Midtown Neighborhood

Steelcote Crossing in the Midtown Neighborhood

I went on a long scooter ride in that weird, disconnected, railway-heavy part of the Midtown Neighborhood back in 2017. I kept dreaming of how this part of the city could somehow be reconnected. Click HERE to see that post.

It’s such an odd, underutilized area. But with the Armory and Foundry projects, maybe there is hope. Another huge preservation win is the renovation of the Steelcote and Columbia Oil buildings, collectively called “Steelcote Crossing”, these aging beauties will be renovated into apartments.

Preservation of our history and irreplaceable architecture and building materials is just such a wonderful thing to keep you optimistic on St. Louis’ trajectory.

I will keep this one short, because I wrote about this project back in October, 2018. You can read it and see all the picture and such HERE.

The reason we put this on our 2018 favorites list is because it’s in such a tough area for investment. But, if we can connect this area to Chouteau, it can become another gem of an area with an industrial feel. I’ve seen parts of town in Kansas City and Memphis that remind me of this part of Midtown. It could be so cool and strangely remote and unique.

I love preservation projects, and this one being so close to where we live is a constant reminder that St. Louis’ potential is unmatched.

Here are couple updated photos to show the progress as of publishing:

More of this kind of thing, right? I love living here and watching these long abandoned properties see new investment and life.

steelcrossing.jpeg

Chouteau Greenway - Stoss Landscape Urbanism Chosen as Design Team

Chouteau Greenway - Stoss Landscape Urbanism Chosen as Design Team

The design and architecture firm to lead us toward the future of a fully realized Chouteau Greenway was chosen this week. Here are some quick thoughts and high-level considerations given to the jury report and strengths/weaknesses discussed. Well done Great Rivers Greenway! This city is doing things right an headed in the right direction.

St. Louis University Naming Mixed-Use District Near Campus

St. Louis University Naming Mixed-Use District Near Campus

A massive 400+ acre swath of the city is targeted for redevelopment. You can weigh in on what a section of the area is named. We hope that the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation, the group in charge of steering development and investment in the area can put the city first and share some of the success that we've seen in Forest Park Southeast to this important part of the city.

Westin Hotel/Retail Mixed-use Building in Midtown Neighborhood

Westin Hotel/Retail Mixed-use Building in Midtown Neighborhood

While news of a new mixed-use proposal for Forest Park Avenue might sound great, this one has some trade offs worth contemplating, including up to 25 years of tax abatement, demolition of historic buildings and a still non-pedestrian friendly speedway. The design and investment is still exciting and for that it makes the list. 

Cole Chemical Building - 3721 Laclede Avenue in the Midtown Neighborhood

Cole Chemical Building - 3721 Laclede Avenue in the Midtown Neighborhood

The following is an example of how a building can pique one's curiosity and desire to learn about your surroundings and place in history. Conservation and preservation of places and buildings is such a valuable asset toward historical understanding and providing context within a city.

I was having lunch across the street from a building that caught my eye. There was a blue placard affixed to the building with a cool font that said "Cole's"; I had to cross the street to get some photos and take a closer look.

The City Foundry - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

The City Foundry - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Favorite

Continuing with my top twenty development announcements or under-construction projects of 2016, the City Foundry makes the list.

This ~$340M proposal is billed as a public market that will bring office, retail, creative space and a food hall to a 17 acre former industrial site, the Federal-Mogul foundry. From the City Foundry's promotional video: "we are a new center for food, fashion, creativity and innovative thinkers".

St. Louis University On-Campus Student Housing Towers on Laclede Avenue - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Development Favorite

St. Louis University took a couple steps in the right direction with the addition of their two new student housing towers on Laclede Avenue between Grand and Vandeventer in the Midtown Neighborhood.

What's the right direction you might ask? Well that would be designing and executing urban buildings (tall, built to the street or sidewalk) vs. suburban buildings (massive setbacks, driveways and/or grassy moats).

With these projects, SLU is maximizing two of their surface parking lots and grassy, fenced-in expanses with beautiful new buildings. You have to applaud SLU for this. Thank you for complementing our city and being a good neighbor.

Let's do the same on the massive Med Campus expansion

...more thoughts on that in the near future.

The first dorm is called Spring Hall (located at Laclede and South Spring Avenues) right across from Humphrey's Restaurant and Tavern. In December, 2014 the board approved this $43.8M 8-story, 153K square foot student housing building.

Per the St. Louis University website:

Designed for first-and second-year students, Spring Hall features single and double suite-style rooms with a total of 450 beds. Classrooms, a conference room, study rooms, floor lounges, a chapel, a "living room" with kitchen, a large meeting space and a small outdoor amphitheater are included in the plans. The design concept leverages previously developed land, minimizing ecological degradation while optimizing land and community value. In addition, the position of the building maximizes sun exposure for daylight harvesting. The project utilizes at least 20% recycled and 20% regional materials. (source)

SLU using the phrase "optimizing land and community value" is such an important thing for them to say. SLU sometimes seems to forget their campus is a part of our city, not apart from our city.

Fences say "stay out" and define the campus as a private compound.

In fact, I was really worried SLU would lobby to close Laclede Avenue between Grand and Vandeventer which would be a major blow to city commuters. So far, I've not heard any talk of creating a super block.

Trust me, when the fences go down, the neighborhoods feels more contiguous with the campus. For instance, the track and field area at Compton and Rutger is open to the public and has a wonderful vibe. Local schools and track clubs use it for track practice, neighbors from the Gate District walk and jog on the track and the medical campus.

It is true to the Jesuit way.

Spring Hall is classified as LEED silver certified. It was designed by Creve Coeur, MO-based Hastings + Chivetta architects and built by Ladue, MO-based McCarthy Building Companies. Wouldn't it be great if these suburban companies chose to move to the city and be a true St. Louis asset?

Students moved into Spring Hall in Fall, 2016.

Here's the grassy knoll that the building replaced:

And here's what it looks like after completion:

Not bad! I really think this is a major upgrade for the campus and the city.

I really like how the stretch below along Laclede hugs the sidewalk, I can envision a nicely spaced row of Itea virginica and Heuchera elegans mixed in with Liriope muscari for ground cover...no mow, low maintenance, beautiful.

What an improvement, way to go SLU!

The building is C-shaped with a beautifully landscaped center commons area complete with outdoor sculptures.

Rendering image from

slu.edu

Rendering image from  slu.edu

The bike racks are logically placed near the sidewalk and entrance nearest Laclede Avenue.

The second dorm, Grand Hall, is currently under construction at the northwest corner of Laclede and Grand.

The new residence hall approved by the Board on [September, 2015] will be a seven-story, 237,000-square-foot facility built on what is now a surface parking lot near Grand and Laclede. The new building will be connected to the adjacent Griesedieck Complex, the University's largest residential facility.

Designed for first-and-second year students, the new facility will feature single and double suite-style rooms with a total of 528 beds. Plans also call for a 740-seat campus dining hall, as well as classrooms, study lounges and an outdoor plaza, among many other features. (source)

The cost of this building is estimated at $71M. This one was also designed by Hastings + Chivetta but built by University City, MO-based Alberici Constructors.

It used to be an uninviting, fenced-in grassy area and surface parking lot.

Before:

After:

Rendering image from  slu.edu

progress as of publishing

The C-shaped building opens up with an indoor/outdoor dining area open to the north.

Rendering image from  slu.edu

A nice setback, matching or slightly besting the adjacent Simon Recreation Center to the west:

Rendering image from  slu.edu

These dorms are really changing the skyline profile of the main campus from all angles. It makes an impressive impact from Interstate 64 heading eastbound on the elevated lanes.

The height is equally impressive from Grand Boulevard at Chouteau:

Hopefully this good urban design will continue south at the Medical Campus in the Tiffany and Gate District neighborhoods and translate into real neighborhood assets.

Midtown Neighborhood

Midtown Neighborhood

Midtown took a loss of 8% of its residents from 1990 to 2000.  In 2000, 4,408 people were counted 65% white, 27% black, a whopping 5% Asian (one of the largest I've seen so far) and 3% Hispanic/Latino.  There were 1,532 housing units, with an 81% occupancy rate:  1% owned, 99% rented. 

As you can probably conclude from the above number, the residential base of this neighborhood is largely made up of the student population at St. Louis University.  There are some homes on Westminster Place in the northwestern corner of Midtown, but I wouldn't be surprised if these were owned or affiliated with the university as well...