Mercedes to Return to St. Louis City After 15 Years

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Tri-Star Mercedes

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 Shrewsbury 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.

TriStar
{the TriStar Mercedes-Benz dealership would anchor the Hampton/Clayton intersection}

Picture1

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.

Picture3

Picture2

Fullscreen capture 12102012 11517 PM
{project side is near the southeast corner of Hampton and I-64}

Fullscreen capture 12102012 22435 PM.bmp
{existing historic residential development on Oakview will continue to lack new urban context}

The Highlands - St. Louis, MO
{proposed Cortona development at the Highlands looks inward instead of adding to existing streets – Oakview Place at left}

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  • Presbyterian

    I do think this will be a net plus for the city. If I’m reading the plans correctly, it appears that the Oakview apartments will face the lower level of the parking garage. That will give the street more urban form / definition than it has now. Hopefully they will include street trees and landscaping.

    I do appreciate the way they have defined the edges of the site, building out to the sidewalk on 3-1/2 sides … even if it is built out with a fifteen-foot high parking garage along much of that edge. If I’m interpreting correctly, the only side that will see at-grade surface parking is the edge abutting Hardees.

    Renderings of the actual structure (parking included) will give us a better sense of the design. To me, this project seems a little more sensitive to the urban context than the Cortona. But I agree that some intentional urban design guidance could have helped these various projects contribute to a common vision for the neighborhood.

    • Alex Ihnen

      It is a bit challenging to visualize, but my reading is that the larger parking surface (273 spots) will be at street level, appearing to be a surface parking lot, and that the 90 lower level spots, service area and employee parking will be below grade.

      • Presbyterian

        If so, that would be disappointing. Really disappointing. Does anyone know how much the grade changes toward the back of that site? The garage shows basement entrances off of Oakview and Berthold. Hopefully that means the back of the site has a significantly lower grade. If the parking reads as structure, the result will be far better than if it reads as a sea of asphalt.

        Here’s hoping for renderings.

      • bchao524

        I don’t think the parking will be below grade on Berthold or Oakview. Looking at the site plans you provided, the lower level of the parking garage has two at-grade entrance/exits on both of those streets. Thus, there should be some building height along those roads.

        • Alex Ihnen

          I see – you may be right, though any building height to the east and south would be a parking structure facing the street.

  • Kyle Steffen

    I am actually not worried about the look of the facade facing Hampton. I think that Mercedes would have a design that they like to use and put their brand on, and I’m sure its not faux brick and stucco. Although as I’m typing this, I realize that the current Tri-Star IS faux brick

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.ireland.5439 Brian Ireland

    If Mercedes wanted to relocate to St. Louis City from Ellisville and believed it would be good for business, they should have financed the move themselves. Giving tax incentives to Mercedes, or any other corporation, is bad policy.

    • T-Leb

      I’d rather give it to TriStar than Walmart…