Webster University to Occupy 54,000sf in Restored Arcade Building

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The Arcade Building - St. Louis, MO

Webster University has officially announced it will occupy 54,000sf in the long vacant Arcade Building in downtown St. Louis, naming the space the “Webster University Gateway Campus”. The 20 year lease beginning in 2016 was key to moving the massive $116M project forward.

At 538,000sf, the Arcade (actually the Wright and Arcade buildings combined), is one of the largest buildings downtown. Vacant for years, the building will also feature 282 apartments, including 80 market rate units on upper floors and 202 subsidized artist lofts.

The Arcade Building - St. Louis, MO

The June 3 announcement ends a long and uncertain odyssey for the Arcade. Dominium Development of Minneapolis agreed to buy the building from the city for $9M this past year. Pyramid Construction owned the empty building since 2001 and once planned a renovation including condos and retail before folding in 2008.

Webster University was instrumental in the restoration of the Old Post Office across the street from the Arcade. The school signed on as a significant tenant to sign prior to the restoration. Originally seeking 50,000sf, the university signed a lease for 32,000sf in 2004. Webster’s lease at the Old Post Office runs through 2019, according to the school’s website.

The Arcade Building - St. Louis, MO

In St. Louis, Dominium has completed the Washington Avenue Apartments, Leather Trades, Metropolitan Artist Lofts, and others projects. Ebersoldt + Associates is designing the Arcade’s renovation, while Trivers Associates is managing the Webster project and Paric Corporation is serving as general contractor.

The Arcade will create a far larger presence in downtown for the university known for its global reach. The $6.1M project consists of 12 classrooms, 2 computer labs, an art museum, a 175 seat auditorium, 25 private offices, a café and 38 underground parking spaces.

The Arcade Building - St. Louis, MO

The Arcade Building - St. Louis, MO

The Arcade Building - St. Louis, MO

The university announced that it would offer its master’s in Cybersecurity, MBA and other business courses, classes for first responders, and Webster’s undergraduate degree completion program, at the Gateway Campus. Other proposed programs and activities being considered, according to the school, include an art museum and a downtown lecture and performance series.

Institutional investment is seen as key to a vibrant downtown. Saint Louis University moved its Law School from its Midtown Frost Campus to downtown last year. Elsewhere in the city, Washington University continues to expand its medical campus, and the University of Missouri’s St. Louis Public Radio recently moved into a new home in the city’s Grand Center arts district.

Downtown neighborhood - STL{the Chemical Building is the last large vacant building facing the Old Post Office}

From Webster University: The Arcade building is actually two buildings that were joined together approximately a century ago. The first building, the 18-story Wright Building, was completed in 1906. Then in 1919, the Arcade Building was built around the Wright Building with 14 stories on one side and 16 stories on the other, and the two were joined together. The keystone to this complex was the building’s two-story vaulted arcade which extends from Pine and Olive Streets and was used as one of the first indoor shopping malls in the United States.

When construction began, excavation of the site uncovered quicksand; pilings had to be sunk 50 feet into the ground to hold the building up, and extra floors were added to cover the higher construction costs. The entire project cost $3.5 million, $1 million above the original estimate. The building was supposed to have basement access to the railroad tunnels which pass by it; however, smoke from steam locomotives made this an impractical option. The entryways were sealed and never used. Today MetroLink uses the same tunnels.

For more than a decade, the Arcade Building was listed as the tallest concrete structure in the world. It was written about in “The American Architect” as a significant engineering feat of its day. The entire structure was designated a city landmark in 1980 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Why it’s called the Arcade:

The Arcade Building - St. Louis, MO

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  • DanieljSTL

    Very excited to see how this turns out. Any chance at getting Metrolink to stop at the campus?

    • PRS1

      I was thinking the same thing…but furthermore what is the likelihood of an extension of the Shrewsbury line to connect with the Webster Groves campus? Webster U is land locked, continuing to expand Downtown makes sense, why not connect them via metro? Either way this is great news for Webster U and Downtown.

      • tpekren

        Not likely at all, immense investment for a minimal ridership to extend cross county metrolink to Webster Groves/Webster U. I would suspect that Webster U will most likely have their own dedicated shuttle bus in time which is probably the most cost effective means of getting students between campus as well as a sense of security, perceived or not, for its students. Which would be fine with me, the region has precious transit resources that could be better utilized.

        I’m also curious how many student will opt to live downtown once the campus is up and running even though the majority of their classes will be in Webster Groves.

        • PRS1

          Webster U is 1.6 miles from the Shrewsbury metro, maybe other forms of transit are more viable. With the University and the Old Orchard business district I think some transit connecting with metro would be a great idea. It also appears there aren’t any bike paths connecting Webster to metro. Anyway, just wishful thinking.

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

            Yep. A student can get to the Metorlink if he/she needs to. Webster should provide shuttle service to Shrewsbury, at the very least. It would be beneficial though, if the line did continue on to Webster…just not sure it could/would happen now.

          • tpekren

            The long term vision for Webster Groves transit service should a commuter line using the current UP trackage and follow the same route as Amtrak’s River Runner. You got potential to establish a commuter rail line from Pacific, MO to Alton, IL.
            .
            I wish the county would prioritize the metrolink cross county extension from Shrewsbury to I-55 and drop the South County road connector.

          • Luftmentsch

            The #56 bus, which connects the Webster campus to Shrewsbury, is wonderful, and the University gives free Metro passes to students, faculty, and staff. It’s also very easy to ride a bike to Sunnen Station (though it was easier before the insane redo). The problem is one of perception: students are mostly scared of Metro. Faculty are too stuck on their cars to try. That pretty much leaves low-wage staff and crazy people like yours truly.

      • pat

        Webster Groves voted against initially expanding Metrolink into the area during the cross-county extension. I highly doubt they’ve changed their miinds since then.

      • John R

        Ideally we’d have commuter rail that would bring folks from Eureka, Kirkwood and Webster to downtown. Folks in KC are working on a commuter rail line… but then again their downtown is actually growing jobs and ours not so much. Thanks Feds!

    • Alex Ihnen

      The 8th & Pine station downtown is literally at the new Webster campus doorstep.

      • DanieljSTL

        Just looked at the map… They literally couldn’t be any closer, even if they opened up the old doorways.

        • John R

          That’s where the café will be located.

  • Randy

    WUSTL should follow SLU and Webster (and even Lindenwood) and create some sort of downtown presence. This also underscores the urgency of getting the CWE-downtown Streetcar up and running sooner rather than later and expanding Metrolink in the city in this decade.

    • mc

      CWE-Downtown Streetcar is urgent. However, Metro urgently needs a new line that runs North-South.

    • tpekren

      Definitely agree that the streetcar up and running is number one transit priority considering the political will of the county to do anything meaningful with metrolink and is a loan to Metro as a means to pay off current cross county extension bonds
      .
      However, I think it would be much more beneficial to build a new and an expanded Forest Park Community College that focuses on IT and advance manufacturing downtown or either the riverfront or immediate north side.
      .
      I think WUSTL huge investment in CWE is already big for the city and don’t see where they benefit from a downtown campus since they decided to build out its business and engineering programs on campus. I think that UMSL committing public radio in Grand was the right move and hopefully they will continue to promote a stronger art and culture presence. To me, you really need to focus on jobs downtown to really get a decent or reason for a decent business school downtown, private or public.

      • John R

        I agree with you on the benefits of making a major commitment to a downtown Saint Louis Community College Campus. The Forest Park campus is dated, lacks strong transit connections, and is positioned in an area with high mixed-use development potential. If a deal could be swung to allow for a flagship Saint Louis Community College downtown with excellent facilities and expanded enrollment (with the extra benefit of more mixed-use in the Highlands) that would be a huge step forward for the region.

    • John R

      Yes, now that we have Billikens and more Gorloks locked in, we need some Bears and Saints and Tritons and Highlanders and Hornets downtown! And let’s not forget we’re getting a significant presence from AT Still’s new dental school close to downtown in the Georgian complex.

  • mc

    Great news for Downtown St. Louis! We’re coming back! Slowly but surely. Proud to be from STL.

    As Randy said, hope WASHU and Lindenwood follow suit. Perhaps even Maryville. Will be great to see young blood fill the streets of downtown and make it vibrant again.

    • Mike F

      Sadly, if Maryville decides to come back to the City–at least in part–they will not be able to move into the space they once occupied on Meramec Avenue here in Dutchtown, as it’s occupied by a Postal Service facility and a nondescript, suburbanesque apartment complex.

      Shame, really, as Dutchtown could use a large, strong anchor.

  • Presbyterian

    Depending on how they do it, the museum could bring street level interest. So could the cafe.

    I do hope the arcade area is kept open to the general public and not staffed by a security guard whose sole job is to keep people away. The space itself invites people to walk through and asks to be treated as such.

    • John R

      I agree. Fortunately, it looks like the café will have an entrance on Pine and 8th (right by Metrolink!) and the Art Museum fronting Olive should be accessible as well.

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

      Sadly, it sounds like the arcade level(s) will be for Webster offices and classrooms.

      Doesn’t necessarily mean the Arcade will be closed off to the public though. Used to carpool in with some 9-5 relatives, but my job didn’t start until 11am. At OPO, I’d go to the Webster lounge in the sub-levels every other day or so just to read/relax/waste time/etc.

      I’d really love it if Webster/Metro opened up platform access directly into the building. Lock the doors at 5-5:30 and then people just exit/enter at street-level as normal.

  • John R

    Didn’t see it mentioned, but Webster says that their space will accommodate up to 1,000 students… I’m sure that will not be right off the bat, but along with staff I’d think we’d be looking at 500 people or more to start. Not bad!

  • Daron

    How many sq feet did they already have downtown? How much of an increase is this? Are there overtures to maybe demolishing the chemical building for a tall parking garage with a red one brick thick facade?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Webster signed a lease for 32,000sf in the OPO in 2004. The school had originally stated it was looking for 50,000sf. The numbers have been added to the story. To your last question: Ha.

    • DanieljSTL

      The Bunge logo would look nice atop the Chemical Building.

      • John R

        that would mean the upcoming 120 residential unit project fell through… but atop the Laclede Gas Building would be lovely!

      • Hasan

        Bunge would never go in the Chemical or 720 Olive (Laclede bldg). Chemical has smaller floor plates than 720 Olive and both not very efficient for large, modern office user.

        • John R

          Interesting about the 720 Olive Building. I saw a report that there are inquires from developers to convert the Laclede Gas Building to residential, and if it is dated for office that makes even more sense. Hopefully at least part of the street-facing first floor can be used for quality retail. Any insight into possible future for the building? Sits in a nice location.

          • Hasan

            I saw those reports as well; I haven’t seen a marketing flyer though. It’s not that 720 is “dated for office”, it’s actually perfect for office users, just not large ones. The floor plates are 12k sf. Bunge would need to take 15 floors for their HQ; no one wants to be spread out like that.

            Believe it or not, DT needs more office.

          • John R

            Thanks for the insight. I’ve heard that we need more modern, flexible space. I think that lack was part of the reason cited by one of the law firms that hopped over to Clayton. Perhaps if we could get a large firm to commit to being the anchor for a new (modest) tower, we could get some other firms to locate as well. Hopefully it would be more than just musical downtown chairs though and draw from outside.

          • stldoc

            Time for a Ballpark Village office tower?

  • MiguelTejada82

    Hold the phone. That math doesn’t add up. 54,000 sqft, plus another 280,000 sqft (assume avg 1000 sqft/unit) equals 320,000 sqft. What’s occupying the other 200,000? Can’t be retail alone.

    • Nathan Bookhout

      I would imagine not all 282 apartments are 1000sqft. I’ll bet the 80 market rate units will be two even three beds and quite large. Those will be some floorplans I am looking forward to seeing.

      • MiguelTejada82

        I said average. A lot of those subsidized artist lofts aren’t going to be bigger than 800 sqft, with a few studios in the 600 range I imagine.

  • illusion87

    Awesome! Go STL!

  • Sandy LaRouche

    My husband, an adjunct prof at Webster for 23.5 years and I are hoping to rent one of the artist’s spaces. He is a photographer and I am a writer. We look forward to the intellectual stimulation that comes with university involvement. We can hardly wait and the day they say they are taking applications we will be there.

    • matimal

      An adjust for 23 years! How are you able to live on such low pay and with so little control of your career?

      • Justin

        Many adjunct faculty have others jobs and just teach a class or two on the side because they enjoy it.

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