2017's most unexpected, potentially transformational project in the Riverview Neighborhood

When I first read a December, 2015 NextSTL story of a marina/entertainment/suburban style retail complex called Lighthouse Saint Louis...all within yards of the Mississippi River, I thought it was a joke. Why? First, how would a marina work here? The Chain of Rocks just south of here make a natural impasse for boats, wouldn't you have to get around Chain of Rocks through a series of locks and dams in Illinois? Secondly, it's in a flood plain. Thirdly, this is not a populated part of St. Louis or the suburbs outside of St. Louis. The Riverview Neighborhood only has 304 residents according to the 2010 Census.

The small towns in St. Louis County nearest this property are not doing well either. Who would shop here? Who would use this?

I thought for sure it would die. But, you have to respect the dreamer sentiment behind this one. Ask the STL haters (most of which ironically live in the suburbs outside of St. Louis) about why they think STL sucks. One complaint is that the riverfront from Laclede's Landing, expanding north to south along the entire stretch that abuts the city, is dead and has no recreational use.

They have a point, and in this rare case, I'm agreeing with the haters/naysayers. We use the river for commerce and industry, but we don't embrace our river in a scenic or recreational way like other cities do. Sure, the Riverfront Trail is great, but it doesn't really get you on the river.

You could easily point to river towns like Louisville, Memphis and others who do indeed utilize the Mississippi River much better than we do. While the city has drastically improved in many parts, the riverfront has not. Maybe the massive Arch grounds renovation will make a difference in one small stretch of the St. Louis Riverfront, maybe not.

Then, an update to the story was published on NextSTL in April, 2017 that indicated that this project is not dead at all; in fact, the entire site has been cleared, elevated and graded to prep the site for development.

The latest plan, presented to the city’s Planning Commission, shows the following: IMAX, Dinner Theater, Concert Hall Theatre, Water Park, Visitors Center, Marina, Sporting Goods, Gas Station, and a number of outlots and other commercial space, and yes, a lighthouse.
— Alex Ihnen - NextSTL

This project gets STL one step closer to an activated riverfront with a marina. Look at the Alton marinas near the Alton Belle Casino. There is something nice about that. Pleasure boats on the river is something we could use more of. This project would bring exactly that to the most northern tip of the city's Riverview Neighborhood.

And, as it turns out, I was wrong about the difficulty of use for recreational boats. Per a February, 2017 story on KMOX, developer Andy Hartig was interviewed:

As for the marina, Hartig says the fact commercial traffic by-passes the site via the Chain of Rocks Canal makes it a great place for recreational boating.

“We don’t have any navigation issues with recreational watercraft and commercial. Then we’ve got the Missouri confluence about four miles to the north of the site which is extremely accessible as well.”
— Brian Kelly - KMOX

Maybe the fact that barges don't go through here make it the perfect spot to tool around. 

The visibility from I-270 would be high. This one is worth watching...and could be an improvement, generating jobs and places to shop for a part of the city and suburbs that is not exactly in a growth trajectory.

But hey, this isn't the first time this parcel of land has been in use as an entertainment destination.

Per "A look at area courses that have disappeared through the years", published on stlgolfhistory.com, author Jim Healey shares that the property started as the private Riverview Country Club in 1916 and it was renamed North Shore Golf Course in the 1930's and closed temporarily in the late 1930's due to the Great Depression. It reopened in the 1950's with 27 holes until the flood of 1993 dealt the property a blow and it reopened with a scaled-back 9-hole course in 1994. It didn't last long though, as it closed for good in 1995. 

A connection to the Great Rivers Greenway Riverfront trail, just south of here at the Chain of Rocks Bridge is also a bonus.

While the surface parking lots are nothing to get excited about, the marina and attracting people to the Riverfront is worthwhile. The site plan is much better in the second NextSTL article as well, insulating the parking to the center.

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Keep your eye on this one.