Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Chemical Building - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing on my favorite development proposals and under-construction projects in 2016, this one is not so much a proposal, rather a rekindled glimmer of hope for a St. Louis classic.

It's hard to commit to a favorite building in Downtown St. Louis. But as far as sky scrapers are concerned, the Wainnright Buiding and recently renovated Arcade Building are up there. But, the Chemical building is my personal favorite.


I have a memory of visiting a jewelry and watch repairman with a shop in the Chemical Building when I first moved to St. Louis in the 1990s. It was like a trip back in time, a movie set scene including  nearly all stereotypes of what an early 20th Century city shop would be like. It was piled high with parts and papers and crap. The jeweler had the eye thing on, he was appropriately crabby..."I'll fix it, but I don't make much money on this" type of thing. I was fascinated with St. Louis back then, the old ways were still hanging on in some parts...and this was one of them. Once this guy retired you knew this shop would not go on.

The still visible painted ads on the windows still speak to some of the varied businesses that once were here:

The 17-story red brick Chemical building is a straight up masterpiece right in the heart of Downtown St. Louis at 721 Olive Street. It is right next to the Old Post Office, the Arcade, the sleek Roberts Tower and other STL classics. 

This 1896 beauty is sitting in wait. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. If ever there were a project worthy of tax credits to help nudge this one back to life, it is this one. 
Now that the Arcade on the opposite corner is fully renovated and ready to live another 100 years, the news that the Chemical Building might see another chance gets me excited once again.

So the news of a potential buyer investing in the renovation brought hope that I'll get to see this one again from the inside.

In July, 2016, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a very vague update after two potential plans to purchase and redevelop the building fell through:
A day after local developers Amy and Amrit Gill dropped their plan to renovate the Chemical building in downtown St. Louis, an out-of-town developer expressed interest in the structure. 
Publicly, the Gills never said what they had hoped to do with the 17-story brick building at 721 Olive Street. They put the building under contract in April but on Thursday notified the owner they will not buy the structure. 
Purchase by the out-of-town developer might not be close and the Chemical remains on the market. But the developer said Friday a mixture of apartments and a hotel might make sense for the building. (source)
I've read of many starts and stops over the years for this one. A rebranding of sorts even took place at one time where the Chemical was called the Alexa. That owner fell into bankruptcy and that plan fizzled out.
Then in November, 2016, NextSTL reported another fanning of the flames in November, 2016 adding details on the developer and the possible plans:
TWG Development, the same group proposing the renovation of a row of historic buildings on Locust Street, and the demo of one prominent corner building, has the Chemical Building under contract for a reported $4.25M. Planned is a $20M renovation and the transformation of the space into 120 market-rate apartments. Just more than 8,000sf of retail would be preserved on the first floor. The developer is requesting a 10-year tax abatement on the property. (source) 



I really hope to see this one come back to life. This is a St. Louis, heck National treasure that needs the love and investment more than maybe any other Downtown building.

1 comment:

mattH said...

At one point, when I first moved downtown in 2001, I went to a dentist, a barber and a jeweler in this building, on various floors. Old St. Louis was trying to hold on at that point. Unfortunately it couldn't survive: