Aventura Developer to Break Ground on Six Townhomes at Chouteau/Tower Grove in FPSE

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Grove TownhomesDeveloper Above All Development is set to break ground on six rental townhomes in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood, commonly known as The Grove. According to a posting by the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation. The two bedroom, two bath units will meaure 1,332 square feet and rent for $1,500.

Stated amenities include a two-car attached garage, a second floor deck, granite counter tops, stainless appliances, walk-in closets, vinyl wood plank flooring throughout, and a washer and dryer in each unit. The development site is a vacant lot on the southeast corner of Chouteau and Tower Grove Avenues. All Above Development is currently completing phase I of Aventura at Forest Park. It had been long rumored that a townhome development on this lot was imminent.

Grove Townhomes
{Chouteau looking east to left, Tower Grove looking south to right}

Grove Townhomes

Grove Townhomes

Grove Townhomes

Grove Townhomes

site
{Aventura phase I in orange – townhomes in yellow – new I-64 interchange/roundabout in blue}

The developer is counting on the continued growth of the nearby medical center and CORTEX projects already underway to drive demand. The townhomes are across the street from the yet-to-be funded Chouteau Park and a block from the new I-64 Tower Grove Avenue interchange which begins construction any day. The townhomes are the third new construction infill project in the neighborhood, following a private residence by UIC and Aventura.

While new construction and new residents are positive for the neighborhood, the apparent design (judging from drawings above) will likely be unpopular with the same people who find Aventura to be a poorly planned suburban development in this historic neighborhood. However, there seems to be very little support among neighborhod residents to introduce form-based code or create a local historic district that would regulate infill design to some extent.

Unfortunately, the current, anything goes-we just need development please, plan allows for disappointing infill. It also allowed for the UIC private residence, but infill guidelines could be written to achieve both. The Grove is changing fast and an incredible amount of character remains, but its fate may still be determined by the quality of infill on the many open sites across the neighborhood.

UIC
{residential infill in The Grove by UIC}

The old restaurant and office building at Chouteau and Vandeventer is being demolished for a QuikTrip. The intial vision for a new Commerce Bank across Vandeventer is awful, and acres of adjacent development await a plan. Then there's the developer's vision to demolish 120 residential units at the other end of the neighborhood. The lack of any coherent plan for what is an intact, rather small city neighborhood is appalling. If such a place with incredible potential can both fail and succeed at the same time, The Grove may just be that place.

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  • Olin Graczyk

    Awesome. More shit development. Let’s put a Big Lots next door.

  • matthb

    Keep Austin Weird…
    Make St. Louis Generic

  • ben

    disgusting, straight outta balwin

  • John

    Let’s get together and stop this bullshit. I’m serious. This is something we should be more vocal about and stop at all costs. I won’t sit by and let this happen, not even all the way from Olympia, WA. We have to do something about it. It’s BULLSHIT.

  • kuan

    Honestly, I think the element people might be reacting most strongly against is the facade treatment, which is drawn as vinyl siding. Nobody likes vinyl siding, sure; but, formally, the building appears fine. The rear-placed garages give the building the amenities needed to compete with those provided in suburban alternatives while maintaining a strong(er) street wall that carrier through with the existing buildings’ development line.

    With an improved facade treatment (just up the quality and variation), you actually have a similar model and massing strategy as present in the Lexington Square developments in Chicago sround Donovan Park just East of US Cellular Field (photos are here: https://plus.google.com/101440745748001685719/photos?hl=en and it’s easy to learn more by Googling “Lexington Square Apartments Donovan Park”). These have been wildly successful and, from last I checked in, they completed a second round of development with great success and are considering (or have started) even further development.

    Obviously, a lot of this is contextual, etc. But, my primary point is primarily that the development isn’t necessarily “shit” or “generic.” Rather, it seems to be an opportunity to be leveraged. More constructive criticism of certain elements (i.e. facade treatment) might go a long way towards encouraging the developer (a rookie) to consider some modification. Lord knows, just because something is drawn does not make it set in stone.

    Finally, I’d bring up the memories of public outcry to the proposed demolition of the Del Taco Saucer. Productive projects, such as the work by SPACE Architects, led to a positive change in development strategy. So, while some might argue that “all development isn’t good development,” I would counter with the idea that all development in St. Louis is an opportunity for good development, particularly with the unique level of civic engagement and interest present today.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Yes, some small changes could go a very long way. A flat roof, smart use of paneling and colors, and voila! Nice to see to new curb cuts as well and three stories is good. Yet I think the floor plan is problematic too. It seems only meant to serve as student rentals – perhaps that’s not all bad, but having the street level windows look into the laundry room is silly. This means that the units will add next to nothing to the streescape. Perhaps residents will leave a night light on in the laundry?

      What I really don’t get is that one of the local architecture firms likely would have helped this project for no cost or maybe at cost. The knowledge and ability is literally a stone’s through away and yet those in charge of neighborhood development, permits etc., don’t make any effort to do something unique.

      • kuan

        Alex-

        Agreed on some of the elements of the floor plan. This has to do in part with the depths of the buildings. Not sure what the depth is on the garages, but always there is the possibility that they are oversized? From this vantage point, a lot of criticism in that direction is more speculative than anything for me.

        More importantly, though, are the comments on the local architecture firms. I do agree that such a simple gesture would be effective in having avoided the fairly obvious errors that were made in the published plans and elevations. Conversely, getting architecture firms to work at cost or for free is never a good thing (lord knows the profession is damaged goods enough as it is, no sense in further undercutting its value). Furthermore, oftentimes with these “generic” designs, I assume its the contractor adjusting fairly routine plans with little to no design input (hence the laundry room’s spectacular placement).

        Finally, local knowledge would have suggester or introduces variants that would have increased the cost of the project but been common sense – such as the variation of the “corner-most” unit in the Northwest as it would present a stronger urban corner to present onto Tower Grove which, once the road enhancements and catty-corner park are done, will go a long way towards reinforcing the best qualities of the urban environment.

        But, again, such advice should come at a cost, not pro bono. This is something developers will opt against to shave costs. Thus, the value of a form-based code, to present limitations of goals on the development strategies (or lack thereof), rather than require or hope for architects with good sense behind every development.

        • Alex Ihnen

          I never want to see architects work for free. The point is that form-based code and/or infill guidelines are a real long shot here. And as you say, developers opt against anything that could raise costs. So what’s the solution? Well, when I win the lottery, the nextSTL foundation will front design fees for infill in the city. Until then…maybe WUMCRC could do it…who else?

  • http://twitter.com/dougwmoore Doug Moore

    I prefer the vacant lot. More thought was put into integrating it into the neighborhood.

  • Presbyterian

    Honestly, the general massing and setback are right for the site. The vinyl siding and suburban roof are disappointing. Paint the siding olive green or forest green or chocolate brown or burnt orange-red, though, and it might end up looking okay. I just fear pastel powder-puff vinyl with white trim on a street of red brick.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.kepka.735 Adam Kepka

    If you live in FPSE and are interested in promoting a “form-based code” or a local historic district that would regulate infill design — please contact me! I live in the neighborhood and I’d like to connect with others who are concerned about these issues. If we come together, we may have a stronger voice. Thanks!

    • Adam Woodson

      Hi, Adam!

    • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

      Adam, I am a historic preservation professional who would be happy to lend expertise to the effort. I don’t see why FPSE would not support design guidelines — seems that you and many neighbors want them, and just need to figure out how to get them into ordinance.

  • john w.

    The 3rd floor plan does not show the larger area that was result in the garrison type of overhang that the side elevation is showing.

  • john w.

    …larger than the 2nd floor, that is.