Chouteau Avenue

Former Praxair Site in Lafayette Square - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my top twenty announced or under-construction projects from 2016, we move to Lafayette Square with a development announcement for the former Praxair site along Chouteau Avenue.

I'm amazed at how long this property has sat vacant in such a desirable neighborhood (2005).

We've seen plans floated before

 as far back as 2007. But, maybe the economy is back on its feet and the time is right to make the development work.

I'm confident the people in Lafayette Square will demand quality and will be very involved in the process. They have worked so hard in this neighborhood, and I expect that will continue here.

So what are we talking?

NextSTL reported in November that a developer has plans for 64 townhomes

:

Now Pulte Homes has a plan to build 64 townhomes on the Praxair site bounded by Chouteau, Missouri Avenue, MacKay Place and a separate parcel fronting Hickory Street to the south. The developer is planning to meet next week with neighborhood residents living adjacent to the site. A larger Lafayette Square community meeting is planned to follow before the end of the year. No images or site plans have been made available.

Pulte Homes? Not a name I've heard before,

they've never done a project in St. Louis, but they've done many in the suburbs

. And it shows, but this site is unique. I don't think the suburban stuff will work here and I don't think the neighbors will let it. Pulte have done some decent work in other parts of the country including the following:

Pulte project in Alexandria, Virginia

                                 Pulte project in Washington State

This is a dead stretch of Chouteau that needs some love. The south side of the property abuts the fully intact part of the neighborhood and the northern edge has much room for improvement. People have been living around this vacant site for over ten years and they (and people who live near here) are ready for positive change.

This will be a fun one to watch in 2017.

Chouteau's Grove in Forest Park Southeast - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my favorite development proposals and under-construction projects in 2016 the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood just seemed on fire.

This ~$61M project at 4001 Chouteau Avenue, called Chouteau's Grove is a massive proposal from suburban developer Green Street (Clayton, MO) that would convert >4 acres of vacant parcels into 18,000 square feet of street level retail, 240+ apartments and a dedicated parking structure (source).

Check out the full presentation on this project on Green Street's website.

The site plan has gone through various iterations since I first read about this one back in May, 2016.

This location is critical as the eastern entrance to the Grove commercial/entertainment district. It is right behind the Commerce Bank building on Vandeventer and Manchester/Chouteau.

With the future new SSM Hospital and SLU Medical Campus investment just east of here. And the Cortex, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Barnes/Jewish and Wash U investment to the north, this location is prime for additional retail. And the residential component is equally welcomed.

Then with IKEA just up the street from here, it would be great to get more unique retail options for the region that bring tax dollars and jobs to St. Louis.

I really hoped for a grocery store at this location as this seems like something this neighborhood really needs. While I don't get the allure of Trader Joe's, I know people who are devoted to the place and currently there are no St. Louis locations, so you have to go to the suburbs if you want this option.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in May that the grocery option was not viable at this time:

Green Street Development plans to begin construction late this year on its redesigned Chouteau’s Grove, which no longer has the supermarket of the initial plan.

Brian Pratt, Green Street’s vice president of development, said Tuesday the company was unable to lure a grocery to the $61 million project planned for the eastern end of the Grove nightlife district in St. Louis.

Green Street pitched the site to “fresh grocery concept” operators but all replied the area needs more residents to support such a store, he said.

Well, this project does have the potential to bring in >200 people so it's a step in the right direction.

Per the above PD story, it sounds like the site plan is moving in more of an urban direction now that the larger grocery store is out of the plan:

With a 30,000-square-foot grocery off the drawing board, Green Street revamped the 4.5-acre site to give the project a more urban look. Instead of having a parking lot to accommodate grocery customers, the new plan rings much of the site with a four-story apartment building that wraps around a parking garage.

“It will feel very urban, unlike an urban-suburban blend like we had before to attract a grocer,” Pratt said.

About 100 of the garage’s 565 parking spots will be set aside for the public and to serve the 20,000 square feet of retail space planned as part of the project’s new plan.

Then, in December, NextSTL reported that the site plan was again tweaked:

Documents show Chouteau’s Grove will have 236 residential units and a 383-space parking garage. Retail space has been simplified and slightly reduced to just more than 17,000sf. A public plaza is planned to front Chouteau, a dog park has been moved to the east end, the traffic island will be expanded as a pocket park, and a phase II “fitness building” by another developer is planned. Sources tell nextSTL the tenant for the site’s northwest corner will be Planet Fitness.

With 35 fewer apartments, and a little less retail, parking demand has been reduced, but the impact of 182 fewer parking spaces is unclear. There are 39 surface spaces planned off Sarah Street, and a proposed 72-space lot across the street, bringing the reduction to 71 spaces, not including on-street parking.

The smaller footprint of the garage has allowed it to be fully screened by apartments, instead of the garage facade fronting Papin Street. In addition, there’s no longer a curb cut for a garage entrance along the street.

The fact that the garage will be hidden from the street view is important. And a fitness center is a welcome addition to any neighborhood.

On my visit, grading appeared complete and the site it ready to go. 

This will have a huge impact on Manchester Avenue, activating a former dead zone.

Check out this amazing flyover video posted by Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation

of all the activity on this stretch of the Grove:

Keep your eye on this part of town in 2017, it'll be popping!

Laclede Gas Station G - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing on my quest to visit the sites of each of my top twenty development projects from 2016, once again I find myself in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood

This time at 4401 Chouteau Avenue at the Laclede Gas Station G building.

The Laclede Gas Station G pump house is the only reminder of the former use of this parcel within the city. As a kid I remember sitting in my parent's car driving down I-64 and wondering what that massive thing was on top of the hill. 

It was a gasometer.

There is an excellent summary of these massive structures throughout our region on Built St. Louis

Here's what Station G looked like from the Interstate:

photo credit: Built St. Louis

And then from Chouteau Avenue with the pump house in the foreground:

photo credit: Built St. Louis

Per Built St. Louis:

The Forest Park Southeast gasometer stood at Newstead and Chouteau, a jarring interruption of an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood. It was erected in 1901 and rebuilt in 1942. A sibling tank once stood just to the west; it was demolished in the 1960s and left as a vacant lot.

The adjacent Pumping Station G building dates from 1911. Both the gas holder and the pump house were built for the Laclede Gas Light Company. National Historic Register nominations were submitted in 2006.

The FPSE gasometer was demolished in 2007. Plans called for the pump house to be converted to residential use. An article in the Post-Dispatch's South City Journal details the nomination and plans for the site.

That 2006 development plan never materialized. I was concerned that the only remaining memory of this once awe inspiring site, the Station G Pump House, would be destroyed. Why? Well it is open to the elements, it was rapidly deteriorating as I visited it over the years. And it was enveloped by a massive apartment complex called "The Aventura". This complex looks like standard cheap design you'd expect to see in suburbs throughout the country.

Chouteau Avenue needs to counter the uninspired suburban design of the Aventura and others along this stretch in Forest Park Southeast. The classic St. Louis architecture sits right across the street to the south.

So when I read that there were plans in place for a St. Charles firm to move to St. Louis and renovate Station G for their offices, I was ecstatic. 

I truly thought the days of this one were numbered. One storm or firebug and it could have been more of this:

But man does it feel good to be wrong. I love this building and the reminder it brings of past uses. 

Here's how it looks as of publishing:

I read of this development on NextSTL in November, 2016. This wonderfully comprehensive post is well worth a read and check out the great photos:

nextSTL has learned that Greater Goods, a company producing ethically sourced and produced coffee, blood pressure monitors, knives, scales, and more, will be renovating the long-vacant Station G building on Chouteau Avenue in The Grove for its new corporate headquarters. The move will bring approximately 15 employees to the city. Greater Goods will be working with Vessel Architecture to design the space.

The company had been looking for a location in the city as many of its employees are younger City of St. Louis residents. Being located in the city was also considered a necessary move to attract future talent. It is expected that the renovation of Station G will utilize historic tax credits and brownfield credits. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Greater Goods will be moving to a temporary location on Vandeventer Avenue while Station G is renovated.

Another great story for 2016 with much to like: historic preservation, another shot in the arm for Forest Park Southeast, new jobs for St. Louis and more activity in a great part of town.

I look forward to watching this one progress throughout 2017.