Several months after TriStar Imports, a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Ellisville announced its intention to abandon a stretch of strip malls and other dealers to build a “uniquely urban” dealership just south of Forest Park, nextSTL has a first glimpse of what the project may look like. The 45,000 sqare foot showroom would front Clayton and Hampton avenues, with inventory and additional parking located behind the new building.
The project would be the most urban car dealership in the region, since Mini of St. Louis left Clayton last year for a more suburban development adjacent to the Sunnen MetroLink station. A two-story showroom would front Clayton Avenue and the building would wrap the Clayton and Hampton corner. Service bays, detailing and employee parking would be on a lower parking level, with 273 spaces at-grade for inventory and customer parking. Unfortunately the “rendering” appears to not be site-specific, but an image of a similarly styled dealership.
The vast majority of parking appearing on one level at-grade is the greatest missed opportunity of the development. The street-facing showroom is excellent, but as with neighboring developments, such as the proposed 276-unit Cortona apartments, the development focus is inward, failing to add to the secondary streets. The only remaining historic residential buildings in the area will face an expansive TriStar parking lot (and more parking for Cortona). The buildings currently face a lot dotted with defunct satellite dishes. With the large Highlands development, this site and the zoo’s purchase of Forest Park Hospital, the area could have benefitted from comprehensive planning that would have set the stage to take advantage of development opportunities over time.
Regardless of missed opportunities, after 15 years the city of St. Louis appears to be getting its Mercedes-Benz dealership back. For much longer than that, the center of wealth in the region has been moving west, far west of the city. But while the last Census showed the city losing another 29,000 residents (and the county losing residents as well), those residents remaining were better educated and wealthier. TriStar moved from downtown at 2222 Market to its current location in 1997.
TriStar has proposed a $13.2M project, including $10.35M in private financing, a $2.3M TIF and $275K each from a Community Improvement District (CID) and Transportation Development District (TDD). The CID would be funded by a 1% tax on car parts. While sales tax on automobile purchases are paid where the vehicle is registered, service transactions and other purchases will add to city tax revenue. Employees will be subject to the city’s 1% earnings tax, as well. The dealership will employ approximately 60. The site was home to KTVI-TV until 2008. Construction could begin as early as April 2013.