Drury Hotels considers FPSE/FPSE considers Drury Hotels

Drury Hotels considers FPSE/FPSE considers Drury Hotels

{rendering provided by Drury Development Corporation}

A new Drury Hotel located at the Southeast corner of Interstate 64 and Kingshighway Boulevard would be a substantial net gain for the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood and should be supported by FPSE residents and commercial and political stakeholders.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) will sell a 2-acre parcel cleared by the replacement of the cloverleaf interchange at I-64 and Kingshighway. Drury Development Corporation hopes to build two 16-story hotel towers with 690 total rooms. The project total is estimated to be $100M. St. Louis-based Drury Development Corp. is the parent company of Drury Hotels.

In August 2008 residents of Forest Park Southeast became aware of Drury’s plans for a hotel within FPSE. Though the idea appears to have been only weeks old, Tim Drury and his father agreed to attend an FPSE neighborhood meeting to discuss the development. With more than 100 people in attendance, Tim answered a number of questions regarding the height of the project, vehicle access and more. He was, however, not forthcoming regarding existing buildings slated for acquisition or demolition. Many residents voiced concerns about additional traffic and noise while several expressed tentative support for the project. Absent a cohesive and coherent voice of opposition, the project appears to be moving forward.

A small group of residents have researched whether the MODOT land was ever part of Forest Park and thereby requiring a referendum to approve any use other than parkland. To date this effort has not been successful and it appears that the building site would be located east of what was once the western edge of Euclid Avenue. The option of building further west appears difficult due to this issue.

Access to the site is not easy and the preliminary proposal calls for an entrance on the east side of Kingshighway across from Oakland Avenue on the west. MODOT will not allow an entrance to the site any closer to the I-64/Kingshighway interchange. There would be no vehicle access to the site from the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood including Chouteau, Gibson, Arco, Oakland or Wichita Avenues.

{map shows my own estimation of the project}{orange=hotel towers, red=road/parking, yellow=historic location of Euclid Avenue, green=historic part of Forest Park, gray=new interchange ramps, blue=new footbridge}

The Drury project would add a significant business stakeholder to FPSE. The neighborhood needs additional stakeholders with the desire and responsibility for maintaining infrastructure and safety. With a project this size, the Drury Development Corp. would be the largest potential stakeholder that could be added to the FPSE neighborhood. The hotel should be included in the FPSE CID. This would provide substantial additional funds for security and infrastructure improvement and maintenance.

The development supports a growing quality local company and would add jobs to the city and neighborhood. The majority of jobs at the hotel would be filled with individuals residing nearby. The hotel would provide additional amenities for neighborhood residents with an on-site local restaurant and café. The immediate surrounding area including greenspace the footbridge would be maintained free of trash and debris. Increased foot traffic results in safer streets and additional customers for FPSE businesses such as La Dolce Via, Mia Rosa and others.

Additional noise and light pollution could be a concern and should be addressed through engagement with the developer and include appropriate plantings including green walls, trees and more. The project would in all likelihood provide a sound buffer from I-64 and Kingshighway. The Drury Development Corp. should also consider the purchase and maintenance of single-family homes immediately adjacent to the project as extended stay hotel rooms to serve as a further buffer for homeowners.

Additional foot traffic would likely be concentrated on the footbridge as those staying at the hotel would be visiting the medical campus or exploring Forest Park. Additional foot traffic creates a safer pedestrian environment. Vehicle traffic impact should be minimal as westbound traffic on I-64 cannot exit prior to Kingshighway and after seeing the hotel. Eastbound I-64 traffic will exit at Kingshighway and Kingshighway traffic will have direct access to the hotel. In addition, traffic calming measures in the form of table-top intersections and curb bump-outs should be installed on residential streets within FPSE to control traffic speed and clearly delineate residential from commercial roads.

The height of the proposed buildings has been a concern for some. While one person compared the proposed buildings to Queeny Tower across I-64, this is not an accurate comparison. Queeny Tower is 19 stories, 321 feet tall and twice a long east-to-west as the proposed hotel. More apt comparisons in size exist in the Central West End with the Hawthorne on West Pine at 16 stories and 183 feet and the Congress and Senate buildings on Union at 16 stories and 180 feet.

A significant Drury Inn Hotel would be a great asset to the Forest Park Southeast and CWE Medical Campus. Stakeholders should work with the Drury’s and other political entities to ensure concerns are addressed and a sustainable framework is developed to leverage benefits of the development. The project could be improved upon and the image below shows what I believe to be some significant improvements. To negate the need to acquire and potentially demolish historic homes, the towers should be moved further west. The limiting issue here seems to be the historic boundary of Forest Park. However, the sliver of greenspace between the proposed hotel and the highway interchange is not functional greenspace. Furthermore, the buildings should be moved closer to another to create a more dense, urban footprint and surface parking should be reduced.

{map shows proposed changes to hotel development}


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