Scooter Ride #3

My work-a-day life brings me down I-64 Monday through Friday from St. Louis to the suburbs and back again, Jefferson to Lindbergh I go. On the drive home, the boredom of the suburbs starts to let up when you hit the city limits.

Lately, I've had my eye trained toward the rehab activity in the area between the Vandeventer and Grand exits. Heading east you have the Foundry on the left and the Armory on the right. Two significant buildings divided by the interstate. Regardless of your opinions of these two buildings with hefty tax breaks to developers, potential luring of companies from one part of the city to another...we know one thing for sure: industry is not coming back, so the Foundry will not be bringing manufacturing jobs to St. Louis...it's been shuttered since 2007. The Armory across the street, built in the 1930's for the 138th Division of the Missouri National Guard is not coming back. They moved their operations to the suburbs in the county and to Kansas City, MO. 

What do you do with two abandoned properties that will never see a rebirth based on their original use? Further, the interstate butchered the city in this part of town and disconnected itself from itself.

I'm glad that these two massive buildings are being spared the wrecking ball and finding new life. I do wish they would be on the up and up and do the projects without city budget-busting, lawyer fee-laden tax breaks that screw over city schools and operations. But, so it goes.

From I-64 heading east you get an elevated view of the dead zone near the railroad tracks south of the interstate.

Pedestrian flotsam. Dead-space devoid of any resemblance to a neighborhood or a place where people are welcomed. This is basically a large swath of the city that is under utilized as outdoor storage and light industry.  Rail passes through, people show up to work, leave after clocking out...but there's no real reason to be here other than that. And even the industrial space is underutilized, there aren't enough employers here to make it vibrant, it looks more desolate than teeming with workers and businesses.

This section of the city is a major impediment toward connecting some of our neighborhoods. Midtown and the Gate District, specifically.

It's promising to think this former dead zone of our city could become something activated. The Foundry is easily connected to the rest of the city right off of Forest Park Avenue. The Armory, sadly, is much more isolated. In fact, I couldn't give somebody directions to get there if they asked.

Most people don't go to this part of the city, myself included, so it's always fun to hit the areas you not familiar with.

So, it seemed like a good time for a scooter ride to see what's up in this part of town in what is technically the Midtown Neighborhood...neighborhood being loosely defined, as no one lives in the isolated railway areas of the lowlands south of I-64 and north of Chouteau Avenue between Grand and Jefferson.

This is a detached part of our city with limited access for cars and most certainly no pedestrian infrastructure.  It is still in use by Metrolink (the Grand stop) and several industrial uses.

But, it's largely abandoned and there would be no reason to go there unless you're going to work or dump a bunch of trash out of site and mind from most. 

There is plenty of illegal dumping in this part of the city. There's no one here to care or speak up to stop it.

The Armory and Goodwill (which is awesome if you haven't been) are best accessed off of Vandeventer, heading east on Market Street.

The Armory, is undergoing a ~$47M renovation and will become a mixed use building with office, conference, rooftop space, etc. Read all about it HERE.

Image credit: Green Street St. Louis

Image credit: Green Street St. Louis

It is surrounded by an electric fence to keep knuckleheads out as work begins. I've seen a lot of construction fencing, but an electric fence is a first.

Sure, you'd like to hope this building will spur development south to Chouteau Avenue. But, I'm skeptical due the rail and massive electrical complex just south of the Armory.

There several other buildings that are in use and some of them are real classics. Here are a few that caught my eye.

There is a nice, curvy cool blonde brick building that is a bar.

The coolest building complex in the area is the former Steelcote Manufacturing building which is currently for sale. In fact, the someone was showing the property when I was there. I was waiting around to see if they'd come down and let me take a quick look, but no such luck. Steelcote was an early 20th Century company that invented and made high tech epoxy and polyurethane coatings. IN 2006 they were acquired by Chemline.

Per a 2006 article in Industry News, the spokesperson for Chemline, John Henningsen, commented on the background of Steelcote:

"Steelcote Manufacturing is company with a long and storied past." Comment Mr. Henningsen. "The company was founded in 1915 in St. Louis, Missouri (USA). In 1926, Steelcote pioneered rubber enamel coatings and they soon became the largest selling automotive brush-applied enamel in the world. That was soon followed by the introduction of Damp-Tex, a wet surface enamel that resists molds and fungus. By the mid-1930's, Steelcote brand products were sold in most countries around the world. Since then, Steelcote also introduced the industry's first waterborne epoxy that eliminates flash rusting."

Anyhow the building is a beauty:

There is an "Escape the Room" place:

And several construction and light industrial businesses:

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Some other curiosities:

Feed Company Ghost Sign

Feed Company Ghost Sign

There is a long-term vision for this area from Great Rivers Greenway called "Chouteau Greenway" which would connect the Arch grounds with Forest Park with a series of trails and greening efforts.

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Until then, the area has an off limits vibe. It is not a pedestrian place, it is not a neighborhood, it is non-residential. I suppose every city has it's 100% industrial and warehouse sections, and this is one of our largest.  

It has an abandoned vibe. Land is so cheap and is such low demand, we need to be highly skeptical of those who claim we need to tear down buildings to build new light industrial, trucking, warehousing, etc.

There's plenty of space just lying in wait.

So there you have, a part of St. Louis very few travel or know well. Midtown's southern swath.

Keep your eye on the Foundry and the Armory as some positivity comes to this important part of town.