Failed Westin Proposal Raises Questions for Future Development in Clayton

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“But now residents can rest easy.” That is at least if they enjoy a vacant storefront and surface parking lot. The proposal for a 245-room Westin Hotel at Maryland and Central Avenues in Clayton is dead. First proposed in 2007, the tower and retail/parking structure on the north side of Maryland had been redesigned several times. Graybar has now purchased the site, but has no current plans to develop the site. The Post-Dispatch has a good write-up. Toronto Cialis

“But now residents can rest easy.” That is at least if they enjoy a vacant storefront and surface parking lot. The proposal for a 245-room Westin Hotel at Maryland and Central Avenues in Clayton is dead. First proposed in 2007, the tower and retail/parking structure on the north side of Maryland had been redesigned several times. Graybar has now purchased the site, but has no current plans to develop the site. The Post-Dispatch has a good write-up.

Ultimately the project was the victim of a down economy as the property went into foreclosure and was available to purchase, but Graybar, whose headquarters sits to the west, and nearby residents were happy to do their part. It would seem that Graybar enjoys 1980 Clayton and so do many residents. I always enjoy/cringe at the irony of those who build mid-rise towers in place of low-rise and then complain that anything higher would be inappropriate.

Graybar opposed the development at city meetings, making the ridiculous argument that a large hotel and associated traffic would have endangered their 130 employees. Now that’s just stupid. Are they prepared to use the same argument against the nearby public library? It would appear that Clayton may be reaching a point of limited development as NIMBY’s backed by established businesses say enough is enough.

While projects such as Maryland Walk have added density, residents of the nine-story $73M Crescent fought to lower the height of the new Centene headquarters at Forsyth and Hanley in the central business district. Their argument boiled down to saying that they bought a residence counting on the fact that the view from their window would never change.

The Westin would have added density to a city that feels more like an office park than a downtown. The added (dangerous) traffic would have boosted demand for restaurant and retail options as well. The addition of development on the north side of Maryland would have been a very positive step toward making Maryland Avenue an attractive corridor instead of the dead edge of development.


{Maryland Walk and The Crescent developments in Clayton}

According to the Post-Dispatch, Lodging Hospitality Management, owner of the Seven Gables Inn has expressed an interest in expanding into the buildings which back up to their property facing Meramec Avenue. They would seek to expand from their current 32 rooms to 80 or 90. It would interesting to see how the two buildings may be tied together and the reuse of the current perfectly functional building would be welcome.

But what effect will Clayton NIMBYism have on future development? Will hotel growth be limited? Will the former Trianon condominium proposal ever return? If developments receive the knee-jerk “more traffic is dangerous” or “taller is worse” treatment, Clayton will stall. Looking for a silver lining? Perhaps that’s good news for the region’s first downtown.


{the various stages of proposed design – CORE10 Architecture, 2009}


{the site plan and rendering of retail/parking on north side of Maryland – CORE10 Architecture, 2009}

*top image courtesy CORE10 Architecture, 2009/Bob Watel

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  • We appreciate Mr. Ihnen’s comments and also the other comments about the pros/cons of density. As designers we work with what we’re given by our clients. Sometimes those plans prove successful, but often they don’t. Neither outcome should be seen as a larger judgement of an individual concept or of the urban impacts that concept represents. For better and for worse, cities in this country develop primarily because private money (or privately borrowed money) decides to take risks. This project failed simply because the money didn’t like the risk at this point in time, not because of controversy (the project earned approval from Clayton’s city council with citizens both vocally supporting and opposing). We’ve been involved in smaller scale proposals for the site as well but with less development comes less return and therefore the appetite for private risk often goes down with more modest proposals, not up. 

    One note: of the six renderings and two photographs included, none are credited. All are also republished to the nextSTL Flickr account which includes copyright warnings even though neither Mr. Ihnen nor nextSTL are the copyright holders. Since the project may never be realized, we definitely want the renderings to see the light of day and so appreciate the article. But we would like them properly credited – CORE10 Architecture, 2009. The first rendering shown should be co-credited also to Mr. Bob Watel.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, the article notes that this project never came to fruition due to lack of financing, but the issue is a jumping off point for discussing the emerging resistance to further tall development in Clayton – arguably the the place with the most potential for adding density to create a truly walkable community.

      Thanks for the note regarding photos. All images on the site are hosted on the nextSTL Flickr account so that they do not disappear in the future when another host decides to delete etc. All should have been marked “private” in Flickr – as they are now. Credit is also now stated in the story and on Flickr.

      Thanks again and good luck on future projects! I would have loved to have seen the original art deco design actually built. (Now can Il Vicino reopen?) 

  • StlouisSTL74

    This is such crap. I love downtown, and I live in the county. I follow all pro-downtown sites. However, I can’t help but notice how you all keep slamming the county for growing! Clayton is a beautiful area, and so is downtown. Clayton makes St. Louis look like a much larger city. Most cities that have a ‘Clayton’ have populations in excess of 4 MILLION people… ( I mean a separate Downtown area with large skyscrapers) You should be happy Clayton is growing, and learn from its example!  You should all dump Slay.  If you REALLY want St. Louis City to grow, you would vote him out. I would love, LOVE to live in Downtown. However, St Louis City is (very unfortunately) one of the most corrupt cities in the country. If we had someone in office who really cared about the growth of Downtown, I swear that this city would be BOOMING. Slay is all talk. He has done little to help push for Ballpark Village….. Its disgusting.  

  • stlameroz

    Height for the sake of height/density is not a good outcome.  It has been constantly written that the best neighborhoods/areas are those that have a typical built form of 3-5 stories – much of clayton is around this height.  Anything taller should generally be located in the STL CBD, where tall buildings won’t conflict with neighboring residences and will help to stablize downtown as the business hub f the region.  Developments in Clayton should respect the surrounding area and change should be gradual over time.  Remember change is relative – people in new york think 10 stories is mid-rise.  People can’t be expected to have a 10 storey plopped next door when their whole life they’re used to 2-4, 

    • Alex Ihnen

      Change has been gradual here. The Graybar building itself was very out of place in its time using the Westin opponent’s criteria. The tower wasn’t going to be next to anyone’s 2-story condo. It’s just my opinion of course, but I think this is just a case of the newcomers becoming the old-timers and fighting the change they were once a part of.

      The other issue is that Clayton may be uniquely positioned in the St. Louis area to be a truly dense, walkable neighborhood. However, it needs some additional density if there is to be more basic retail in the city. Proposals like this would have helped. Of course any community is able to decide what they want and what they do not. Let remember, though, that this project was given the green light and really only failed due to lack of financing. There was enough opposition that when it did fall through, someone had a plan B.

  • Matthew Hall

    On the other hand St. Louis isn’t detroit or cleveland. Cincinnati’s is up against some real challenges though it has found its groove in the last 5 years. Everything is relative and st. louis isn’t so bad.

  • Richard Patton

    Economic development in St. Louis is sluggish — essentially stagnant — because the local populous is afraid of growth and progress.  Really who wants more capital and jobs coming into the region.  That would be just awful.  After a century of decline, we continue to put more distance between ourselves and places like Chicago and the Twin Cities — even Indianapolis and Cincinnati — who lack the strong commitment St. Louis has to mediocrity and the status quo.