Ritz Beverage - A Casualty of the Interstate Highway System

Ritz Beverage - A Casualty of the Interstate Highway System

A mystery that started in an antique shop on Manchester Avenue led me to the library and then to the LaSalle Neighborhood to finally find what is becoming more and more clear, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 that brought an Interstate highways instead of the old Route 66 was devastating for the city of St. Louis. It removed so much urban fabric and divided so many part of the city. Ritz Bottling Company is just one of the hundreds displaced by mid-Century progress.

2016 Favorite Development Announcements: Soulard Apartments at Russell and Gravois

2016 Favorite Development Announcements: Soulard Apartments at Russell and Gravois

Another 2016 development favorite announcement that is well underway in Soulard. This one hugs the existing historic buildings and will bring a lot of activity to a former boring entrance to a popular neighborhood. Passers-by on I-44/I-55 will certainly get a taste for what St. Louisan's know. Lots of positive development is happening in St. Louis.

Soulard Mixed-Use Apartment Proposal at Russell and Gravois - 2016 St. Louis City Talk Development Favorite

Another of my top twenty projects proposed or under construction in 2016 is a 126-unit apartment building with commercial space on the first floor. 

Per a June, 2016 St. Louis Business Journal:

Propper Construction Services plans to build a $20 million apartment complex at South 13th Street and Russell Boulevard in Soulard.

The development, Propper President Tim Breece told the Business Journal, will include 126 units and space for a restaurant in a new building that ranges from three to five stories. Construction should begin this fall, with completion set for fall 2017, Propper said. An old Faultless Laundry building sits on the site, which is owned by Loy-Lange Box Co. The area's alderman, Jack Coatar, said Propper has the property under contract.

Breece said brothers Brett and David Apted will develop the project for Propper. Breece said a rendering is not yet complete, but that the building will be designed by Trivers Associates Architects and "will match the character of the Soulard neighborhood." (source)

Propper Construction is located in St. Charles, MO and Trivers Associates are located in Downtown St. Louis with offices in Granite City, IL as well.

So far the details and images that have been released meet my criteria for a better use:

  1. New design matches the neighborhood character better than the previous building.

  2. Proposal brings more residents or jobs than current use.

  3. The location is high profile enough to elevate the appearance of the neighborhood to visitors and residents alike.

The location of this project has the highest appeal. Gravois is an eyesore, and an inhospitable road right around Russell Boulevard. I live just west of here and my daughter and I have a routine of riding our bikes to Soulard Market. The ride is wonderful, with clearly marked bike lanes along Russell between Jefferson and Broadway.

The ride is beautiful until you hit Gravois with the Citgo gas station, Jack In The Box, a non-descript building on the northwest corner and of course the grey cinder block non-descript single story building on the southeast corner. 

Here's a taste for the impact the Interstates and overly-wide state roads have had on our neighborhoods:

Crossing this road is challenging and intimidating as a pedestrian or bicyclist. You'll routinely witness lots of aggressive driving with commuters trying to speed onto the I-55 ramp as quickly as possible. You have to "look twice and truck up" as my kids say.

This is not an inviting entrance to one of our most historic, beautifully intact neighborhoods:

This entrance to Soulard deserves a higher use and that is exactly what this project will bring.

It brings more people who'll call Soulard home, shopping the local businesses and enjoying the walkability, music, drinks and food that the neighborhood is known for. More density is always welcome.

The site will be highly visible from I-55, Gravois, Russell and the intra-neighborhood to the east.

The proposal made public is handsome, varied and modern with a nod to the irreplaceable brick and stone buildings just to the east. It hugs Gravois and the I-55 offramp as well as Russell Boulevard. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and NextSTL published stories on the updated design proposals in July, 2016.

NextSTL did a thorough and excellent job depicting the current site and how the new building would fit in.

Corner of South 13th Street and Russell Boulevard, looking west

Corner of Russell Boulevard and Gravois Road

I walked the site to get a better perspective on how this will fit in with its surroundings. It'll be impressive, filling in a big chunk of real estate with a nice new use.

The demolition of the cinder block laundry facility was well underway on my first visit:

The historic brick building on the east and west of the former laundry facility remain. Here's a look north at the loading dock which is now gone:

To my eye, the only loss of character will be the small single story brick building at the corner of S. 13th and Russell.

The demo appears to be complete as of publishing, so I presume the home along the south side of the 13th Street alley and the home near the I-55/Gravois ramp will remain.

As of publishing, the site is completely cleared and ready for the next steps.

This project is a clear win for Soulard and St. Louis as a whole. I look forward to watching this one move forward in 2017.

Pontiac Square Park (With Updates From November, 2016)

Pontiac Square Park (With Updates From November, 2016)

The park was placed into ordinance in 1908 and is bordered by 9th Street to the east, Ann Avenue to the north, 10th Street to the west and Shenandoah Avenue to the south.  It is located in the Soulard Neighborhood. A one-acre park seems perfect for this location and there are densely packed homes surrounding the park, giving it a private, neighborhood-y feel.

Aboussie Park

Aboussie Park

What this park does provide is an area to walk the dog, a place to sit/rest and a small set of trees and shrubs to attract birds and other small wildlife.  One thing you can't help but notice while walking in the park was the smells of coniferous trees and perennial flowers meshing with the smells of barley from the ABI brewery...another great organic truly unique to this part of town.  The narrow strip of land is too small for building, so this park seems a very appropriate use of this space.

The park has several nice benches and logically placed trash cans.  There are bike racks to secure your bike (although I'm not sure why, as the park is so small you could see your bike from anywhere in the park).

The Soulard Neighborhood

The Soulard Neighborhood

Without a doubt, Soulard is one of St. Louis' greatest neighborhoods.  It's a prime example of quality structures weathering the storms of both mother nature and changing human behavior patterns.  The neighborhood was severely battered by a cyclone in 1896...

We almost lost it to suburban flight too, as it was a straight up slum in the 1970's.  It's just a prime example of what the power of successful rehabbing of original structures can do for the city and makes a desirable/historic place for people of all ages to enjoy for generations to come.