Cortex K Development - Southeast Cortex Addition

This project made the list because of it’s bridge potential to connect the south eastern edge of Cortex and the heart, which I’d put somewhere around Duncan and S. Boyle Avenues. It would also be a bridge from Forest Park Southeast to the south and the Central West End.

The site I’m referring to is at S. Sarah Street and Clayton Avenue. And the potential to make this an urban entryway to Cortex and a pedestrian connector between neighborhoods is all there.

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This site used to be a series of small industrial buildings dating back to 2016; nothing too interesting from an architectural perspective, but they were densely compacted and built to the street even if they didn’t welcome pedestrians nor does the view of that parking lot to the north.

 Source: Google

Source: Google

The site is now completely cleared, a grass field and parking lot are all that remains as it awaits development.

NextSTL reported on this back in May, 2018 indicating that the first phase of the development will bring a mixed use 90,000 sq ft, 4-story technology and collaboration building with retail facing Sarah.

They also reported that this is the first of 3 phases for the property. Phase 2 and 3 have plans for a luxury residential tower to the north and another office building to the west including a parking garage facing Clayton. A plaza with public art will connect the tech and collaborative building with the project’s future residential component.

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It’s all in the execution. If the parking garage has first level retail, it would be okay, if not, it’ll be a dead zone on Clayton, right across the street from a massive surface parking lots that serve the BJC building with the Microsoft building in the background.

 A sea of surface parking will not activate Clayton or Sarah.

A sea of surface parking will not activate Clayton or Sarah.

The BJC building is beautiful and has a Lion’s Choice in it and brings a lot of jobs.

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But, it’s just a damn shame and waste of space all that parking, a city-killing scene if there ever was one. This could be an awkward phase for Cortex, as some of the recent development is looking like your standard suburban “office park” style, complete with seas of parking for commuters. Now, time will tell if these parking lots eventually get built upon and parking garages with ground floor retail are erected.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled this development is taking shape, I’m just worried about the spread out nature of this. We need residential badly, structured parking that goes up and not out and infill to make the area look like a city and not a suburb.

This project will be highly visible from I-64, and we need it to look good, not suburban schlock.

I trust that this project and the overall Innovation District will be successful, but I fear the parking lots will be here for years, maybe even a generation or two. Who knows, I hope I’m wrong.

But the site where Cortex K will sit is surrounded by lots of underutilized space. My fear is the first building is built, the economy slows and the parking lots instead of additional buildings are stalled for many years. This is a common occurrence in a zero to negative growth region.

My suspicion is justified in that the early renderings from the NextSTL article in May were much more urban and unique.

I love that look and it is why we added this to the 2018 favorites list.

But, a visit to Koman’s site (a suburban firm just west of St. Louis) shows a different rendering with a less-inspired design and sprawling parking lot. Ugh.

 A Little Bit of Creve Coeur in St. Louis?

A Little Bit of Creve Coeur in St. Louis?

I remain cautiously optimist on this one, but after seeing this new rendering, I’m worried.

But, Cortex says and is doing all the things I want to hear. And, these things take time. I know this, and for whatever reason, I trust the strategy and idea that is Cortex.

Hopefully the organization that is Cortex will hold Koman to an urban design that doesn’t look cheap and suburban. We need sidewalks and street trees and a welcoming presence to PEOPLE, not just commuters who are in-out visitors/workers.

Step by step, hopefully we can continue to build mixed uses here and not just “show up, park and go home” spaces. The county cities do that so well, we need to beat them and make a place you can do everything. Live, walk to work and hangout in a place that means something or has a concentration of like minds.

All that said, how can you not be impressed with announcement of another investor/developer trying to dig in.

The idea of Clayton and Sarah being a pedestrian friendly corridor connecting FPSE and CWE must be a priority. Cortex K will have an opportunity to make this part of the city look like an urban neighborhood…or a Creve Coeur-looking commuter campus…

Hoping for the former.