FPSE Under Siege: Developer Envisions CVS, Gas Station, Demo of More Than 120 Residential Units

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Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{rendering of development vision by K2 Commercial Group}

A development vision proposed by K2 Commerical Group would demolish more than 120 residential units on Kingshighway, Oakland, Arco, Gibson and Chouteau Avenues in the Forest Park Southeast (The Grove) neighborhood to make way for low-rise office buildings, a gas station and a pharmacy.

Forest Park Southeast has seen an impressive revitalization in recent years. Buildings vacant for decades have be rehabbed, the Manchester streetscape transformed and the main thoroughfare put on a diet. There have been dozens of residential rehabs, a growing number of successful bars, restaurants and retail, a new language immersion charter school, a skateboard shop…but, small scale revitalization often becomes a victim of its own success and that time may be now for The Grove.

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{demolition required to build the development vision shown above}

K2 Commercial Group has now listed 13 lots for sale along Kingshighway, Oakland and Arco. These properties along with those owned by Drury Hotels have long been assumed to constitute the holdings for a long discussed Drury development that at one time was depicted as two 16-story hotel towers with nearly 700 rooms. That plan met neighborhood resistance and led to a meeting where several dozen residents outlined priorities for development of the land left vacant by the new I-64 interchange. Among the concerns were maintaining limited traffic access to the neighborhood, placing any parking underground and avoiding added light and noise pollution.

Given that context, it's unlikely that 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy, the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corportation, or other city entity has signed on to the K2 vision, or perhaps is even aware of it. The plan may seem a bit far-fetched, almost certainly unlikely. Maybe it is. But now is the time for residents, the local development corporation and the local elected representative to make clear that a plan like this is not going to move forward, that it has zero chance of making it off the drawing board. It's simply never too early to oppose misguided development plans.

FPSE - Chouteau Avenue
{north side of 4500 Oakland – development vision would require demolition}

FPSE - Chouteau Avenue
{apartment building on north side of 4500 Oakland – development vision would require demolition}

The development on Chouteau would require the demolition of the aging St. Louis College of Health Careers building and the entire north side of the 4500 block for what appears to be low-rise offices surrounding by parking. In all, the vision would require the demolition of more than 125 housing units. And all of this within a housing convervation district, a ward with preservation review and a National Register FPSE Historic District. It should go without saying that the loss of this number of housing units, and to suburban-style development, is unacceptable for the city and The Grove neighborhood.

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{residential buildings facing Kingshighway are for sale – second from left owned by Drury Hotels}

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{Arco properties for sale by K2}

The rendering shows a standard CVS Pharmacy south of Oakland on Kingshighway and a large QuikTrip-type gas station north. This would require the demolition of all residential units facing Kingshighway, including the Lambskin Temple apartments.

Perhaps this is simply an overreaching vision proferred by a too-eager commerical real estate agent (all the more reason for the idea to be soundly rejected now), but it's rooted in a real estate listing of 13 contiguous lots on Kingshighway, Oakland and Arco, listed for $3.9M. If no longer part of a Drury development plan, the Drury properties will soon be up for sale as well. With a few additional lots, this would nearly account for the gas station and westernmost office building depicted in the rendering.

Of course this isn't the only potential development happening in The Grove. Recently, Commerce Bank received neighborhood approval to replace their branch at Chouteau and Vandeventer with a standard model and sell the adjacent 4.5 acres. The Station G building, once the pump house for the now gone gasometers, narrowly escaped the 200-unit Aventura development, and one of the more unique historic "add-on" storefronts on Manchester Avenue may lose what it's added-on to as the residential building is under threat of demolition (Google maps).

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{QuikTrip and CVS standard prototypes shown at Oakland and Kingshighway}

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{low-rise office buildings would occupy the northwest corner of the FPSE neighborhood}

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{medical building shown on site of 13 lots currently for sale by K2 – does not appear on larger plan}

KH Ventures - FPSE property
{lots currently for sale by K2}

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{aerial view of 13 lots currently for sale by K2}

Forest Park Southeast neighborhood - St. Louis, MO - K2 Commerical Group development plan
{yellow = K2 listing, blue = Drury parcels, light blue = MoDOT land for sale, red = historic boundary of Forest Park}

 {once proposed Drury Hotel towers in FPSE}

From the Chase and Company website property listing:

Incredible Development Opportunity!

Located in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, these properties are conveniently located by Washington University Medical Center, Barnes Jewish Hospital, the Central West End and of course Forest Park. This up and coming neighborhood is bound by I-64 / HWY 44 to the north, I-44 to the south, Vandeventer to the east and Kingshighway to the west, which only enhances its prime location.

Over the last 10 years, community-directed change has brought many new improvements and services to the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood including reopened schools, improved public transportation, as well as an increase in the police force. 

These recent improvements, developments and investments in the neighborhood have positively impacted the community and the community's ambitions. There is now a general consensus to encourage and continue the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the neighborhood, not only for the benefit of the current residents, but to benefit the city of St. Louis. The Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood will only continue to prosper attacting all types of people to live, work and play. 

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  • acherubin379

    While this may not be an ideal development to occur within the City or even FPSE, it does need to be recognized that developers are examining the area and view it as a potential boom for future economic development, which the city and the neighborhood desperately need. I for one find the possibility of a development with that much paved parking in an urban setting to be a bit disturbing. With that said, and the recognition that the site does hold promise for development, residents and elected officials should be engaging developers to find a suitable design that compliments the neighborhood and engages the traffic organically without creating unsightly congestion. We do not need to be running developers out of town and chasing them with pitchforks and torches. With so many strong feelings being expressed I think it would be wiser and much more proactive if we could turn this into something constructive and engage the developer. And if the developer doesn’t want to yeild then oh well too bad so sad, forget ’em! The city could post an RFP and actively seek developers, preferably local, to actively incorporate citizen concerns into the design. The fact of the matter is something needs to be done to further stimiulate economic growth in the city and extending it south along Kingshighway is a good idea. Let’s take our issues with the proposal and turn it into something instead of shutting it down point blank.

  • UrbanAtrophy

    S.O.S. Shrink Our Streets. Highways and major thoroughfares like Kingshighway are cuts through the city. The area around them is scar tissue that no-one wants to live or be near. Auto centric developments comprised mostly of parking like this are built in that scar tissue area, which creates a second layer of scar tissue that no one wants to be near. St. Louis bowed down to the automobile as progress. We’ve progressed ourselves into a sad hole. Let’s progress again by rethinking our relationship with the auto. When your city is comprised of highways, on-ramps, parkways, parking lots, driveways, and on-street parking there’s not much left to do for anybody driving there. Density. Public Transportation. Cycling infrastructure. Pedestrian initiatives for increased “foot traffic.” Zoning reforms. Property tax based on square-footage not development type.

  • *topia

    Maybe it’s time for the FPSE community to step forward and reform their zoning laws with an eye towards form-based zoning. Form-based zoning allows the community to require new development to conform to the character and feel of a neighborhood but often INCREASES development opportunities because the rezoned properties are opened up to multiple uses (e.g. you could build a residential or commercial or mixed property as long as the building is the right size and isn’t surrounded by a sea of parking lots). Unfortunately, the CWE had started that process two years ago but it seems like nothing has come of it.

  • Landmarks

    Very few of these buildings are “crumbling.” Nearly all are occupied and in excellent shape. Many, have been recently rehabilitated. Many are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This area is under preservation review and housing conservation for a reason: the buildings are an asset for the city and collectively contribute to the public good. With the BJC complex so close and a rapidly developing FPSE neighborhood, these buildings have a brighter future than many MANY more in the city. St. Louis cannot compete with the suburbs by becoming one. We must shepherd our urban character, it is our most valuable asset and that which sets the city’s future in stark and advantageous opposition to the contemptuous banality of the sprawling automobile slums. This so called “plan,” ironically provides a poignant case-study of the planning vacuum that irreparably degraded so many of our formerly unique suburban communities. St. Louis has enough vacant land. Indeed it has much in close proximity to this area. There is no need to destroy intact neighborhoods for big boxes and asphalt.

  • Guest

    If anyone want to contact K2 and let them know they’re ideas are out of touch:
    [email protected]

  • annemarie

    As a resident of the 4500 block of Gibson, I’m all for neighborhood reinvestment. But demolishing over 120 places my neighbors call home is anything but neighborhood reinvestment. As a designer, I’m further disappointed by this contextually inappropriate proposal envisioned by some of my colleagues. Forest Park Southeast is a vibrant neighborhood because of its density and diversity. We–designers, my neighbors, and St Louis–can do much better than parking lots and cookie-cutter construction. Forest Park Southeast is a great place to live, and I look forward to it serving its residents and guests even better. I invite the folks of K2 Commercial Group, and any other interested developers, to see my community face-to-face rather than as shaded areas on aerial maps. Let’s start having real conversations about envisioning and building a better neighborhood together. You can reach me at annemariespitz [at] gmail [dot] com

  • chippewa

    I for one think passing Eminent Domain reform would go a long way to stopping these ridiculous plans, all of which seem to involve the city taking someone’s property and giving it to whichever developer has greased their palms the most.

  • douglas duckworth

    As long as highways continue to be the main way people get around Saint Louis and until leadership takes measures to reverse that reality this type of development will be expected. This is a very desirable site and absent any action preventing this kind of planning it will happen and continue along St. Louis suburbanizing arterial streets. Developers are not in the game of changing human behavior but capitalizing upon what people do and making money off it. If progress is going to happen it must come from citizens lobbying government. Hopefully that happens but inertia seems to be in place.

  • kms1982

    Why do you guys always fight economic progress in areas that are rundown and contain several vacant properties that are continually falling apart. If you want to save those properties then buy them yourselves, rehab them, and fill them with activity. Otherwise quit complaining and let someone do something to boost the St. Louis economy.

    • amm83

      I live on the 4400 block of Gibson and I do not believe that opening a gas station or pharmacy/convenience store on the adjacent block would in any way help this neighborhood. If anything, it would encourage loitering. Additionally, while the buildings directly facing Kingshighway are indeed quite run down and ready for demolition, there are properties on Arco and Oakland that are worthy of renovation. There has been a lot of progress in the neighborhood in recent years but it has been through the opening of small, local businesses and through residents getting to know each other better to help improve safety in the neighborhood. I’m pretty confident in speaking for the other residents of FPSE that we will not welcome such a development.

      • KMS1982

        I understand all of that amm83. My beef is more with this site and others like it in St. Louis. Every time something like this gets announced it has to be viewed in a negative light. They are quick to point out the problems but rarely ever have solutions.

        With that said, I agree that in this case the properties tucked away from Kingshighway are fine for the most part and the buildings facing Kingshighway do nothing to help make St. Louis look like a thriving place to live. With the types of tourist attractions near there, something needs to be done. I commend these developers for trying to do something since it’s obvious nobody else is stepping up to do something about it. I don’t understand why keeping crumbling buildings is even an option. Also, that is a major intersection with an interstate highway, it was only a matter of time before someone came along to add commercial properties there.

        • guest

          My beef is with short sighted people like you who feel that every development proposal is a good one and should be completed despite the cost to the surrounding neighborhood.

          This is a suburban development in an urban area which means the development should BE urban.

          You clearly don’t have an understanding of this “site and others like it it St. Louis”, because if you did, you’d understand no one here is nessacarily against development, but are pushing for urban developments in an urban city.

          Attitudes like yours are why the City has more parking lots than buildings.

          • kms1982

            Don’t wait around for someone else to develop the city the way you want it developed. Be proactive and make urban development happen if that is what you want. I prefer a more urban feel as well, but I also know that I don’t have the means to make it happen. Those who have the means pretty much have the freedom to do what they will with the property they own.

            I am not short sighted. I do not think that “every development proposal is a good one and should be completed despite the cost to the surrounding neighborhood.” I am just a realist and know that there has been an opportunity to do something positive at this location and these are the people who are stepping up and doing something. Agree or disagree, but they have every right to do what they are doing and others have have the opportunity well before they came along and they let it rot.

          • Alex Ihnen

            “Those who have the means pretty much have the freedom to do what they will with the property they own.”

            Maybe lost in the detail here, but this is the problem. The developer who put together this vision doesn’t own much of what is shown at all. It’s being used to help sell 13 very small lots. There are more than 20 separate property owners who I can guarantee haven’t seen this “vision”. I’m also willing to bet that the Alderman and neighborhood development corporations hadn’t seen this either. This is a developer looking at a map and saying, “hmmm…a lot of money could be made if we bulldozed these homes, and those homes over there, and changed a couple streets…yeah, that’s nice.” And that’s the problem. In the city development is reactive. A developer (or gas station or fast food restaurant) comes with a plan and an Alderman and the city says yes or no. If there were development plans/desires/wish lists produced by neighborhoods, development could be proactive – inviting certain types of development. This isn’t fail safe and it’s not adversarial, it’s a clear communication between city residents and developers. It’s better for developers as they don’t buy land and plan a project only to run into neighborhood opposition. This is what appears to have happened with the Drury Hotel proposal at this location.

            Lastly, the implied notion that one has no standing to comment on a development in the city unless you’re willing and able to purchase the property and develop it yourself is asinine and without commonsense. A city and community is exactly the opposite. There are practical limits to this, but we can be sure that you (and nearly everyone else) care about what your neighbors build, what’s torn down, how streets are changed, etc.

          • matthb

            That is odd. So I could put up a huge sign on my property, and highlight my entire block, and claim it as a marketable “development opportunity” even if I don’t own any of the other properties (or have site control) and it isn’t zoned properly? That is almost like putting a For Sale on my neighbors lawn without him knowing it.

      • douglas duckworth

        Isn’t there already a gas station being rebuilt at Kingshighway and Manchester? How many can a shrinking city need?

  • jhoff1257

    This is utterly DISGUSTING. I hope this developer gets skewered by City Residents and the press alike. If he wants to building something as disgusting, uninspired, plain, and incredibly un-urban such as this, take it to West County where disgusting development is the norm. Get this crap out of the City. I seriously wish the worst on this developer and ANYONE else that supports this project. What a fucking joke.

  • stlgasm

    I think you meant to save this post for April Fool’s Day, right?

  • steve webb

    The large sign at the corner of Kingshighway and Oakland show the 1st four properties on Oakland and those properties fronting Kingshighway included in this development. The sign does not show any properties on Arco in this development. Has this changed?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Have a pic? I think it does show the additional properties. If the sign doesn’t show them, the real estate listing does – it markets 13 lots for $3.9 and lists properties on Kingshighway, Oakland and Arco – and they’ve been verified via city property records.