Sunday, January 1, 2017

The City Foundry - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my top twenty development announcements or under-construction projects of 2016, the City Foundry makes the list.

This ~$340M proposal is billed as a public market that will bring office, retail, creative space and a food hall to a 17 acre former industrial site, the Federal-Mogul foundry. From the City Foundry's promotional video: "we are a new center for food, fashion, creativity and innovative thinkers".
A key element of this mixed-use project is the creative reuse of the former factory in a key part of the Midtown Neighborhood in the 3700 block of Forest Park Avenue. Instead of clearing the site and sending more to the landfill, the historic foundry will be reconfigured with a key reminder of our history as a manufacturing city.

Heading east of Vandeventer Avenue on Forest Park Avenue these days is not a vibrant scene. The shuttering of this auto parts factory around 2007 has left a tough property in an important part of town. It is just east of the main Cortex campus and the new IKEA. It is also near St. Louis University's main and medical campuses. It is highly visible just feet from the well travelled I-64 lanes as well, so the stakes are high on this project. We get judged by visitors and passersby who say St. Louis looks "bombed out". This abandoned industrial site was one example I've heard folks cite. And it is a dead zone along Forest Park Avenue:



So the news of a mixed-use project that could potentially bring a new office tower, a food hall and more retail space is exciting. Per a November, 2016 St. Louis Post-Dispatch story:
City Foundry’s $134.2 million first phase, planned to open in two years, is focused on renovation of the old foundry, unused since 2007. Lawrence Group intends to redo much of the main building as a “food hall” with stalls for nonchain restaurants and 20,000 square feet of seating. The building also would get 78,000 square feet of office space. 
The Byco Building at the northeast corner of the site is intended as a 30,000-square-foot single-tenant retail space, plus 30,000 square feet of offices. A 500-car parking garage also is planned. 
Renovation of foundry buildings would be followed quickly by construction of a 24-story apartment tower on Forest Park Avenue and, later, by construction of office buildings on the nearly 17-acre site. If fully built, City Foundry’s cost could reach $340 million. 
Plans for a future City Foundry phase include a 279-unit residential tower, 265,000 square feet of office space and 16,000 square feet of retail space.
There are estimates that this could create up to 870 jobs and provide connections to the Great Rivers Greenway system, possibly utilizing the elevated former train tracks that flank the site.

How can one argue that this is not good news for Midtown St. Louis?

But, this project is seeking substantial subsidies in the neighborhood of $20M for the first phase. Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The TIF is among local, state and federal incentives that make up 56 percent of the project’s first-phase cost. The developer has $51 million in project financing. TIF help would cover 14.5 percent of the project’s initial costs, which is in line with the city’s policy of covering less than 15 percent of project costs with TIF.
And, I've read concerns from a respected Alderman that this project is encouraging businesses to relocate from other parts of St. Louis to this location. If we are getting them from the suburbs and bringing them to St. Louis that is one thing. If they are just moving from other parts of the city and closing down shop in other neighborhoods, that would be devastating. Expansion within the city or region is good. City musical chairs is bad with one winner and one loser. We will have to wait and see how this plays out.

Also, indoor "destination" type malls haven't worked in St. Louis' recent past. Look not further than the 1980's Union Station and St. Louis Centre offerings in the height of the mall era. But cynicism should be in check because times change and this site is more connected to where people live. I'm willing to maintain optimism as this type of thing works very well in other cities I've visited including Milwaukee and Seattle.

The main thing I like about this project is the location in it's current state is a tough property to work with and it will build bridges between SLU, Cortex, the Armory, Metro Link Grand Station and future Boyle Station. Also, Cortex has become a proven entity, I like the work they've done to date and the plans for the future are even more exciting.

Bull Moose, a maker of metal tubes mainly for the construction industry, is part of London-based Caparo Group. Chesterfield-based Bull Moose shares ownership of the Missouri Theatre building with the Lawrence Group, which is redoing the structure, at 634 North Grand Boulevard, as a hotel and Bull Moose’s new headquarters.

Smith praised Swarj Paul, chairman of Bull Moose and founder of Caparo, for Bull Moose’s investment in City Foundry. Paul is an Indian-born entrepreneur who holds the aristocratic title Lord Paul of Marylebone. 
Michael Blatz, chief executive of Bull Moose, said in a statement, “This new investment by Lord Paul represents our continued confidence in St. Louis as well as our belief in the exciting vision laid out by Steve Smith for the City Foundry development.”
There is investment and big minds behind this one...external investment from outside the region makes me very hopeful. This is what we need to take us to a new level.


Environmental remediation work has already begun. Estimated completion is Fall, 2018.

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