Forest Park

Forest Park

Forest Park

This is one of the most visited places in the city.  The park benefits from a rare St. Louis County - St. Louis City pooling of public moneys with the creation of a special taxing district where the vast suburbs of St. Louis County pay taxes to Forest Park as part of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District (ZMD).  Just look at what can be accomplished when resources are pooled!  We have a world-class art museum, zoo, history museum and planetarium...all in Forest Park. Oh, and don't forget the Muny, Steinberg Ice Rink or the Jewel Box.

The Cortona in the Cheltenham Neighborhood

The Cortona at Forest Park is a ~278 unit apartment complex rising in the Cheltenham neighborhood.  Visible from busy streets like Oakland and Hampton Avenues, and even Interstate 64, the apartment complex is scheduled for a February, 2014 completion.

This is an exciting part of town right now as there are several large projects in the works in the Hampton/I-64 area.  One is the construction of the Tri-Star Mercedes dealership that is underway.  This ~45,000 square foot project is an exciting addition to the former property of Fox 2 News at Berthold and Hampton that has been abandoned and empty since they left town for the staid burbs around 2008.

image source:


The other exciting development is the St. Louis Zoo's purchase of the former Forest Park Hospital across Hampton.  The demolition of the hospital is underway right now and is making way for a 19 acre addition said to include a zoo-themed hotel, additional animal habitat and major new exhibit, pedestrian bridge and gondola going over I-64 (



photo sources: St. Louis Zoo

So it is exciting to see additional housing options popping up in this part of town. Additional residents will only boost the activity seen around here.  And hopefully the addition of residents and visitors will boost the happening business and entertainment district around Clayton and Tamm in Dogtown...led by my favorite soup joint in westside St. Louis at


 at 1136 Tamm Avenue.

I am all for infill.  If we are ever going to see a gain in residents (which we haven't seen since the early-mid 20th Century), we need to meet the housing needs for a diverse set of people seeking all kinds of different lifestyles.  I am of the opinion that new infill does not always need to be historic in appearance, in fact I think we need modern new designs melding with the old brick, stone and wood classics.  Take UIC's work in Botanical Heights as an example.

The Botanical Heights Neighborhood

Or the many examples of quality construction and design from various eras in the Central West End.

photo source:  Toby Weiss-

CWE Mid-Century Modern: Lindell Boulevard

Nothing is more beautiful than the best of two era complementing each other.

We need diversity in housing that offers people modern living amenities that compete with what is available in the suburbs and newer Midwestern cities that offer much more contemporary options than St. Louis.  Many people just don't like living in old buildings.  They can be drafty, inefficient, laid out weird, wired with antiquated electric, etc.  Some people want the newest, most efficient kitchens, baths, windows, HVAC, lighting, floor plans, etc.

I think that is what the Cortona will bring...and with some interesting finishes to give the development a modern look.

The site is not a typical neighborhood setting like you can get in most parts of town, it is part of the larger Highlands office park that exists on the spot of the former St. Louis Arena.  There are a couple residential buildings called "The Lofts", a hotel and restaurant, a building housing BJC operations and two other buildings with various tennants including financial, media and construction firms, etc.  A Jimmy Johns, Yoga studio and

Comet Coffee and Microbakery

are in the first floor facing Oakland Avenue.

I'd use this greenspace for soccer

 Hampton Inn hotel

Office space with 1st floor retail

The wavy contours of the buildings are intended to emulate the roller coasters of

the Highlands amusement park

that once sat here.

"The Lofts"

So there will be those who'll certainly criticize this as contemporary "business park living", and I see the point, but I live in a traditional turn of the century St. Louis neighborhood and I don't have as many walkable amenities as this (yet).  The location is awesome as one of the greatest urban parks in the country is across the Interstate.

The property manager for the Cortona, Mark Milford, reached out to me and gave me a sneak peek of the Cortona.  He shared a lot of great info on the development, like the name which was a nod to Cortona, Italy one of Steve Brown's (Balke Brown) favorite places when he studied in Rome.  Mark is a suburban St. Louis guy who'll be living here soon.

The complex was still under construction upon my visit, so I'll spare those photos.

The first floor is scheduled for completion in February, 2014 and an additional floor will come online each following month.

The building is 5 stories, sits on 4.79 acres and has many, many modern amenities including an awesome 0.5 acre center courtyard area with a pool, outdoor 24' fire table and center pit, BBQ grills, cabana with showers, bar and 3-tiered pool (lap pool, tanning ledge and hot tub).  Modern stuff like USB ports on the electrical outlets, recycling and trash chutes, etc.  There will be an Enterprise car share on site, and private covered/structured parking for its residents; there are 314 parking spots for the 278 units.  There is a dog run, a common space for parties that overlooks the courtyard, fitness center, multi-purpose game room, etc..

 future 3-tiered pool 

 Private cabana in background, outdoor grills/bar, social lookouts

Accordion glass opens from courtyard to social space

parking structure and dog run in the foreground

Apartments range in size from studio/1 bath 575 sq. ft. to 2 br/2 bath 1299 sq. ft. All the luxuries of modern living one would expect are here, including great views of the city to the east.

This development is coming on line about the same time as The Aventura Phase II in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood to the east.  The styles are quite a contrast.  The Cortona is interesting and modern, the Aventura...well, if you pay attention to early commentary from the outspoken St. Louis lovers, you will have heard it referred to as "Straight Outta Ballwin", plastic suburban schlock, cheapest possible, a private complex closed off from the surrounding neighborhood, etc.  I have chosen to keep my opinions of the Aventura off the Internet, but will gladly share if you buy me a beer.

 a little bit of the burbs right here in the middle of St. Louis

Aventura phase I

The worst thing about this development is it is highly visibility along I-64 and it's lack of context in a really cool neighborhood that is on the rise and has St. Louis' beauty and soul all over it.

Anyhow, congrats to the Cortona for adding a fresh, modern element to St. Louis' new housing scene.

The Mark C. Steinberg Ice Rink in Forest Park

The Mark C. Steinberg Ice Rink opened on November 11, 1957 in Forest Park right in the shadow of Barnes-Jewish Washington University Medical campus on Kingshighway.

Mr. Steinberg was a native St. Louisan and a self-made man starting out as an office boy in a brokerage firm, eventually starting his own firm, the largest of its kind in St. Louis at the time.

Mark C. Steinberg (source)

His wife Etta Eiseman Steinberg was a big part of the many charitable organizations and philanthropic donations and leadership by the Steinberg's including Steinberg Hall which houses the Washington University College of Architecture, Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, and the College & Graduate School of Art, the Steinberg wing of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and of course the Ice Rink.

Etta Steinberg was impressed by the Central Park skating rink in New York City, so she gave $600,000 toward the $1 million skating rink in Forest Park in St. Louis, known as Steinberg Skating Rink (source).

Mr. Steinberg (1881-1951) grew up in North St. Louis and was buried in New Mount Sinai Cemetery in Affton, Missouri just south of St. Louis.

The skating rink is the largest outdoor rink in the Midwest at 27,600 square foot of ice.  The rink is fully functional and available for skating lessons and all day passes for public use, private parties and corporate/charity events.  It's a mere $6.00 to skate all day and figure or hockey skate rental is $4.00; or, of course, bring your own.

The rink is typically open from mid-November through February.  There is a zamboni machine on the premises, so the surface is safe and smooth for optimal fun for all ages.  The area is used for sand volleyball May through August.  There are two regulation, lighted sand volleyball courts, again available for leagues, private parties and corporate functions.

The park area surrounding the rink is professionally landscaped and is framed by the Barnes-Jewish Medical Complex in the Central West End neighborhood, providing a  big city vibe right among natural Missouri plants and beauty.  

River Birch, Bald Cypress and other trees flank the outer edges providing a wind break and shade.  The "knees" of the cypress are spiking up in the exposed areas at the base of the trees...I love it!

There are plenty of parking spaces in the adjacent surface lot and an ample supply of bike racks for the many cyclists in Forest Park.

Other outdoor features include a large open fire pit to warm up to, lights strung over the rink providing a great scene for skating after dark and a sound system that was swinging with some classic rock deep cuts on my visit.

There are plenty of benches for spectators both inside and outside with great views of the rink on 2 of the 4 sides.

Speaking as a product of the 1970's, mid-century bowling alleys and skating are part of my formative the interior of the rink is nothing short of retro gold (or in this case aqua) for me...feels like home.  When the facility was recently renovated, they kept most of the original touches (including old school time card clock in machine, bathroom fixtures, etc) and man am I glad they didn't throw up dry wall over the glazed brick. 

Here's some stuff that caught my eye on the interior of Steinberg:

beveled aqua bricks frame the windows

even the font and style of the staff jackets look right outta 1975

hey tough guy, don't mess with those lockers

Winter in St. Louis can be lots of fun!