These days, I get my haircut at a place in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood (FPSE). Seems like every time I head over there, I see development activity, most recently, construction fence caught my eye around the former Columbia Iron Works.
I walked the perimeter of the property to check out what's going on.
I parked on Vista, crossed Tower Grove Avenue and noticed a sign for yet ANOTHER project on the north east corner of the intersection called Vista Place. FPSE is in a historic period of rebirth and it's fun to visit and take it in.
Per the project website, this place is a somewhat unique courtyard concept where the homes have a common space toward the center. Sounds kind of cool. This concept exists all over the city and it works pretty well; but I'm pretty sure it is unique for FPSE.
The property has been a vacant lot for years. It was purchased for redevelopment by the current owners from the Adams Park Community Center, a north city owner who paid $25 a year in taxes and sat on the property since 2006, erecting a raised bed or two and doing nothing with the small home that will likely be demolished for the Vista Place project.
While this project is tax abated at 80% for ten years, it will still generated more taxes for our schools than it was when it was owned by a non-profit. I'm good with that.
Here's the site plan and renderings of what the project will look like:
Man, I try to keep up with St. Louis development stuff on NextSTL, STL Today and UrbanSTL, but I must have missed these developments and this part of town is afire. But, of course, the above projects have been covered; trusty NextSTL wrote about this back in 2015.
This could be a real boon for this part of the neighborhood that has not seen as much care and investment in the last 20 or so years. Examples of neglect are still ragin' full-on.
As an example, this property sits right across the street from the former Columbia Iron Works property.
It is owned by Grove Place 3 LLC which is code for Restoration St. Louis who own a lot of property in this neighborhood. You have to trust this company as they have an office here on 4240 Manchester and have done some amazing rehab work here and elsewhere in St. Louis. Here's a blurb from their website, and how can you not like what they're preaching:
I'm hoping this property sees new life as it has been vacant since 1996, condemned since 2010 and only collecting a mere $251.58 in taxes annually and is not a pleasant view for the neighbors and people like me walking around.
But let's get back to the construction fence that caught my eye in the first place. Columbia Iron Works is a relic of the Industrial Era in the United States that is long gone, it was built in ~1920. I wanted to get some final photos before it sees new life as the home of the Missouri Foundation for Health.
Per the St. Louis Business Journal, here's a description of the Missouri Foundation For Health:
So, obviously happy to have this non-profit in St. Louis.
- The Columbia Iron Works buildings will be repurposed for the MFH operations and a reminder of our Industrial past will remain.
- The handsome building at the corner of Tower Grove Avenue and Vista will be rehabbed.
- This will be a $12.5M shot in the arm for the property and the neighborhood.
- This is not a net gain for St. Louis in either employment or tax dollar generation. The MFH will be vacating their offices in the Downtown West Neighborhood and pulling a musical chairs to FPSE. A loss for DT is a gain for FPSE, but not a clear win for the city.
- This is a non-profit, so they don't pay property taxes, hence don't contribute to our schools, etc. This property used to generate money for the city, now it will not.
- Of course, they want to demo several formerly tax-producing structures including several homes on Hunt and a beautiful multi-family on Tower Grove Avenue.
- Why do they want to do this demo? Surface parking lot. Geez, a step backward for any urban neighborhood is the addition of a surface parking lot.
- They also want "green space" which means under-utilized, vacant, dead zones for a residential neighborhood.
You can see the minuses outnumber the pluses. Here's the low-density site plan ripe with plenty of surface parking and underutilized, green space.
Here's the home on Tower Grove they are out to destroy for a fenced off "employee courtyard" and "flexible community zone". Nope, I'll take tax paying residents over a "community zone" any day. Shame on MFH on this one.
Here are the homes they've already destroyed on Hunt Avenue.
Not a real loss from an aesthetic point of view. But the end result is a surface parking lot.
The good news is, per an April, 2017 NextSTL article, the Preservation Board denied the MFH request for demo:
Keep your eye on this part of the city, it's changing rapidly.