginia
                                 Pulte project in Washington State

This is a dead stretch of Chouteau that needs some love. The south side of the property abuts the fully intact part of the neighborhood and the northern edge has much room for improvement. People have been living around this vacant site for over ten years and they (and people who live near here) are ready for positive change.
This will be a fun one to watch in 2017.

Better Family Life 100 Home Renovation Project - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my twenty 'Best of 2016' development announcements and under-construction projects, we have an exciting project in North City.

Better Family Life would like to renovate 100 homes around Page Boulevard, the project has a potential to reach $20M in investment in some areas that haven't seen much investment recently.

I have to apologize for not having more information, I've reached out to Better Family Life via email, but have not made the time to reach out with calls or schedule a visit to get the full story. I hope to follow up on this development in 2017 and report back here.

The local media discussed the work they are doing in several venues.

“This is a new beginning for Better Family Life because this project will be a major redevelopment of Page Boulevard, which could spark a renaissance in North St. Louis and eliminate the Delmar Divide by helping the existing community and attracting new residents,” Malik Ahmed, Better Family Life's chief executive, said in a statement. 
He said he envisions the project will attract millennials and others who want affordable housing in the Page Boulevard area. 
Renovation costs for each house will total $200,000, Better Family Life said. Each house will sell for about $130,000, providing owners $60,000 to $70,000 in equity when they move in, the organization said. 
Work has begun on three homes. Two of the rehabs are funded by the St. Louis Community Development Agency with gap financing by Midwest Bank, Better Family Life said.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the following KPLR Channel 11 story with Better Family Life and a representative from the city. If that doesn't get you excited, than what will?

Better Family Life has been active in the 26th Ward of St. Louis and they've been buying properties along Belt, Maple, Vernon, etc in several neighborhoods since the 1990's.
They are gaining momentum and one of their goals is to get African Americans who left the city for the county to move back...especially young people who will be civically involved.  They call this stretch of Page "The Vibe" because this part of town feels right and is on the verge of gaining fresh blood and investment.

I can't wait to learn more from this group. I will definitely make the time to interview them if they'll have me.

My humble opinion is that if we are going to subsidize growth, this area/project is ripe for it. We need more people rooting down who want to live here. We can subsidize things that benefit visitors and tourists next.

This would be a huge deal for North City! Congrats Better Family Life, keep up the good work.  Hope to talk in 2017.

Brew City - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing on with my favorite 2016 developments in St. Louis, the local beer scene in the city just seems to get bigger and better.

2016 was no exception with the addition of one more brewery and announcements for a couple others in the city. 

2nd Shift Brewing may be familiar to some, they have been making beer for some time in New Haven, MO about an hour drive from St. Louis.

They set up shop in the Hill Neighborhood at 1601 Sublette Avenue just south of Manchester.  I haven't visited yet, or tried their beer, but I can't wait.

Another brewery, Rockwell Beer Company, will set up shop in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood at 1320 South Vandeventer Avenue and they hope to be open in Spring, 2017.

Another brewery, Center Ice Brewery will be a hockey-themed brewery. The tasting room will be constructed from the Old Arena/Checkerdome! they will be in the beautiful Dinks Parish Laundry Building just west of Pappy's and Southern on Olive in the Midtown Neighborhood. Perfect place for all those hosers to converge for a Blues game. On my visit, work was underway on the facade of the building:

Then, work continued on Earthbound Beer's renovation of the Cherokee Brewery, complete with caves on Cherokee Street. Read all about it HERE.
Good news abounds. 

I recently attended a brewery tour at Schlafly Tap Room and I gained an appreciation for their vitally important role in changing the laws around brewing in Missouri and St. Louis. Without them fighting the legal fights to open up brewing to smaller breweries, we would still be in ABI land alone. They really played such an important role to open things up here.  
Oh, and scenes from Escape From New York were filmed in the building that is now the Taproom on Locust. There is an homage to Snake Plissken on their mural:
So with the addition of 2nd Shift and Rockwell, we will have the following breweries right here in St. Louis:

2nd Shift
4 Hands
Anheuser-Busch InBev
Alpha Brewery
Center Ice
Civil Life
Heavy Riff
Morgan Street 
Square One
Urban Chestnut

Pappos is brewing their beer for their operations at the Midtown restaurant location as well.

Heck, I'm probably missing a few.

There is no shortage of good beer and guzzling beer in St. Louis. 2016 was a good year and 2017 should be even better.

Major League Soccer Expansion in St. Louis - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

This is the second of two sports related favorites from 2016. The first was the Cardinal/Cordish proposal for a mixed-use development at Ballpark Village.

The next is the potential for MLS soccer in our fair city. The league is expanding and they indicated that St. Louis is one of the top cities under consideration for a team. Per MLS' official website:
MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Thursday that Teams 25 and 26 will be announced during the second or third quarter of 2017, at an expansion fee of $150 million each, and begin MLS play by 2020. Teams 27 and 28 will be announced at a later date, at a price delivered in conjunction with the timeline. 
The league acknowledged ownership groups from 10 markets have publicly expressed interest in securing an MLS expansion team: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg. 
Interested expansion owners must submit applications by Jan. 31, 2017. After review, a series of in-person meetings will take place during the first and second quarters of 2017.
2017 is going to be a critical year for St. Louis when it comes to this burgeoning sport. 

Let me first say, I love sports. Really all sports, but I'm not an MLS soccer fan to date. That would change if we got a team. My kids love soccer. They are into it, they understand it, they play it in the CYC and SLPS. They would beg to go to games just as they do to Blues games.

Secondly, I have had the pleasure of working with people from all around the world. Argentinians, Colombians, Mexicans, Chileans, Belgians, Spaniards and Brazilians, they all have hard core fans. I've never seen such devotion to a team or a sport. It is infectious to be around. It is exhilarating just to be around them and hear them talk about their teams. The chanting, the songs, the colors, the is like nothing we have here...maybe college football, but Illinois and Missouri aren't those kind of teams.

I think soccer is one of the growth sports for the next century in the U.S. MLS in the most international sport and could help retain and grow our Latino, African and Eastern European populations. I think it could help to attract and retain the next generation of people who will consider living and working in St. Louis.

If any of these owners actually live in St. Louis, I apologize, but my guess is they are County residents who are not being asked for public $ at the city/county level and not expected to own the stadium if the team decides to pull a Arizona Cardinals/Los Angeles Rams move.

Now remember, some of these same well-meaning folks were behind building a second NFL stadium for the Rams. No offense, but they don't understand what people who live in St. Louis need. It is not stadiums, it is $ for schools, neighborhood stabilization, potholes, and cameras, cops, investigators and prosecutors to combat the out of control crime we have to deal with. It's always easier to spend someone else's money.
The group includes St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh, prominent hotelier Bob O’Loughlin, UniGroup President Jim Powers, St. Louis Blues CEO Chris Zimmerman and former NFL task force co-chairman Dave Peacock. 
Jim Woodcock, global sports co-lead and senior vice president at FleishmanHillard, said the group — which is dubbing itself MLS2STL — came together naturally as several of its members, including Woodcock, began asking about MLS ownership following the departure of the St. Louis Rams. (source)
But the pretty pictures and potential for the city were a bit tarnished by the need for massive adjacent and on-site surface parking lots that are not needed 348 days out of the year, and financial support of public tax money from St. Louis only. No St. Charles, St. Clair, Madison, Jefferson or St. Louis County support has been asked for to date, just good old money bags St. Louis. Yeah right. We are broke and need the money more than any city in the region. But we're supposed to bankroll this thing for 17 professional sports games a year (more if you make the playoffs). The Blues bring 41 games and the Cards bring 81.

Oh, and they want the city to own the stadium. Remember how this works Rams fans? It is not smart investment. 

I want MLS soccer here, but we should not be the only city paying for it.

However, I expect in any negotiation the first offer is the one that most benefits the party making the offer. This is how most negotiations work. It is now up to the leaders in the city to pass the napkin back across the table with a better offer.

And hopefully the voters can decide if the public money from St. Louis should go to another sports stadium that we own.

Remember how this played out with the Rams? It is happening again. 

As a citizen and voter in St. Louis, I am willing to pitch in some for this team. The terms have to be reasonable and the ratio of public funds should match the wealth of the region. If it does, this could be a great regional effort to bring a popular and growing sport to St. Louis.

The region can play together nicely and bring a team here. St. Louis would be a great location, we just need to not get completely screwed over financially.

It can work, but will it? Look no further than Great Rivers Greenway or the Zoo Museum District to see the amazing things we can do when we pool our resources.

It will be fun to watch it all play out in 2017.

Viva St. Louis. 

Ballpark Village Phase 2 - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Okay, I'm getting into the sports related posts from 2016. How can you not be optimistic with what Cordish and the Cardinals have proposed for Ballpark Village's 2nd phase.

And then you have the Major League Soccer expansion potential...I'll get to that next.

First some opinions on Ballpark Village (BPV).

Let me get it out of the way and say I, just like nearly everybody in this region, love the St. Louis Cardinals. Baseball is in my blood from the earliest days I can remember. The 1982 and 2011 World Series Championships and the 2006 NLCS were unforgettable moments. Willie McGee, Tom Herr and Yadier Molina are my favorite players. Man, if the Cardinals or Blues ever left the city limits of St. Louis, I'd be crushed. When the Rams left, frankly I was relieved.

I'm a Cards fan, okay. Who isn't? But like Kroenke and Demoff, the Cards/Cordish have tested my loyalty.

Now, I have come to really appreciate Busch Stadium-III...I might even love it. Part of me wished St. Louis would have been the last American city to hold on to it's round, multi-purpose stadium from the 1960's. It was not to be and Busch Stadium-II only lasted a mere 40 years. It didn't save downtown either.

That said, I am not a fan of BPV Phase 1. To each his own, but that whole thing is a massive disappointment to the City of St. Louis and the people who live here. I've tried to walk in there on two separate occasions. I made it for about 10 steps each time. The ridiculous music and the volume at which it was being played gave me immediate social anxiety and I knew I had to get outta there. 

Suburban malls and chains don't work very well in St. Louis. This Dave and Busters/carnival/bull-riding stuff is great in Maryland Heights and around casinos, but here it just doesn't itself.

There are too many great, affordable and interesting/unique places to drink and eat in St. Louis and BPV ain't one of em. This is a suburbanite's dream, an entertainment compound surrounded by a fence. It was built for game day visitors and tourists. The fans got what they wanted, but not the city or the people who root down in the city.

I'm not so naive to think that the largest city in the region can't be many things to many people, and I'm glad if BPV rocks your world. But to date it isn't enough to get me excited.

And then there is the MASSIVE surface parking lot that is a scourge on downtown. I started to get cranky with ownership of my favorite sports team. I started to shake my head. 

Further, I can't believe the city leaders, Cordish and the Cards bungled the Centene HQ as it went to the inner ring suburb of Clayton, MO (pop. ~16K). St. Louis lost out on its greatest opportunity for new jobs in my lifetime and I mourned that loss. 

They blew it. The city blew it. Clayton is nailing it. We lost, they won. I am resentful of that and I shake my head every time I think about the lost potential.

One could argue that what downtown St. Louis needs more than anything is professional, career jobs. That was the chance.

Ugh, have I ruffled your feathers enough? Sorry, but I've got to let the frustration show every now and again. 

But, I'm still hopeful and here is why. The Phase 2 site plans are stunning. Modern, beautiful, mixed-use buildings and towers. 

A residential tower would cement the stadium into it's current location. You can't sell these amazing living spaces with views of the stadium and then propose demo of Busch 3 in 40 years and move it somewhere else like Busch 2. The Phase 2 commitment would be just that. Commitment to the site and budding history of this great ballpark.

I want to forgive the Cardinals and Cordish for the parking lot, the contemporary country music at volume 11, the mall food and the Centene disaster.

Go Cards. Do the city right this time. 

Pelican Building in Compton Heights - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing on with my top twenty development proposals and under-construction projects from 2016, I'm moving to the Compton Heights Neighborhood to discuss another proposal for the Pelican Building and the shuttered YMCA building on the adjacent property.

Something has to be done with this property. It is in one of the most stable neighborhoods in the city, yet it has sat vacant for as long as I can remember.

The various property owners throughout the years have done nothing to preserve the buildings while they lie in wait for a plan. A hole formed in the roof of the YMCA; zero efforts were made to mitigate water damage and you knew it was a just a matter of time. The owner did not fix it or block access to the interior, just let it sit and rot so it'd get "eyesore status" and easier to tear down. The Pelican too. The owner doesn't even call or take responsibility to remove the 4th grade level "art" that trespassers have done to this building. Again, all part of the process of getting what you want (tax breaks or demo permits). Brick is falling all over from both buildings.

I was really worried that the elements and firebugs would take the Pelican out once and for all.

Sometimes it is hard not to be pessimistic with the system here when some property owners are allowed to run amuck while others are held to the codes and standards. This happens all over the city, north to south.  

Doing a little research, none of the plans I came across included the YMCA in future plans, so it's days are numbered. As a pragmatic compromiser, I can live with the demo of the YMCA if the Pelican is carefully restored and an urban building replaces the current views of the surface parking lot along Grand and Shenandoah.

Slacker owners aside, I was happy to once again read that something just might happen with this property in 2017. The most recent proposal includes rehab of the Pelican and demo of the YMCA with apartments and commercial/retail.

The Pelican Building is really something special. You might not think that if you are just seeing it for the first time in its current state.  Many probably remember the grand metal and neon sign that once graced the building. It was removed and is in storage in the Lemp Brewery. 

The core of the building was constructed sometime prior to 1875, enlarged in 1878 and completely overhauled in 1895 when the Griesedieck family of brewers purchased it for a restaurant and bar, managed by Carl Anschuetz as Anschuetz’s Restaurant. 
In 1938, James Pelican bought the restaurant and gave it his name. Pelican converted the establishment into a highly popular family restaurant, where the menu offered fish and a wide variety of American cuisine.

The sign above the Michelob sign is the one I remember. I don't recall the long horizontal metal and neon and the Bud sign. The Falstaff sign that preceded the Bud sign can be seen in the photo with the streetcar.

The Pelican Building is a historic reminder of our brewing history; it can and should be saved.

Secondly, the potential for new construction could bring a building that hugs the street along Grand and Shenandoah to relieve Tower Grove East neighbor's views of the surface parking lot.

So let's take a look at the various site plans proposed by the owners/developers over the years and see what could be in store in 2017.

Back in 2009, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on a proposal that would have brought a Snap Fitness and 37,000 total sq ft of space to the YMCA site, which was slated for demo, and a steak restaurant to the Pelican.

This plan never materialized. 

Later, another proposal called Pelican Court surfaced from First & Main Properties that would have brought >18K square feet of office space and >16K square feet of retail/restaurant space. 
view facing South Grand

The site plan looked nice along Grand, but it did not address the lack of a street wall along Shenandoah. This was a missed opportunity to improve the site. 

No improvement along Shenandoah Avenue

This one never materialized either, which brings us to the 2016 proposal.

MBR Management and Altus Properties plan to demolish the old South City YMCA and replace it with an $18.6 million apartment project.

About 110 apartments would go up at the old YMCA site. Retail space and apartments would go into the Pelican Building, and the projects would share a parking lot.
The rudimentary site plan had the same lost opportunity to improve the Shenandoah street view.

The neighbors across the street would be stuck with the view of the parking lot. It seems easy to remove the curb cut, add part of the new construction on Shenandoah and Grand, with access to ample parking from Vandenbergh Avenue (and on-street Shenandoah parking).

If I were living here, I'd rather overlook other similarly-scaled buildings and the street front vs. somebody's backyard on Longfellow Boulevard.

MBR Management Corporation is the owner of 72 Dominos Pizza franchises in the Missouri area. It’s long been rumored at the the South Grand Dominoes would relocated to this development, though that has not been confirmed. Josh Udelhofen, previously of Koman Group and now with Altus Properties, is listed as co-developer on LCRA documents.
So while the site plan is less than perfect, hopefully the neighbors and leaders in the area can demand a better layout and demand the best construction materials in trade for the tax breaks they will certainly seek. And before you get on your national chain high horse, I would bet a Domino's Pizza would be used by more people in TGE and the rest of the delivery radius than a higher-priced local option. This neighborhood deserves something nice and we don't want to miss this opportunity to improve the city.

I'm once again hopeful for this site and the Pelican Building. This will be a fun one to watch in 2017.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Curvy Building on Tower Grove (Woodward Lofts) - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Forest Park Southeast development announcements were copious in 2016. The good news just kept on coming throughout the year. There was ~$80M worth of new construction developments along Manchester Avenue filling in vacant lots and surface parking lots. 

Equally exciting were the preservation announcements for some of our most beautiful historic buildings.

So when I read of the ~$35M plans to convert the Woodward & Tiernan Printing Co. building at 1519 Tower Grove Avenue (at Vandeventer Avenue) to 160 apartments, I was stoked.
This is one of my favorite buildings in the FPSE neighborhood because of its curvy edge that follows the railroad tracks.
Most everyone knows this building from sitting at the light at Tower Grove and Vandeventer. It is such an important connection from FPSE to Shaw and Botanical Heights. It is exciting when my friends who don't pay as much attention to this stuff as I, mention a project they are excited about. That happened on three separate occasions, so I know this building is important to a lot of people.

Both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and NextSTL reported on this development proposal in November, 2016. Per the PD report:
Conversion as housing is planned for the Woodward & Tiernan Printing Co. building at 1519 Tower Grove Avenue. Pier Property Group, a new St. Louis real estate company, hopes to complete its purchase of the 250,000-square-foot building in March and begin its renovation as 160 loft-style apartments. The first units could be ready for residents in late spring 2018. 
Michael Hamburg, PPG’s founder, said the $30 million to $35 million project, to be called Woodward Lofts, will help connect the rapidly growing Grove neighborhood to the north and areas to the south, which include Botanical Heights and the Shaw neighborhood. 
“The thought is to be an infill anchor between all those areas,” he said. 
Trivers Associates, a St. Louis architectural firm, bows deeply to the building’s early 20th-century “daylight” factory layout in designing Woodward Lofts’ modern apartments. 
The “daylight” design figures heavily in the old factory’s rehab. Reinforced concrete floors and columns permit use of huge windows and clerestories that admit daylight deep into the building’s interior. Ford’s gigantic Model T factory that opened in 1910 in Highland Park, Mich., epitomized the design, which quickly spread to other industries nationwide.
A cornerstone marks the architect's pride in the building:

You can really get an appreciation for the amount of light that would flow into this building if the window were opened on the north side:

Hamburg said the “daylight” factory design will provide every apartment “oversized window bays,” including some with window sections 20 feet high and 20 feet wide. Lofts beneath the building’s five rooftop clerestories are designed with two-story floor plans and 20-foot ceilings. Plans call for removal of roof sections between the clerestories to create narrow indoor courtyards. Garage parking for 175 vehicles also is part of the project.
Check out the amazing rendering that brings some interest to the north side with varied colors and new windows. This could be an amazing space.
I cannot wait to see this one progress in 2017.

Chouteau's Grove in Forest Park Southeast - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my favorite development proposals and under-construction projects in 2016, the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood just seemed on fire.

This ~$61M project at 4001 Chouteau Avenue, called Chouteau's Grove is a massive proposal from suburban developer Green Street (Clayton, MO) that would convert >4 acres of vacant parcels into 18,000 square feet of street level retail, 240+ apartments and a dedicated parking structure (source).

Check out the full presentation on this project on Green Street's website.

The site plan has gone through various iterations since I first read about this one back in May, 2016.

This location is critical as the eastern entrance to the Grove commercial/entertainment district. It is right behind the Commerce Bank building on Vandeventer and Manchester/Chouteau.

With the future new SSM Hospital and SLU Medical Campus investment just east of here. And the Cortex, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Barnes/Jewish and Wash U investment to the north, this location is prime for additional retail. And the residential component is equally welcomed.

Then with IKEA just up the street from here, it would be great to get more unique retail options for the region that bring tax dollars and jobs to St. Louis.

I really hoped for a grocery store at this location as this seems like something this neighborhood really needs. While I don't get the allure of Trader Joe's, I know people who are devoted to the place and currently there are no St. Louis locations, so you have to go to the suburbs if you want this option. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in May that the grocery option was not viable at this time:

Green Street Development plans to begin construction late this year on its redesigned Chouteau’s Grove, which no longer has the supermarket of the initial plan. 
Brian Pratt, Green Street’s vice president of development, said Tuesday the company was unable to lure a grocery to the $61 million project planned for the eastern end of the Grove nightlife district in St. Louis. 
Green Street pitched the site to “fresh grocery concept” operators but all replied the area needs more residents to support such a store, he said.
Well, this project does have the potential to bring in >200 people so it's a step in the right direction.

Per the above PD story, it sounds like the site plan is moving in more of an urban direction now that the larger grocery store is out of the plan:
With a 30,000-square-foot grocery off the drawing board, Green Street revamped the 4.5-acre site to give the project a more urban look. Instead of having a parking lot to accommodate grocery customers, the new plan rings much of the site with a four-story apartment building that wraps around a parking garage. 
“It will feel very urban, unlike an urban-suburban blend like we had before to attract a grocer,” Pratt said. 
About 100 of the garage’s 565 parking spots will be set aside for the public and to serve the 20,000 square feet of retail space planned as part of the project’s new plan.
Documents show Chouteau’s Grove will have 236 residential units and a 383-space parking garage. Retail space has been simplified and slightly reduced to just more than 17,000sf. A public plaza is planned to front Chouteau, a dog park has been moved to the east end, the traffic island will be expanded as a pocket park, and a phase II “fitness building” by another developer is planned. Sources tell nextSTL the tenant for the site’s northwest corner will be Planet Fitness.

With 35 fewer apartments, and a little less retail, parking demand has been reduced, but the impact of 182 fewer parking spaces is unclear. There are 39 surface spaces planned off Sarah Street, and a proposed 72-space lot across the street, bringing the reduction to 71 spaces, not including on-street parking. 
The smaller footprint of the garage has allowed it to be fully screened by apartments, instead of the garage facade fronting Papin Street. In addition, there’s no longer a curb cut for a garage entrance along the street.
The fact that the garage will be hidden from the street view is important. And a fitness center is a welcome addition to any neighborhood.

On my visit, grading appeared complete and the site it ready to go. 

This will have a huge impact on Manchester Avenue, activating a former dead zone.

Check out this amazing flyover video posted by Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation of all the activity on this stretch of the Grove:

Keep your eye on this part of town in 2017, it'll be popping!

Laclede Gas Station G - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing on my quest to visit the sites of each of my top twenty development projects from 2016, once again I find myself in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood

This time at 4401 Chouteau Avenue at the Laclede Gas Station G building.

The Laclede Gas Station G pump house is the only reminder of the former use of this parcel within the city. As a kid I remember sitting in my parent's car driving down I-64 and wondering what that massive thing was on top of the hill. 

It was a gasometer.

Here's what Station G looked like from the Interstate:

And then from Chouteau Avenue with the pump house in the foreground:

The Forest Park Southeast gasometer stood at Newstead and Chouteau, a jarring interruption of an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood. It was erected in 1901 and rebuilt in 1942. A sibling tank once stood just to the west; it was demolished in the 1960s and left as a vacant lot. 
The adjacent Pumping Station G building dates from 1911. Both the gas holder and the pump house were built for the Laclede Gas Light Company. National Historic Register nominations were submitted in 2006. 
The FPSE gasometer was demolished in 2007. Plans called for the pump house to be converted to residential use. An article in the Post-Dispatch's South City Journal details the nomination and plans for the site.
That 2006 development plan never materialized. I was concerned that the only remaining memory of this once awe inspiring site, the Station G Pump House, would be destroyed. Why? Well it is open to the elements, it was rapidly deteriorating as I visited it over the years. And it was enveloped by a massive apartment complex called "The Aventura". This complex looks like standard cheap design you'd expect to see in suburbs throughout the country.

Chouteau Avenue needs to counter the uninspired suburban design of the Aventura and others along this stretch in Forest Park Southeast. The classic St. Louis architecture sits right across the street to the south.

So when I read that there were plans in place for a St. Charles firm to move to St. Louis and renovate Station G for their offices, I was ecstatic. 

I truly thought the days of this one were numbered. One storm or firebug and it could have been more of this:
But man does it feel good to be wrong. I love this building and the reminder it brings of past uses. 

Here's how it looks as of publishing:
nextSTL has learned that Greater Goods, a company producing ethically sourced and produced coffee, blood pressure monitors, knives, scales, and more, will be renovating the long-vacant Station G building on Chouteau Avenue in The Grove for its new corporate headquarters. The move will bring approximately 15 employees to the city. Greater Goods will be working with Vessel Architecture to design the space. 
The company had been looking for a location in the city as many of its employees are younger City of St. Louis residents. Being located in the city was also considered a necessary move to attract future talent. It is expected that the renovation of Station G will utilize historic tax credits and brownfield credits. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Greater Goods will be moving to a temporary location on Vandeventer Avenue while Station G is renovated.
Another great story for 2016 with much to like: historic preservation, another shot in the arm for Forest Park Southeast, new jobs for St. Louis and more activity in a great part of town.

I look forward to watching this one progress throughout 2017.

4101 Manchester, Mixed-Use Building in Forest Park Southeast - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my favorite development proposals and under-construction projects in 2016, the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood just seemed on fire. Five separate projects from FPSE made my top twenty list.

This one is at a wedge-shaped property between Manchester Ave. Chouteau Ave. and South Sarah St.

This was a city-owned surface parking lot that was not very well maintained over the years.

The city's Land Clearance for Redevelopment department chose to market this property to private developers. Per Park Central Development, the local community development corporation:
The east end of the Grove is getting a makeover. The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority received three proposals for the parking lot at 4101 Manchester. Each one was a multi-story building, but in the end, the LCRA chose Spencer Development’s seven story, mixed-use building. 
The $6.25 million plan includes ground level stores, second story parking, third-floor offices with an outdoor terrace and the upper floors will feature apartments. This building will be an anchor at the eastern end of the Grove neighborhood, welcoming visitors and residents.

Second floor parking? Now we're talking higher use of city space. The suburbs can have their vast expanses of surface parking, St. Louis should set itself apart and rebuild for density. This new way of thinking is one of the main appeals of this project.

The design proposes 12,500sf of street level retail, 45 parking spaces, 8,000sf of office space, and approximately 30 residential units across seven stories. A third floor terrace would serve the office tenant and a rooftop deck would be a residential amenity.
When I visited the site for this blog, I saw drilling equipment on site, indicating that some progress on the site in already underway.

If plans proceed as planned, this former dead zone surface parking lot at the entrance to a great residential neighborhood and entertainment area will have a sleek, modern, activity-generating building in 2017.