Another 2016 development project we put on our top twenty list was completed during 2017: the two student housing towers on Laclede Avenue.
Laclede Avenue between Grand and Vandeventer is one of the only public east-west streets through St. Louis University's campus. It's one of the few places the average citizen can get a glimpse into campus life via car.
The street now has two less grassy knolls (read dead-zones) now that a pair of student housing towers have been completed.
The first to be completed was Spring Hall, near the intersection of Spring Avenue and Laclede at the near halfway point between Grand and Vandeventer. The hall's eight residential floors can accommodate up to 454 1st and 2nd year students and includes classrooms, a conference room, study rooms, floor lounges, a "living room" with kitchen, a large meeting space, chapel and an outdoor amphitheater (source).
The second completion in 2017, Grand Hall, is right at the corner of Laclede and Grand Boulevard.
Grand Hall's six residential floors can accommodate up to 528 1st and 2nd year students and includes a 740-seat dining hall, classrooms, a conference room, meeting rooms, study rooms, floor lounges, kitchens, laundry rooms on alternating floors and an outdoor courtyard (source).
The SLU logo on the glass is a nice touch. The towers are highly visible from I-64 and add to the growing Midtown skyline.
Laclede is becoming a bustling place with the addition of up to 982 students in Spring and Grand Hall alone. Add the nearby Griesedieck (650), Reinert (500), and Marchetti Towers (528) and you have another 1,678 warm bodies for a new total of 2,660 students in this general vicinity.
I like the smart additions of towers, utilizing the space and building up rather than designing sprawling flat buildings. SLU's campus feels more urban now, something it hasn't always embraced in the past.
Adding to the vibrancy of this stretch of Laclede is the Simon Recreation Center, a popular destination for students making this a bustling place. While it might not look like much from the outside, the inside is very impressive and lively. We used to send our kids to summer camps there, so we've been here many, many times. It's got a youthful, bright and healthy feel. The front entrance is being completely rebuilt as of publishing.
Further, there is a small artificial turf field near Vandeventer that is a popular rec spot for soccer, touch football, frisbee and other sports. The students are kind and welcoming of my pre-teen and teen sons and their friends and they always invite them to play along when they show up. It's kind of like a little Olympics with an extremely international showing of students from all over the globe. They have invited my oldest to play in one of their leagues. Good vibes from the SLU student community abound.
There is a decent example of new semi-urban construction that houses a Jimmy Johns and Papa Johns. And of course, there is some great re-use of a former Stix Baer & Fuller "Relay Station" building that is now residential and houses a Pickleman's Deli.
The other good news is the addition of the Gerhardt Block building after an $8M rehab into lofts and several popular restaurants/bars. You actually see people crossing the street and walking around here now. Used to be dead before the Standard apartments at Vandeventer and Forest Park Avenue and the Gerhardt building.
A highly visible crosswalk would be most welcomed, especially as the housing options continue to expand on West Pine toward the Central West End.
But it's not all good on this stretch of Laclede, there is much untapped potential for several buildings that sit empty. I can't think of why they have been shuttered for so long, these include the former Humphry's (Chesterfield, MO owner), Shack (University City, MO owner) and Diabolitos (St. Louis University owner) sit empty. Also, there is a beautiful brick building that sits all boarded up (St. Peters, MO owner). My source is Geo St. Louis.
In the case of Humphrey's there was talk of redevelopment, but the owner stalled for "market driven" reasons. Hopefully the influx of another ~1,000 students helps them with the numbers.
There is also a surface parking lot toward Vandeventer and a large parking garage that takes up a long stretch of Laclede closer to Grand.
But, the two new towers on Laclede are certainly cause for celebration, and a step in the right direction for SLU.
Here's to continued vibrancy on Laclede at the south entrance to St. Louis University.