Forest Park Avenue between Grand and Vandeventer is going to look waaaay different in the coming months. Some thoughts and opinions on the current state and the near future.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
...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.
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
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.
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:
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.
Mount Pevely now has plants growing out of it. Nature is going to take over the mound of debris that St. Louis University and, the City of St. Louis and specifically,
has left for the property owners, employees, students, residents, patients, tourists and tax payers to enjoy for over a year.
Remember if the city ever cites you for peeling paint on your porch to remind them that the non tax-paying institutions aren't following the rules either.
This is a giant middle finger raised up high in the air over Tiffany, Midtown and the Gate District. Shameful.
This property has been in this condition since April, 2012. I'm sick of it and feel kind of powerless that this stuff continues to happen.
Thanks a lot SLU. Thanks a lot City of St. Louis. Not only did you guys approve a demolition of a building on the national historic registry, you half tore them down, made huge mounds so everyone can see and then left it to sit for nearly a year and a half.
When is enough enough? Is anyone else disgusted by the arrogance of non-profit institutes and the lame City "leaders" that rubber stamp this kind of thing?
I try to stick to the golden rule and "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all". But sometimes you just have to scratch your head, wonder how this can be allowed to happen and speak out that this just can't continue. Mount Pevely devalues the entire area. It's a black eye on the Near South Side.
Remember when Fr. Biondi threatened the city with moving the medical campus to West County? Here's his quote from February, 2012 addressing the
“What I foresee, if you don’t approve our request, is that we would have to shut down our medical school and find property in west county,” noting that 35 years ago, Maryville offered up land for the university to move west. SOURCE
I wonder if West County would have allowed this stop/start/stop tactic? P
Read more history related to this topic here:
Preservation Research Story:
Reviewing all the news stories of 2012 got me thinking about the horrible stuff that unfolded at Penn State University. One of the most vivid memories I will have of that whole incident was the image of the students defending Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, the football program and the University amidst some pretty ugly evidence. Through all that uproar and outrage, I'm reminded of how much a college can mean to a city, state and region as well as to people personally. And how much the actions of one man (Sandusky), or maybe 1 regime (Nittany Lions athletics) can at worse tarnish the reputation of a respected university or at a minimum place an undeniably disgusting/greedy blackspot on the timeline of an historic collegiate sports legacy.
It got me thinking about the intense, blind loyalty or even love some have for their University and everything that it means and represents. From sports teams, to school colors, to the institution itself, Americans generally LOVE their local college/university and sports teams.
I'm not getting that vibe here though. St. Louis, a city of ~318,000 people only has 2 universities. The extremely small Harris-Stowe State University and the much larger and renowned St. Louis University.
Here's a little background on Harris-Stowe:
Harris–Stowe State University is a historically black public university located in Midtown St. Louis, Missouri. Founded in 1857, Harris–Stowe State University is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Missouri. Founded by the St. Louis Public Schools as a normal school, it was the first public teacher education institution west of the Mississippi River and the twelfth such institution in the United States. During most of this period, the emphasis focused on teacher education, however, Senate Bill 153 enacted in 1993 enhanced the mission of Harris–Stowe to include a wider selection of degree opportunities. Harris–Stowe State University was called Harris–Stowe State College until it was renamed in August 2005.
Harris–Stowe State offers over twelve degree programs including: Bachelor of Science in Education, Bachelor of Science in Urban Education, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with specialization areas, Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration, Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Computer Technology with specialization areas. (source)
The second of course is St. Louis University.
Saint Louis University is a private, co-educational Jesuit university located in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. Founded in 1818 by the Most Reverend Louis Guillaume Valentin Dubourg SLU is the oldest university west of the Mississippi River. It is one of 28 member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. SLU's athletic teams compete in NCAA's Division I and the Atlantic 10 Conference. It has a current enrollment of 13,785 students representing all 50 states and more than 77 foreign countries. There are currently 8,406 undergraduate students enrolled in SLU as well as 2,437 graduate students and 2,942 professional students. This year’s enrollment marks the first year that SLU’s enrollment passed 13,000. Of all the students, 59 percent are from out of state. The university provides undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. Its average class size is 23 and the student-faculty ratio is 13:1.
Its Madrid, Spain campus has from 600–650 students, a faculty of 110, an average class size of 18 and a student-faculty ratio of 8:1.
Saint Louis University (SLU) is located on Lindell Boulevard, originally outside the City of St. Louis in an area originally called Lindell's Grove, and is the second-oldest Jesuit college in the nation. The first M.D. degree awarded west of the Mississippi was conferred by Saint Louis University in 1836. (source)
Not too shabby, eh? St. Louis is such an important city when it comes to firsts in American history and westward expansion. We are truly the Gateway to the West and SLU is a part of that amazing American story. A potential source of regional pride if there ever was one.
Other regional universities including McKendree University, Maryville University, Washington University of St. Louis, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Fontebonne University, Webster University, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and Lindenwood University are located outside of St. Louis' boundaries in the suburbs and small towns in Missouri and Illinois.
So for all intents and purposes, SLU is our only major division 1 university in the city and even the region. Washington University in St. Louis has a fantastic global reputation and is a trusted key partner with and
in the East Loop, Barnes-Jewish Medical Complex, Central West End, West End, Forest Park Southeast, Skinker-Debaliviere, and other neighborhoods of St. Louis. Wash U is ranked the
, right between Johns Hopkins (Baltimore, MD) and Brown (Providence, RI)...not bad company, eh? Wash U is essential to our region and have done and continue to do lots of great things for St. Louis even though they are located in University City, Missouri a streetcar suburban city of ~36,000 that abuts the western border of St. Louis. Close, but no cigar (until the region can put aside its differences and just merge like other progressive cities/regions are doing)...Wash U continues to be a leader in the region and employs more people in the city than any other institution.
But back to St. Louis University...
For most of my time in St. Louis, I've lived far from St. Louis University. Living in the farthest reaches of South City, I had such a fondness for SLU as an outside observer. I'd occasionally drive around the Grand and Lindell area and look at that awesome cathedral and the old campus and just think what a beautiful setting for a school. Furthermore, I split season tickets to Billikens basketball games in the Larry Hughes years, and became a big fan of his crossover dribble, Conference USA rivalries with other major urban universities, SLU basketball and the whole college game experience as a result. Since then, SLU moved to a lower-grade conference that is way less competitive and has no local or otherwise rivalries...BORING to most outside of the die-hard fans.
However, I recently moved to a neighborhood much closer to SLU, so I've seen the other side of their campus in much more detail...the medical side mainly in the
Now, I've got to be up front here. I love SLU and want nothing more then for them to do well. I root for them in basketball more than my alma mater. They are now "my team". If all goes as planned, my kids will attend undergraduate university here...and I'd be a proud papa. My wife works for SLU, and she has a great job that she genuinely likes and really enjoys working at a non-profit higher place of learning.
Yet, St. Louis as a whole and especially residents and neighbors around SLU's main and medical campuses seem to be particularly split on SLU as a positive entity in St. Louis. Some are adamantly against the destructive policies as seen near the medical campus in recent years. They are tearing down all the homes immediately surrounding the medical campus. Instead of trying to get medical residents, employees and students living near the hospital, center of advanced dental care, etc...SLU is demolishing homes, leaving more mowed weed fields/grass lawns with "No Trespassing" signs and zero development. There are no communications, no plans revealed to those investing and living around the area, just seemingly mindless destruction and further isolation of the school from the city.
As a recent example, they are closing formerly through streets including Virginia Avenue in the Gate District neighborhood and taking away street parking presumably to guide patients and employees into pay lots that SLU owns. Bye-bye urban street grid, hello fallow acres of nothingness and mowed weeds:
the formerly through Virginia Avenue near Rutger on SLU's medical campus
I'm not the first to make this observation,
than I have
I can't help but feel that SLU will continue its intents to fence off their campus from the surrounding neighborhoods and city. They want no one other than SLU employees, students and associated patrons to be able to access the campus. They are blocking out the residents with fences, no trespassing signs, etc.
Now on the other hand, SLU recently completed a beautiful athletic track for the Track and Field Team. It is not fenced in, and neighbors are allowed to use it. People play soccer in the middle, and walk/jog on the track. It is awesome, has great views of Downtown and is a great place to get some exercise.
Secondly, there is a small garden/chicken farm right at Compton and Caroline maintained by the food sciences dept and the fruit, veggies, grains, herbs and eggs are used by the school and served to employees and students on the medical campus...this cafeteria called
operated by the school's
Department of Nutrition and Dietetics
is AWESOME and my wife brings home great stuff from here, and we buy family and friends reasonably priced fresh bread and spices grown, dried, processed and sold as gifts and cooking supplies. Anything the cafeteria can't produce, they get locally to the best of their abilities. Miller hams, Cherokee street tamales, Missouri/Illinois farmed-raised beef comes from within 150 miles of campus, etc.
They have a summer culinary camp for kids. It's freaking awesome. I would love my kids to ride their bikes to this summer camp.
I mean, wouldn't you love to live close to the campus to walk to work or a soccer game or a basketball game or rock show at the student center? I would. I would love to fly the Billiken flag and be proud, but they seem to not want the citizens and residents of Tiffany, Gate District, Midtown, etc to engage as part of the SLU world...they seem to want to get rid of people and places on the periphery of their campuses.
Furthermore on the negative tip, the recent loss of the Pevely dairy outbuildings and smoke stack (latter of which was listed on the historic register) were destroyed to make way for an ambulatory care extension...that they all of a sudden said, you know what, never mind on all that. And now those that live around here or own property around here have to have passers by witness SLU's abandoned piles of debris as part of their daily lives. Thanks a lot for that. To pour salt in the wounds of those who like historic buildings and cities vs. suburbs, SLU threatened to move to the county if they didn't get to destroy these structures even though they own acres of already leveled, vacant property throughout the city. A slap in the face to this proud city lover and many others.
Ideally, SLU would engage the community in their plans. Most rational thinkers and investors in the area would put up with the lingering mounds of debris and mourn the loss of the Pevely office building and smokestack...but, if they were going to build a shiny new urban building sensitive to the surrounding city, then I would be totally cool with it. If they had a long term plan to build new housing for its residents, students, etc, I'd be all for progress. But that is not how the current administration rolls/rules. Wash U behaves much better in the CWE, they don't leave people hanging, make bullying threats to the city leaders and preservationists alike...they seem to respect the city and want to be part of it and build it up not isolate it and privatize it.
SLU's leadership seem suspect at best from afar. A recent
, Lawrence Biondi, by the faculty and students further erodes my confidence in the institution and its future. Or, maybe this is a sign of brighter days of transparency and community cooperation as opposed to my way or the highway tactics.
I can't allow myself to believe that Biondi or SLU is evil or hates the city it resides in. I just think they are arrogant, ignorant and short sighted. I would like to think that they are trying to improve the campus; but it seems only to the benefit of SLU and not St. Louis. I don't think those currently in charge understand that SLU should be striving to be part of the city and not a fenced off entity who feels
in the city. This is why I think many locals and residents of St. Louis can't fully get behind SLU like other American college towns get behind their school/team. Penn State this ain't. University of Illinois, Butler, Mizzou...forget it, nothing like that.
I'm trying to be reasonable and get on board...but Biondi's regime makes it nearly impossible. I mean look at the beautiful, modern, Canon-designed research building at Grand and Chouteau...it is utterly beautiful and awesome; but they surrounded it with a vast expanse of grass and fountains and fences and dead space that will NEVER add to my city. It's an utter dead zone devoid of anyone...student, resident, employee, anything. An urban moat on the outskirts of a castle.
I am concerned about SLU as a neighbor. I am concerned about them as a University. I am concerned about their reputation. So is the faculty. I want to feel loyal to SLU and be proud of the institution as a neighbor. SLU is a great place, I want nothing for them to succeed and grow and continue to educate and invest. I want my kids to go here...I want them to be responsible and respectful to STL.
SLU, please turn those acres of green pastures into something before you knock down another irreplaceable building. Show us a plan, quit closing down our streets, quit knocking stuff down without so much as a peep as to what is going on. Quit bullying the residents of St. Louis. St. Louis leaders, quit pandering to these bullies...you look cheap and unimaginative and intimidated...weak.
SLU is our greatest historic place of higher learning in the city limits. Please, please engage the community in your future...it can only help build trust, Billiken pride and loyalty to a fantastic historic university. I'm ready to wave that blue and white flag.
Here's to a better future...why not start in 2013.