Westin Hotel/Retail Mixed-use Building in Midtown Neighborhood

I first read of this mixed-use building along Forest Park Avenue across from the Foundry and just east of the Standard apartments at Vandeventer and Forest Park in a NextSTL report from April, 2017.

Some projects are a clear win, some are a fraction of that. This project strikes me as a partial win. I vacillated when considering this one on the list of favorites.

But, the pluses are there.  It brings a $25M 153-room Element Hotel by Westin to the Midtown Neighborhood and St. Louis University campus. It is a handsome, modern, urban design built right up to the street. At eight stories, it will improve the look from this highly traveled part of the city.

Plans include 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the hotel and a rooftop lounge in the 8-story building. Guests would have access to a fitness center, pool and “borrow-a-bike” program.
— Jacob Barker - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The draw backs are the current set of Habitat for Humanity and ReStore buildings on the site will be razed. These are cool, old brick beauties that are perfectly good buildings. Yet, as NextSTL reported in November, 2017, Habitat and their offices will move to the long-vacant National/Schnucks Supermarket at Grand and Chippewa in the Dutchtown Neighborhood. 

This former grocery store building and property is suburban sprawl at its worst. Part of me wishes it would be razed and developed with a decent urban building. However, in all honesty, this part of town has a long way to go. Any activity around this stretch of Grand is welcomed. The drug trade is right out in the open just south of here on Grand. Any positive activity is going to help. 

A further grain of salt to add is that this suburban Maryland Heights, Missouri developer (read, no interests in STL schools, libraries, tax base, etc.) will likely be seeking a 25 year tax abatement for this property. 

Per the Post-Dispatch article:

The project falls within the footprint of SLU’s new Midtown Redevelopment Corporation, which gives the university broad authority to control what is built around its academic and medical campuses. Approved by the city last year, the redevelopment corporation is similar to entities that guide development in Cortex and around the Washington University Medical Center.

Midas will need to work with SLU on the design of its project and could ask the university for up to 25 years of tax abatement, the maximum SLU can grant within the redevelopment footprint. The hotel project is planned in a portion of the SLU redevelopment area identified as mixed-use and eligible for up to 25 years of tax abatement.
— Jacob Barker - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

So while Habitat for Humanity and ReStore staying in St. Louis is plus, and this building would look good and provide mixed uses, the tax abatement seem egregious. 

Frankly, I don't think part of the city will seek true pedestrian activity until Forest Park Avenue gets a road diet and becomes a safe and welcoming place to walk. The Foundry and St. Louis University need to make this infrastruture a priority since they are getting so much of our public money to fund their projects.