Several WhoLou sources are alleging that highly-coveted Swedish-based furniture chain Ikea intends to develop their first St. Louis store close to the campus of St. Louis University. The 300,000 sq. ft. store will allegedly be built near the Laclede Gas and Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center complexes on Forest Park Ave. between Sarah Street and Vandeventer Ave.
The company has 285 stores in more than 20 countries and designs its own product which is then produced by more than 1,000 suppliers in 50-plus countries. With only 38 stores in the United States boasting an Ikea is regarded by many cities as a retail status symbol. Rumors in St. Louis often take on a life of their own. A store opening that was recently announced for Kansas City is expected to be open by the end of 2014.
The St. Louis store location has been rumored over several years to be a part of numerous area development projects. Most recently Pace Properties attempted to lure Ikea to their Hadley Township development in Richmond Heights near Highway 40 and Hanley Rd. In that case, Pace was unable to aquire all the property needed for the development. An adjacent development for a Menards is proceeding.
Ikea is being represented by Pace in St. Louis. Stephen Heitz, vp of development for Pace, would neither confirm nor deny the allegations. Heitz stated, “Ikea is committed to having a presence in St. Louis but no decisions on a site have been made final.” Via email Ikea U.S. representative Joseph Roth commented, “Ikea has acknowledged that the St. Louis area is large enough to support a store – and that we have many customers there – we have not yet committed to any specific site in, or time-frame for entering the St. Louis area.”
Sources further allege that the location of the store has been a closely guarded secret and despite not receiving confirmation remain confident that this is the area Ikea and Pace are working on developing. According to the Post-Dispatch in July of 2012 an Ikea spokesperson told them and a reporter from Kansas City that there were no plans for stores in their respective cities then announced plans for a Kansas City store that September.
The project would potentially also include major ramp construction off of Highway 40 to ease access to the site according to sources. For reference, the Cincinnati area Ikea in West Chester, OH (Cincinnati) is 344,000 sq. ft., has 1,400 parking spaces and employs 400 people. There is no word on a final site plan, or parking development in St. Louis. Assuming all possible taxes are incurred, the St. Louis store could bring more than $6M in tax revenue to the city. In Kansas City the 22-acre Ikea development is expecting sales of more than $80 million per year.
The St. Louis IKEA would be one of the more urban locations in the US and a big win for the city as the majority of locations scouted have been in St. Louis County. The Forest Park Avenue site would just a couple short blocks from a planned MetroLink station between Boyle Avenue and Sarah Street. The station is being considered as part of the expanding CORTEX science and research district. The development is another leap forward in development momentum for the city's central corridor. Recently, Whole Foods announced a store for the Central West End, the city is regaining a Mercedes dealership after a 15-year absence and several housing developments have been announced.
The area bordered by Forest Park, Vandeventer, Duncan and Sarah measures approximately 16 acres, the majority of which is owned by Laclede Gas. CORTEX owns several adjacent parcels to the south. Laclede Gas, located at 720 Olive, has been considering a relocation of their headquarters from downtown. The Post-Dispatch reported in December that the company plans to stay in the city, but is considering constructing a new building on nine acres they own along Forest Park Avenue.
Much in the same way a Whole Foods can be a catalyst for development, providing consumer metrics that lure other retailers and developers, it's expected that an IKEA, and the consumer traffic it generates, would lead to significant development of the surrounding area. A block east, the long vacant Federal-Mogul site has been rumored at the site of a Target store and other retailers in the past. Such efforts could be revived with the IKEA development nearby.
*images below added 7/25/13