Cortex Ready for the Residential Leap, District Eyes Infill, Historic Conversion

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The news keeps coming and coming for the city’s Cortex science district. This past year was headlined by the Ikea announcement, and we recently reported on nearly 500,000 sf of new science and technology space. The one item missing to this point for the nearly 200 acre mixed use district has been residential infill.

The West End Lofts were completed in 2008 in a 1913 Ford Motor Company building, and several residential projects have recently been proposed, or announced near Cortex, including new construction with The Standard and West Pine Lofts, and the converted warehouse of Laclede Lofts. Now it appears residential will be added within Cortex. The surprise is that the Crescent Building appears targeted for residential conversion. In the heart of the Cortex district, converted residential space here would mark a significant shift in development, placing apartments at the center of new medical and research facilities.

{the Crescent Building thought to be targeted for office conversion, but now may see residential development}

Land use plans have long showed ambitious plans for residential development, but specific projects awaited office and research facilities, added jobs that create greater demand. With several completed projects and half a million square feet more on the drawing board, it appears to be the right time to add residents to the mix.

The Silo Lofts project (below) adjacent to the Ikea and the working grain elevators is searching for a developer. Cortex has issued an RFP for the project (below). Interestingly, Cortex is looking to lease the property via a 65-year ground lease with annual rent of $320,000 escalating 2.5% each year. The project would be able to access up to $2M in TIF support, and could be comprised of as many as 300 units. The RFP calls for a mixed use project with “urban character”. A simple massing study has been produced, with a final project not designed.

{massing study showing possible residential infill – Sarah Street & Forest Park Avenue at far left (looking northeast)}

{Crescent Building = light blue, 500K sf science/tech = yellow, West End Lofts = orange, Silo Lofts = green, Ikea = dark blue}

{almost 500K sf of science and technology space will be added just west of the silos at Sarah and Duncan}

{early Cortex land use plans show 1,000+ residential units (in orange and yellow)}

Cortex Silo Lofts RFP – St. Louis, MO 03/2014 by nextSTL.com

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  • samizdat

    It does my heart good to see that the old Post-Dispatch rotogravure printing plant (Crescent) is being reused, whatever its new function may be. Being an old hand as Operator I at the rotogravure press (at another now-defunct St. Louis company), it’s nice to see a historic piece of St. Louis’ printing history saved. Love those gigantic north-facing windows, which are very likely in the press room, as an industrial press of this vintage would have been from 15′ to 20′ tall , due to the fact that it was likely a web press, and to dry the ink at the high speeds this press likely ran (500-1000 FPM), it would need some big ovens. Industrial buildings these days are unfortunately completely sealed off from the outside world, to the detriment, based upon studies, of worker productivity and health. Occasionally catching a breeze while working on a catwalk 10′ in the air (oven level *wipes brow*) on a hot summer’s day would have been a decidedly pleasant experience. (Having said that, all modern rotogravure plants these days are climate-controlled, as it helps maintain print fidelity and paper stability).

    I would favor, however, with regards to the Cortex plan as a whole, that the commercial and the residential were more intermixed, rather than the dominant scenario of apparent sequestration of both on their own separate blocks. It would serve better the desire of all to see this area become a real neighborhood, as would the presence of fewer parking lots/structures.

    • Presbyterian

      CORTEX in practice so far is doing better than their master plan would suggest. They’re seeking a retail-residential mix for the Silo Lofts project. They also include street-level retail along Duncan in the proposed new Wexford technology buildings. Ikea, of course, is a big retail box. No getting around that. :-)

      • samizdat

        Well, as in many things St. Louis, it could be better. As an early critic/skeptic regarding CORTEX, I am pleased to see that the reality seems finally to be living up to a good deal of the hype. I did see the retail, but I suppose the problem I see is the somewhat isolated islands of both retail and residential (don’t they know no man is an island?), and how the nighttime population will ultimately support the retail businesses which go here. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a neighborhood, but the planned district has a long row to hoe in order to get there.

        I suppose the gist of what I’m saying is this: Sure, people will live and work within the district, but will it be a neighborhood?

  • John R

    Crescent is a decent-sized building…. maybe 40 or so apartments?

  • rgbose

    I hope the Silo Lofts ends up being multiple buildings instead of one big monotonous thing.

    • Alex Ihnen

      It’s a large lot and could be very cool with some creativity. Imagine some semi-public space, a small central green space connected to the surrounding neighborhood. Instead, we’re likely to get a Cortona at FP type development that walls off private space.

      • John

        I’ll bet money that block basically ends up being the site of smaller versions of the buildings in the Highlands.

      • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ Kevin Barbeau

        The height/density is waaaaay bigger, but there’s a Near North project in Chicago (near Old Town) whose developers are creating the semi-public park space you mention. The interior edges will be fronted by townhomes, with high-rises holding the corners.

        http://www.fitzgeraldassociates.net/projects/mixed–use/atrium-village.htm

        • Alex Ihnen

          Nice – yes, that’s the idea. Doesn’t it make sense? If you’re building a tech/science district don’t you want space for serendipitous interaction? Otherwise, it’s just the “informal interaction” among fellow residents of the same building advertised by the Cortona.

  • rgbose

    Any chance of saving 4040 Forest Park Ave?

    • Presbyterian

      I suspect someone would have to pay to move it. That house is all that remains of what I assume once was a residential neighborhood.

      • rgbose

        Looks like it was pretty much like it is today there in 1958. I’ll give mad props to any RFP that keeps it. Could put the leasing office in there.