Could Car-Free Residential Work in St. Louis? The Alexa May Turn to Rental With Less Parking

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{aerial view of The Alexa (highlighted)}

We’re getting closer and closer to seeing the first car-free, or at least car-optional, development in St. Louis. While other cities, such as Toronto are exploring projects as big as 42 stories and 315 units that would essentially be parking free, condo developments in St. Louis either incorporate significant parking inside the first floors of the building or are surrounded by large surface parking lots, diminishing the urban nature of the development itself.

The economic downturn may deliver the city’s first foray into a parking-optional development. When first proposed The Alexa was a high-end condo development in the heart of downtown. With generous floor plans reaching well above 2,000 sq ft prices reached $500K and more. As I write this The Alexa website is still live. The latest word is that The Alexa will be converted to apartments and parking options will be limited.

The Alexa has originally promoted a car-stacking option for those who just had to have room for their multiple cars. A single parking space can add $15,000 or more to the price of a condo in St. Louis, much more elsewhere. But in many walkable urban environments smaller condos are sold without parking. And downtown St. Louis may be on the cusp of being considered “walkable” by a wider audience. The opening of the Culinaria by Schnuck’s and developments like City Garden add greatly to the amenities and livelihood of downtown.

Of course the best opportunity for a car-free development has unceremoniously passed St. Louis by. The San Luis building in the city’s Central West End has recently been demolished by the Archdiocese after a short but intense fight to identify a productive reuse. The surface parking lot replacing the San Luis will have fewer parking spots than the San Luis structure. The building could have been redeveloped as a car-free development while also providing what the church argued it needed.

The Alexa would only represent a small change in the priority given to parking, but can a development in St. Louis go nearly car-free? Can Zip-Car, or another similar service fill demand for cars? If so, where would a development like this have the best opportunity for success?

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