Infill continues on Dolman and other formerly vacant lots. When the red buds, dogwoods and other showy flowering trees are in bloom, it’s easy to love this part of our great city.
After multiple changes in ownership, the handsome brick building at Dolman and Park Avenue has not been rehabbed. Another transfer in ownership announced in January, 2017 may be the one that gets this project done. What an important building to showcase the preservation bent of the Lafayette Square Neighborhood.
Today was the grand opening of , the new full service grocery store in the Peabody-Darst-Webbe neighborhood on St. Louis' near south side.
The brand new building is located in the area known as Bohemian Hill just south of the Georgian, or former city hospital, near the intersection of Lafayette and Tucker at 1500 Lafayette Avenue.
The 37,000 square foot store includes fresh produce, floral arrangements, seafood, prepared foods, coffee, bakery, meats, dairy, wine and beer, and all the dried goods and households items you'd expect.
There are as many local selections as can be expected at this time of year. I found basil from Farmington, MO and apples from Carbondale, IL. I would expect the local selections to grow in number come the Midwestern growing season.
So I've been really looking forward to this opening. We need more choices in this part of the city as the area is truly quite diverse by all definitions. You have some of the region's wealthiest people in Lafayette Square and Soulard and you also have lots of subsidized and public housing in Peabody-Darst-Webbe, LaSalle and then of course the growing segment of working middle class areas of Fox Park, McKinley Heights, Benton Park West, Gate District, etc. The area is brimming with potential and adding food choices is a big part of anchoring the area and allowing us to build upon the recent successes in the near future.
This part of the city was deemed a "food desert" by the USDA, meaning there were not enough choices for fresh, healthy foods. This is changing. For instance, I live in Fox Park near Russell and Jefferson. As a crow flies, you have a Schnucks at Grand and Gravois that is 1.5 miles away. I rarely see neighbors here though, as opposed to the Schnucks at Kingshighway and Arsenal which is the current choice for most seeking a peaceful shopping experience. It is 2.6 miles away. Schnucks Culinaria downtown is 2.2 miles and there is a Shop-N-Save 2.7 miles away. Furthermore, a Sav-A-Lot marketplace store recently opened in the Jefferson Commons strip mall; it is 0.5 miles away. We now have the discount foods segment of the market covered as well as the typical Schnucks section covered, and now we have a higher-end choice as well. All segments of the grocery market are being covered in this crucially important part of our great city.
So what was our first impression? In short, it exceeded our expectations. Let me tell you that we are a family of five, so discount pricing is important...but we also love to cook and try to eat healthy. My biggest concerns at the grocery store are price, freshness of produce and a good mix of high end options (like cheeses, Mediterranean treats, European styled breads, good beer/wine, etc). Maybe equally important is a civilized shopping experience...you know not getting hustled in the checkout line, or just store simply having a consistently peaceful vibe as opposed to an experience rife with bad public behavior and tumultuous drama from the customers and staff.
Our biggest fear of this place was that it would be somewhere we would go to get nice stuff, but wouldn't be able to afford it as the family stock up place. That is not the case. The price point is excellent. The normal stuff is the price you would expect, without unnecessary mark ups.
If you are the market segment that can sustain the huge mark ups of "organic" foods, you have that option as well. The dairy has lots of Greek yogurt and regular yogurt options. Milk-wise, you have the typical stuff and the soy and returnable bottle stuff. Options galore!
The space itself is laid out nicely, with interesting decor and nods to the local architecture that is the ultimate draw to the area.
The seafood section looks great. And the fresh produce appeared to be reasonably priced and top quality.
There is high end stuff too, like a great Mediterranean snack area, really good European and Middle Eastern cheeses, etc.
But in almost all cases, for the staples, there are both name brand, a store brand called "Best Choice" and even a more highly discounted brand for such things as dish soap, etc.
There are plenty of enticing local selections like Companion breads, Billy Goat Chips, local beer, Park Avenue coffee, etc.
To those who so desire, you can walk in the store, hand over your shopping list to an employee, then head over to the bar for a local brew or a glass of wine. The workers will bring your cart back to you and you are ready to check out! Pretty swanky, eh? Jeeves, fetch my Cheez-It's whilst I sip on this here malbec :)
They are doing the little things well too. Nice natural lighting near the checkout lanes, they offer the NY Times and WSJ, they have plastic bag recycling drop offs, etc.
See we CAN have nice things in neighborhoods other than the Central West End. This will be my new family stock up grocer...and much more. Cheers to the fine folks at Fields Foods and welcome to the neighborhoods of the near south side!
So this neighborhood can be broken down into 3 main areas: 1) the small area between Doleman Street and Truman Parkway, 2) the area of subsidized housing taking up the majority of the neighborhood and 3) the area consisting of the former city hospital property and Bohemian Hill area just south of Lafayette Avenue.
I'll start with the row of houses and fallow grounds between Doleman Street and Truman Parkway. Literally speaking the area east of Doleman is Peabody Darst Webbe territory, but for all practical purposes, this area should be considered part of Lafayette Square. In fact the city or the Lafayette Square neighborhood organization have erected a fence to physically separate Lafayette from it's eastern neighbors in PDW.
I've said it myself and I've heard many others say how creepy abandoned hospitals are. Maybe it's the countless hours I've logged playing Silent Hill.
Maybe it's the thought of the proliferation of transorbital lobotomies in the 1940s. Maybe it's the thought of cholera and tuberculosis patients cramming the beds and halls; the windowless rooms packed with mental patients. Probably a sum of all of the above. Maybe it's the overall mojo and the history. Whatever it is, the site of the former City Hospital, now Georgian condos at 14th and Lafayette, conjured up scary images of the past. And when my wife and I visited the Georgian a couple years ago, we had these images in the backs of our minds. This place had been out of service as a hospital since 1987. It was sitting vacant for nearly 20 years. It had a sordid past...it had to be haunted and ominous.
However, the site has and continues to evolve. And after looking into the history of the site, the current condos in the Georgian revival style building were in fact merely the administrative building:
So the creepy stuff I mentioned before probably didn't take place in the admin. building. The psych ward was in Malcolm Bliss.
Anyhow, the site has changed drastically over the years, and especially since 2002 when the 1947 addition and Malcolm Bliss were demolished.So where does this site stand today? The first phase of redevelopment is nearly completed. A new building was constructed on the site, by the power plant and laundry building. A catering business occupies this space.
The power plant building is being renovated.
I'd find a place for the old ?boiler? and crane mechanism in the redesign of the space...a good reminder of the building's history.The former laundry building is now the Palladium, a beautiful events hall.
This site is becoming useful again and finding new life. I can't wait to see what tenants occupy the former power building. I hope they add more residential to the renovation of the remaining buildings. We need all the residents we can get to support the businesses in this part of town.
How'd you like to have this as the front door to your abode?
Here are my favorite 2 buildings on the site. I believe the first is the stable/ambulance garage and the second is the commissioner's building:
What a nice addition to an increasing beautiful part of town.
Lots of opportunities still abound.
In speaking to a couple residents of the Georgian and Lafayette Square, folks are excited about the Walgreens going in across the street. On a separate note, I really like the new red helicopter looking sculpture on the Interstate ramps at the south end of Lafayette Square. The former pieces never looked big enough to me. They now look FANTASTIC in the new citygarden downtown.