Half-Million Square Foot, 5-Building Science Development Next for Cortex

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If plans come to fruition, more than half a million square feet of science and technology space will replace the current site of U.S. Metals & Supply within the Cortex district. The nearly seven-acre site would be home to a total of three new technology buildings as well as a smaller retail building and a large parking garage.

The site encompasses the entire block between Wexford Science & Technology’s @4240 building and Sarah Street along the south side of Duncan Avenue. The region’s first Ikea, announced late last year, is being built a block to the east.

The development will replace a current U.S. Metals and Supply manufacturing factory. The site plan shows the area cleared and rebuilt, apparently taking the U.S. Metals office building fronting Sarah as well. The City’s TIF Commission recently approved a $4.2 million tax incentive to purchase and demolish that facility.

{the U.S. Metal & Supply site shown outlined in yellow}

Of the proposed new construction, Building 1 will be a five story 200,000sf structure with first floor retail fronting Duncan. Buildings 2 and 3 will also be five stories, and 151,250sf each. Building 2 will also have first floor retail facing Duncan. The three buildings will be connected. An 11 story, 2,450-space parking garage with facilities for cyclists will sit against the light rail tracks at the back of the site. A new MetroLink station is planned for the southwest corner of the site with access from both Sarah and Boyle Avenues.

CORTEX has largely followed the land use plan produced several years ago (below), but this project would be significantly larger than initially planned. Once earmarked for 340,000sf and 1,100 jobs, square footage has increased by nearly 50 percent, and the 2,450 parking spaces allude to significantly more jobs. The garage wouldn’t be particularly convenient as a park-and-ride facility.

The sale of the property closed in December. City records list the owner as Wexford Science and Technology of Baltimore, Maryland. Wexford developed the @4240 property next door. That building is leased to near capacity with strong demand. Given the amount of space and parking involved, Wexford is expecting several thousand new jobs.

{Wexford’s @4240 building}

It is unknown whether they have a single large client in mind or (like next door) numerous smaller clients. Until a public announcement is made, plans could fuel speculation as to what technology company or companies are planning for several thousand new research and technology jobs in St. Louis.

The location, in the heart of Cortex, next to Wexford, Cambridge Innovation Center, Saint Louis University and the Washington University School of Medicine, hospitals, as well as Ikea and on a MetroLink light rail station, is proving to be one of the region’s best magnets for new jobs and development. Cortex is establishing a history of quickly completing projects once public.

From the Cortex website: Since inception, Cortex has completed or has under construction 1 million square feet of new and rehabilitated space totaling $350 million of investment and generating 2,500 technology-related jobs. A new Interstate 64 interchange and public park together with streetscape improvements will be completed by April 2014. When fully implemented, the Cortex master plan projects $2.1 billion of construction, over 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development (research, office, clinical, residential, hotel, and retail), a new MetroLink light-rail station and 13,000 permanent technology-related jobs.

The U.S. Metals & Supply office would not remain:

The Ikea is being built a block to the east of the project site:

A somewhat dated overall land use plan for Cortex:

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

    Sad to see that little office building go (people are going to need to eat — how about a cafe!), but recognize it’s leaving for something bigger and better.

    The hits keep on coming. Go Cortex!

    • moe

      This building would be a great location for a restaurant. Much like King Louie was in it’s day just a few blocks over. It’s a shame to raze it.

      • John R

        I was thinking a bar/restaurant called The Lab…. today’s high-tech workers stepping back into time with a cool interior focused on innovations of the Thomas Edison era.

        • STLEnginerd

          Umm thats a freaking amazing idea. If not here then that place need to be somewhere. I know the trends in upscale dining is to use more tech in cooking, like liquid nitrogen and vacuums. I don’t think going too upscale will work here but it is food for thought in keeping with your theme.

          As for the building I’d rather them try to keep it and with Wexford doing such a great job preserving @4240, they might at least be worth approaching with the question.

        • samizdat

          You mean the Nicola Tesla era, right? Good idea though. That little Empire Brewing office will be sorely missed. Rather stupid to demolish one of the last unique and interesting buildings in the area.

  • PeterXCV

    Where is U.S. Steel going to go? It seems like a real shame to me to demolish one of the few still operating factories in the city of St. Louis.

    • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

      I was wondering the same as I thought that the steel mill was still operating.

    • Presbyterian

      Not sure. They have a facility of some sort in Madison, IL. They did receive a very large check to relocate, though.

    • tpekren

      I believe they are going to O’Fallon, MO in part to riverfront/barge access. Trinity, a pipe manufacturer, is also located in O’Fallon, MO and it has benefited their business to have the river access to be able to move finished & heavy, over sized pipe products to clients.
      .
      I believe it is US Metals – a locally based fabricator. They are independent of US Steel

    • T-Leb

      My comment seems to have been deleted, or I never posted it. The business is actually Custom Steel Processing, they lease space from Magnesium Elektron in Madison, IL, that building is old, still has DC power, overhead cranes so old they moved/made tank turrets during WW2. If they are building a new building in O Fallon that is news to me, I will check it out.

  • Hannah

    How big will that retail building be?

    • Presbyterian

      Looks like around 5,000 s.f. Not sure whether it is multi-story. At worst, it’ll be an Applebees. At best, it’ll be the GoogleStore outside the entrance to Google’s new St. Louis tech center. I suspect something in between. :-)

      • Presbyterian

        Actually, looking at the size, it’s about the side of the old Factory Office on Sarah. This may be a long-shot, but perhaps they would rebuild that facade facing Duncan? I’m not holding my breath, just noting the option.

        • imran

          Great idea.
          We should write to Wexford and suggest that. It would be awesome.

          • STLEnginerd

            http://stlouispatina.com/u-s-steel-building-old-empire-brewery/

            Some interesting info on the little building. Is there any chance they’d entertain an option to save this building. I drew up a little alternative site plan that shifts Building 2 and Building 3 to the west which both spared the building but also opened up the corner for a second retail building. It seems like they would loose 10 – 15 surface lots or the green space to make it happen but I think it would be worth it.

        • STLEnginerd

          That would be awesome. I was trying to think of a way to politely ask them to change their site plan and rehab the offices into their proposed retail. It really is a nice little building.

          Obviously it would not be worth rejecting the plan for that reason.

      • jhoff1257

        Can you tell us more about this Google Tech Center? This is not something I’ve heard of yet.

        • Presbyterian

          Just a dream, probably. Rumor floated a year ago that Google wanted to move a lot of tech jobs here.

  • jhoff1257

    Great news. Not too sure I like the 11 story parking garage though. How about a 2-4 story garage above ground and place a few levels below grade? I’d rather show off the awesomeness of CORTEX from the MetroLink then hide it behind yet another monster of a garage.

    • Presbyterian

      Until we see building elevations, we won’t know exactly what is planned. I can say that an 11-story parking garage is around 100 feet in height, while a five story laboratory is around 80 feet in height. If a level or two of parking is below grade, these buildings may all be the same height.

      Given the great design Wexford and CORTEX have shown so far (@4240’s interior, Solae/DuPont, etc), I’m less concerned than I would be elsewhere. I’m also glad the garage faces the tracks and retail faces the street. Again, though, the renderings will tell us more.

      • jhoff1257

        Agree totally. I’d still be happy with this if it gets built as is and much prefer the garage to be along the LRT line. Still think 11 stories is a bit much though.

    • T-Leb

      Ever seen those railcars with the radioactive symbol on them on the rails though StL?

      • Alex Ihnen

        Yes, but not yet on a MetroLink line.

      • jhoff1257

        I see those in every city I visit. Especially here in Kansas City. But never on the Metro line…

        • Guest

          I guess those tracks are a few blocks further toward downtown.

    • Alex Ihnen

      With as much time, money, and breath as WU/BJC has spent on the CWE stop – moving it, covering it, etc., it would seem they might want something other than a massive garage staring at MetroLink passengers. Then again, there’s little evidence that they thing parking garages are a visual blight. They could, in theory, provide some kind of wall, design on the garage, something to present an interesting visual arrival. We can hope.

      • jhoff1257

        I noticed in the image with the IKEA site plan they have the Metro station nearly all the way down to Sarah. If the station were to be placed near or at Boyle the station would look out onto the new CORTEX Commons or at the very least @4240 instead of the parking structure. Have the plans changed? Is Sarah the location of the station now?

        • Alex Ihnen

          Nothing’s changed, as far as we know. There will be access from Sarah and Boyle, with the platform area nearer Boyle. You can see it in some past land use schematics – it’s the orange rectangle atop the MetroLink line very near Boyle:

          • STLEnginerd

            How about putting the Boyle station underground at Boyle. Then exiting Metrolink at Boyle puts you in the new plaza there, and passengers are better protected from the elements and you reduce the traffic impacts of the train which aren’t an issue right now but with thousands of new workers in the area.
            Not a new idea and more expensive than the current plan but much better overall. Then start a study for a new station at Vandeventer based on the development opportunities in the area.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Because traffic really can’t be anticipated to be a practical challenge in this area for a long time (they’re not building dense enough), I really like the at-grade station. It’s an infinitely more inviting and prominent part of the urban landscape. It’ll be covered – one concept below (the glass bubble think center-right) . Being at-grade means no elevators or winding stairs. The Skinker/Big Bend stations look cool, but aren’t as practical to use.

  • rgbose

    11-story parking garage?! What’s the point of the Metrolink station then? I’d rather look at the big blue US Metal than a parking garage!

  • John R

    Pretty amazing growth. Hopefully the industrial jobs are able to be moved over to North RIverfront or somewhere appropriate in Northside Regeneration. It is vitally important to maximize Central Corridor development for the 21 century and it would be great if there were a strategic plan to consolidate heavier industry into areas less likely to see commercial or mixed-use development.

    It also would be nice if a structured garage could also free up the vast surface lot across the tracks that serves the new BJC building…. another building or two could easily go up there along Clayton.

  • jhoff1257

    Anyone know if there is any shot at convincing IKEA to build their store fronting Forest Park and Vandeventer instead of fronting those large surface lots along Forest Park? Or does having the lots along FP allow for future development down the road?

    • Randy Johnston

      The lots will probably never be built over if they are paved. Not in our lifetimes.

    • Presbyterian

      I seem to recall something about underground infrastructure at the northern end of the Ikea site… somethings that would only be feasible with additional public funds. Can’t recall the details now, but it seemed coonvincing at the time.

      • Dogtown Dude

        It’s not underground parking is parking underneath the raise building. And NO IKEA has made it clear that they have NO interest in fronting FPP.

  • DBLarsen314

    A parking garage adjacent to a future ML station…absolute fail, beyond terrible. If this type of development continues to happen around our light rail system we should be revoked from federal funds for any continued expansion. So happy to see continued growth in this district, but come on! Do we have any standards or aspirations development-wise in this region?

    • Randy Johnston

      Agree that the parking is ridiculous and should not be fronting the potential MetroLink station. I think underground is the only acceptable solution for this site.

      They should rip out the old rail tracks going to the US steel plant and replace them with some kind of pedestrian plaza or something with retail fronting the Metro station. Or perhaps residential above retail. But parking is absolutely unacceptable as shown in the site plan.

      • STLEnginerd

        11 stories underground…? Seriously?

        • samizdat

          Perhaps a portion of the parking under each of the three main buildings. If all of this is research and lab space anyway, it’s not likely that it will fill up to it’s capacity, and indeed, it’s likely that some of the employees will live in the surrounding neighborhoods (Those with a brain, anyway).

          It won’t happen, of course, as the City is still in pathetically desperate suitor mode when it comes to any and all development, even in this area, which seems to be commanding a some demand. It’s funny, really. The City has products in demand: land, an intelligent and educated workforce, in addition to financial incentives to build here, and yet they refuse to believe that the consumers of this “product” would be willing to go a little further in the care with which they take in designing the site and the attendant structures. The City is a patsy (as usual).

          • Dogtown Dude

            Is this the city’s call or is it CORTEX? I wasn’t aware that the city has any say so in the master plan of CORTEX? Or did St.Louis City take over CORTEX? Or are you fully aware of which you speak? Please explain…

  • Geoff Whittington

    Great job Pres. I have been trying to find out more about a BJC garage project similar to this in size and location. I was told the garage site will be Forest Park Ave. and 40. I now believe this is the same project. If so, last I heard, Brinkmann, KCI, Paric, and Tarlton were shortlisted. Though the ACW Alliance triumvirate is said to be excluded from bidding the job; I hear Concrete Strategies (Clayco) has teamed with Paric. Last I heard KCI was the favorite.

  • T-Leb

    Someone try to convince me why a giant parking garage is not needed? Where would 2K plus employees live that would allow them to ride metrolink or ride a bike? To my knowledge, there is not nearly enough housing to support that, at least at this moment in time. Park and ride from somewhere else? The easiest way is to actually live in Illinois and park and ride.

    • Geoff Whittington

      Maybe BJC employees could use the garage and take metrolink to Big Barnes. A decade of construction coming up. Just a thought.

    • rgbose

      Wellston

    • John R

      Lots of housing is nearby enough to be convenient for bike. And more downtown and Clayton units are coming online for Metrolink convenience. But I don’t have a big problem with the garage.

    • Dogtown Dude

      Where would people live that would ride a bike to work or the metroLink? Really? You do know that this is in the middle of the Central West End, Forest Park Southeast and Midtown, right? Are you aware that this is about 2-4 blocks from huge amounts of apartments, condos and homes? Do you know that more are being built AS WE DISCUSS THIS? Maybe I don’t understand your position here? Please explain….

      • T-Leb

        If you can get all of the 2K potential Cortex employees to live within metro or bike distance, you are able to do something the City of StL cannot and never will be able to do. We do not have planned economy. People can live wherever they want, and they tend to locate outside of StL City. Further, if you actually shop for an apartment or condo or loft or home in that area, you realize quickly that the current situation might not meet your personal needs/wants/desires or particular property management… that’s why the “at least at this moment in time” Further, one must appreciate that StL weather is hot and cold… wet or humid most of the year. Good luck getting bank loans for development without certain amounts of particular infrastructure. These are all kind of known knowns, that’s why I ask someone to convince me it is not needed.

  • rgbose

    Any plans for the little railway building across Sarah? I see it’s missing from the CORTEX land use plan. I can’t make out what the sign says on the building. Does any one know?

    • Presbyterian

      I love the tower of that building. The city owns it. However, it appears that alderman Joe Roddy just introduced legislation authorizing a city quit claim on that parcel. The result is to convey ownership to CORTEX. I suspect demolition, given the building’s absence in the master plan.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Use to dream of it as a MetroLink Station. :(

      • rgbose

        And replace it with a few trees?! Shameful. Might make a great breakfast coffee place for workers arriving.

        • John

          TREES? Seriously?! No, it should BE something!

  • JR in C-U

    Why don’t they be the first place to put the parking lot *under* the structure, saving money on square acreage for the lot and getting the store front back up to the roadside where it can be the most inviting? You think the first company to do that won’t instantly get a boost in customer visits? No yeah, cuz driving into a well-lit safe covered parking area with direct access to the store without being rained on would totally not be something consumers would appreciate.. totally..

    …man i sound bitchy though, anyway, it’s a thought

    • Tom

      The Target at Hampton/Chippewa and the Best Buy and Sports Authority at Eager/Hanley both have underground parking. It’s a great idea. Alas, it most likely costs less to buy square acreage than it does to excavate and build an underground garage in the area they are putting this building.

      • STLEnginerd

        well depends you can do one story of parking underground fairly reasonably. 11 stories would be insane. Plus the building would have to be designed structurally as a 15 story building instead of a five story building. Essentially every story underground is the same as a story above ground.

        The garage is against the metro link tracks is exactly where a garage should be. Metrolink track are not and should not be a retail corridor, and i doubt too many people want have the tracks out their window, so yes garage makes total sense. Not only that but it was clearly defined that way in the CORTEX Masterplan. That isn’t a surprise at all so why the shock.

        11 stories may be overlarge but if the developer is overdoing it, They could theoretically use the excess for adjacent developments. to share parking with adjacent developments.

        • Geoff Whittington

          Nice insight regarding underground parking.

      • tpekren

        Can understand your point, but having parking for 500,000 sqf for retail box store must be very different for office/labs/etc. Thus, their is difference in depth or how deep you need to go and cost. At end of day, you have to find a compromise if you want to see St. Louis/CORTEX become a national bio science center. One compromise is enough parking for the majority of the employees who will want it.

  • Matt

    Only in St. Louis will you have 5-story office buildings and an 11-story parking garage. I get that parking is needed, but this seems a bit ridiculous.

    Newest Cortex rendering?

    • Mathew Chandler

      I totally agree with you Matt. the parking garage size sounds unnecessary especially if it is not mixed use. But because it will sit against the metro and include a new station i wonder if it will also be used for parking for the metrolink station Which currently only a few offer parking facilities. i am tired of seeing mass amounts of parking which are not needed, and saint louis is not the only city to do this. they mention facilities for bicycles, i wonder how much SQ-FT will be dedicated to bicycles out of the “11 story, 2,450-space parking garage”

  • ABW

    That’s not the US Metals office, that is the office of the former Empire Brewery that sat on the site in the 19th century. The terra cotta lion heads represent the lion mascot of the brewery. Certainly a use could be found for such a unique little building. Perhaps it could be moved?

    • Presbyterian

      Got it. You’re right. Thank you!

  • 3000tvjobs

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  • Presbyterian

    “Tom Osha, managing director of innovation and economic development at Wexford Equities, said Cortex is in negotiations with two Fortune 100 companies to set up shop in the Cortex innovation district in Midtown.”

    –St. Louis Business Journal April 11, 2014

    http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/blog/biznext/2014/04/mckelvey-st-louis-should-double-down-on-life.html

  • Presbyterian

    Goat314 posted this rendering. Not sure its provenance or date… but it does seem similar to the site plan from March.

    • Presbyterian

      Gotta love the high rise hotel in the top right corner. ;-)

      • John R

        This is from the TIGER grant proposal just submitted to the Feds so I suspect it is quite recent and reflective of Wexford’s and Cortex’s current planning. If no Metrolink stop, substitute more parking garage space.