Botanical Grove Development to Break Ground, City Garden Montessori School to Relocate

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UIC+CDO is set to break ground on their Botanical Grove development this Friday, March 18th (press release below). In October 2010, nextSTL published an article titled: "4200 McRee: The Anti-Botanical Heights," providing a preview of the planned development. While much development in the City of St. Louis continues to ignore context, Botanical Grove shows that we can and are, doing things better.

In addition to 14 new and 17 renovated LEED-certified homes, Botanical Grove will be the new location for City Garden Montessori charter school. The school, with a waitlist a mile long, will be an incredible anchor to future development. UIC+CDO will renovate several contiguous structures to house the growing school, which is currently stuffed into a portion of a repurposed church at 2109 Spring Avenue in the Shaw neighborhood. The new City Garden will occupy several buildings on the northeast corner of Tower Grove and McRee Avenues.

{several buildings will be renovated to house City Garden Montessori}

City Garden Montessori
{rendering of new City Garden Montessori}

City Garden Montessori
{rendering of rear of new City Garden Montessori}

Botanical Grove will focus initially on the 4200 block of McRee, hoping to continue the development to include 4100 McRee and 4100 Blaine. The new home designs work well with, but aren't mimics of, the historic homes to be renovated. There are no cul-de-sacs or vacated streets. CDO will also focus on the streetscape, introducing rain gardens and other green features. In a city that suffers greatly from its established neighborhoods lacking connectivity to one another, this project aims to fill the gap between Forest Park Southeast and Shaw. Home prices will range from $165,000 to $250,000.

{Botanical Grove site plan}

{Tower Grove at McRee looking southeast at cafe}

UIC+CDO Press release:

Botanical Heights Homes, a division of local construction and design firms Urban Improvement Construction and Central Design Office, has announced it will hold a ground-breaking ceremony at the intersection of Tower Grove and McRee Avenues on March 18th, at 4:30 PM, to launch its Botanical Grove development. The new homes are an extension of the Botanical Heights community and support the efforts of the Garden District Commission to redevelop the area north of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The revived community will also feature a corner café and a new home for City Garden Montessori Charter School into a renovated neighborhood building on Tower Grove Avenue.

Unique to the new homes will be standard geothermal heating and cooling systems, rain gardens, as well as many available green features. All homes will be LEED Certified to ensure low and earth-friendly operating costs. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. “We are positioning Botanical Grove as the new center of city green living,” reported Brent Crittenden, AIA, managing principal at UIC+CDO. “Sustainable city living is something more and more homeowners are seeking, and this project offers them the option of new construction or the charm of a renovated brick home with the added benefit of an environmentally-friendly lifestyle,” he added.

The homes, which will be priced between $165,000 to $250,000, will line McRee Avenue along the block just east of Tower Grove Avenue. The development will include 14 new and 17 renovated single family of varying sizes and types. Construction on two display homes, one new renovated home, will begin immediately after the ground-breaking ceremony and is expected to be completed by late spring of 2011. The developers are offering special pre-construction pricing and upgrade options to buyers. For sales and pricing information, contact Chris Hulse at 314-881-2325.

The development is centrally located, just a few blocks from the popular Missouri Botanical Gardens, Shaw Neighborhood, and Tower Grove Park to the south, Forest Park Southeast and the Grove district to the north, and in close proximity to the campuses of  St. Louis University and Washington University Medical Center. Crittenden stated, “What makes Botanical Grove so special is the combination of it being a green development and the central location of being right in the middle of so many desirable St. Louis destinations, parks, schools, and places of employment.”

The redevelopment of the Botanical Heights Neighborhood has been lead by the Garden District Commission a non-profit, community-based organization, with the support of the Missouri Botanical Gardens and 17th Ward Alderman Joseph D. Roddy.

Urban Improvement Construction/Central Design Office ( opened its doors at 4301 McRee Avenue in 2006, and has been involved in numerous development projects throughout St. Louis, including assisting the Garden District Commission in its efforts to redevelop the area around the Botanical Heights redevelopment area. The firm offers expertise in general contracting, architecture, urban design and custom fabrication. The Botanical Grove development team includes Brent Crittenden, Chris Hulse (principal, Botanical Heights Homes), Sarah Gibson (design principal, UIC + CDO), and Dean Wright (project manager, UIC).

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  • Chulse

    Just wanted to let everyone know that we have sold two houses so far. The first is a renovated home and the other is a new home. Both are LEED registered. Our display models are under construction with our new display set to be finished by the end of August. It is up on MLS now. The houses will all have Geo Thermal Heating and Cooling as a standard feature.

  • Ryan

    Another mistake for St. Louis! Residential elevations are sad xerox copies – pure mannerist garbage. Would be better if it didn’t happen.

    • Alex Ihnen

      7 of the 10 elevations are existing century-old buildings…does that change your mind at all? The other three are obvious modern homes meant to fit in the existing neighborhood.

      • Ryan

        knee-jerked on renderings…sorry…that makes huge difference! Still have some heart burn over McRee Town and not so crazy about the “modern” homes, but still, much, much better.

  • Sounds like a neat concept and a place I might be interested in living IF it weren’t so close to a major interstate. We’re currently apartment hunting and passed up an otherwise great looking place because it was just on the other side of I-44 (Russell Ave.). Between the traffic noise and the studies on air quality and health outcomes for people living near high traffic volume freeways, it’s not worth it.

    It’s good to see the development, but it does present a classic NIMBY situation. Interstates are great, except for those who have to have to live right by them.

  • samizdat

    Well, first off, these are probably the best-looking plans I’ve seen in a while. I wish them good luck. I’m am particularly gratified to see the old Grossman complex of buildings adaptively reused (see what I did there? yeah) to a school. A quibble or two though. One: I’m a little distressed to see no bike lanes depicted on Tower Grove Avenue. Since this is probably the only relatively safe major corridor between the West End and the South Side, I would have thought that UIC+CDO would have noticed–considering that it is right outside their front door–the large volume of bicycle traffic passing by their eyes. One of whom, on occasion, is my wife. Not only are there no bike lanes, the route for a cyclist has been made even more dangerous by the addition of traffic calming bump-outs at the intersection corners. Can we get a little more for the hordes of cyclists riding through here, please? If we’re talking about sustainability, I find it hard to imagine that those not in a rolling living room are ignored. Again. As I said, a great start, but you’ve got a few details to work out. ps: I am assuming that the parking lots for the school and the cafe at least have bio-swale remediation, if not semi-permeable surfacing.

    • Chris Hulse

      We are working on adding Bike Lanes to Tower Grove. As a principal in the development team and a cyclist (yes I even raced this past weekend) I can assure you that making Tower Grove feel less like an autobahn is a priority for us.

  • Dajoby68

    Botanical Grove. Two tired names combined into one. Can’t anyone come up with something more original than “Botanical” or “Grove”? Even “The Grove” was borrowed from “Tower Grove”. Yawn.

    • Alex Ihnen

      “The Grove” was borrowed from Adam’s Grove, a very early, if not original name of a section of what is now referred to as Forest Park Southeast. Gibson Heights and others are contained in FPSE.

    • George

      Awesome progress being made in our city! Too bad the only thing you can add is a complaint.

      • Ttricamo

        Actually, this only becomes progress when these units sell.

        • Alex Ihnen

          I think it’s progress when proposals are contextual and seek to keep what can be rehabbed, while adding new infill that fits in well. The new Montessori school isn’t done, but also doesn’t need to be sold. It’s move is progress as it gives the school room to expand, keeps it is the city and reuses a number of buildings.

    • Burtabraham

      Dajoby68 so what have you done for the City lately other than complain?

    • Alex Ihnen

      I do have to agree about the name. I don’t have a better one, but “Botanical Grove” isn’t exciting.

  • Zun1026

    Just would like to add….

    UIC+CDO’s context sensitive design is a breath of fresh air, especially if they are using native vegetation in their landscape design.

  • Zun1026

    Does anyone know much about these Montessori schools?

    Also, its good to see a local firm doing things “right”.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Do a little Googling. The Montessori concept may not be for everyone, but it does work for many. City Garden has a great reputation and a huge waiting list:

    • Sew4mary

      Our US public school education would do well to implement the Montessori approach to education. It is an intellectual though common sense approach to learning. Check it out on line. The Montessori schools are worth their weight in gold. Both for the child and for our world.

    • Earthmother49

      yes – know the people, know the school. Excellence all around.

  • Matt

    Amazing work…congratulations Sarah and Brent!