St. Louis University took a couple steps in the right direction with the addition of their two new student housing towers on Laclede Avenue between Grand and Vandeventer in the Midtown Neighborhood.
What's the right direction you might ask? Well that would be designing and executing urban buildings (tall, built to the street or sidewalk) vs. suburban buildings (massive setbacks, driveways and/or grassy moats).
With these projects, SLU is maximizing two of their surface parking lots and grassy, fenced-in expanses with beautiful new buildings. You have to applaud SLU for this. Thank you for complementing our city and being a good neighbor.
...more thoughts on that in the near future.
The first dorm is called Spring Hall (located at Laclede and South Spring Avenues) right across from Humphrey's Restaurant and Tavern. In December, 2014 the board approved this $43.8M 8-story, 153K square foot student housing building.
Per the St. Louis University website:
Designed for first-and second-year students, Spring Hall features single and double suite-style rooms with a total of 450 beds. Classrooms, a conference room, study rooms, floor lounges, a chapel, a "living room" with kitchen, a large meeting space and a small outdoor amphitheater are included in the plans. The design concept leverages previously developed land, minimizing ecological degradation while optimizing land and community value. In addition, the position of the building maximizes sun exposure for daylight harvesting. The project utilizes at least 20% recycled and 20% regional materials. (source)
SLU using the phrase "optimizing land and community value" is such an important thing for them to say. SLU sometimes seems to forget their campus is a part of our city, not apart from our city.
Fences say "stay out" and define the campus as a private compound.
In fact, I was really worried SLU would lobby to close Laclede Avenue between Grand and Vandeventer which would be a major blow to city commuters. So far, I've not heard any talk of creating a super block.
Trust me, when the fences go down, the neighborhoods feels more contiguous with the campus. For instance, the track and field area at Compton and Rutger is open to the public and has a wonderful vibe. Local schools and track clubs use it for track practice, neighbors from the Gate District walk and jog on the track and the medical campus.
Spring Hall is classified as LEED silver certified. It was designed by Creve Coeur, MO-based Hastings + Chivetta architects and built by Ladue, MO-based McCarthy Building Companies. Wouldn't it be great if these suburban companies chose to move to the city and be a true St. Louis asset?
Students moved into Spring Hall in Fall, 2016.
Here's the grassy knoll that the building replaced:
And here's what it looks like after completion:
Not bad! I really think this is a major upgrade for the campus and the city.
I really like how the stretch below along Laclede hugs the sidewalk, I can envision a nicely spaced row of Itea virginica and Heuchera elegans mixed in with Liriope muscari for ground cover...no mow, low maintenance, beautiful.
What an improvement, way to go SLU!
The building is C-shaped with a beautifully landscaped center commons area complete with outdoor sculptures.
Rendering image from slu.edu
The bike racks are logically placed near the sidewalk and entrance nearest Laclede Avenue.
The second dorm, Grand Hall, is currently under construction at the northwest corner of Laclede and Grand.
The new residence hall approved by the Board on [September, 2015] will be a seven-story, 237,000-square-foot facility built on what is now a surface parking lot near Grand and Laclede. The new building will be connected to the adjacent Griesedieck Complex, the University's largest residential facility.
Designed for first-and-second year students, the new facility will feature single and double suite-style rooms with a total of 528 beds. Plans also call for a 740-seat campus dining hall, as well as classrooms, study lounges and an outdoor plaza, among many other features. (source)
The cost of this building is estimated at $71M. This one was also designed by Hastings + Chivetta but built by University City, MO-based Alberici Constructors.
It used to be an uninviting, fenced-in grassy area and surface parking lot.
progress as of publishing
The C-shaped building opens up with an indoor/outdoor dining area open to the north.
Rendering image from slu.edu
A nice setback, matching or slightly besting the adjacent Simon Recreation Center to the west:
These dorms are really changing the skyline profile of the main campus from all angles. It makes an impressive impact from Interstate 64 heading eastbound on the elevated lanes.
The height is equally impressive from Grand Boulevard at Chouteau:
Hopefully this good urban design will continue south at the Medical Campus in the Tiffany and Gate District neighborhoods and translate into real neighborhood assets.