Municipal Courts Redevelopment Envisions Civic Square, Public Space, Retail and Parking

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nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO
{rendering of Municipal Courts building parking and retail project}

Another piece of the Gateway Mall west development puzzle may soon be in place. Vertical Realty Advisors is set to embark on a $40-50M renovation and development effort of the long vacant city-owned 1908 Municipal Courts building. Titled “One Civic Square”, the proposal includes a complete historic rehab of the courts building and a new retail and parking facility to the south.

While the proposal must still be approved by a committe comprised of city officials, the plan marks a welcome evolution of past efforts. The four-story, 160,000-square-foot former courts building at 1320 Market Street would be converted to office and retail space, with a courtyard facing 14th Street and the Peabody Opera House.

nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO

nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO

With significant investments having been made in the opera house ($79M), Park Pacific ($109M), Ford apartments ($12M), SLU Law School (~$30M) and public library ($70M) in close proximity to 1320, the area is bustling with investment activity. The 2009 Gateway Mall masterplan envisioned this portion of the mall as a civic living room and event space. The adjacent multi-modal transit center is planning for expansion.

nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO
{Municipal Courts building today}

nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO
{rendering of Municipal Courts renovated lobby}

While bringing the historic building back to life is the focus, the proposed retail and parking facility to the south carries the potential to change the face of the neighborhood. The current proposal, which remains preliminary, shows that significant attention has been given to the potential impact of the new construction. A large pedestrian plaza faces 14th Street and the Scottrade Center, providing outdoor restaurant seating and public space for crowds attending nearby events.

nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO
{renovations would leave the building structure as is, with a new courtyard facing 14th Street}

Dedicated parking has been recognized as a need for the building in past development proposals, but latest vision presents as much a retail development with a parking component as a parking garage and with retail space. Garage access is placed off of Tucker and 14th. The garage’s largest of four levels is underground, with additional levels sharing space with retail.

A large rooftop garden facing southwest and connected to potential restaurant space overlooks Scottrade and the plaza. A second garden looks northeast at City Hall and downtown. If executed well, this development has a chance to change the perspective of many city visitors. Arriving via the multi-modal transit center, visitors would have an attractive place to wait for visitors or begin their exploration of the city. Sheraton hotel guests would have one less dead gap to traverse.

nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO
{the new retail and parking development would add a large plaza facing 14th Street}

nextSTL_Municipal Courts building - St. Louis, MO

Details will be key, of course. Reworking the pedestrian streetscape, sidewalks, crosswalks and more on Clark Avenue and the I-64W ramps is crucial. The garage design should be tweaked to refine the exposed parking deck elements. And the building could still use a signature moment. This is the opportunity to place a focus on multi-modal transit and provide a celebratory arrival – let’s put a massive “WELCOME TO ST. LOUIS” sign on the corner and make a statement with this project:

{a “WELCOME TO ST. LOUIS” sign could add a signature presence}

{the “WELCOME” sign could be similar to this sign at Seattle’s Public Market}

Municipal Courts building redevelopment plan, downtown St. Louis, MO – 2012

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  • John

    Will the upper floors of the Municipal Courts building have retail and all that jazz? If so, how will people know? Those companies’ logos being all over the building would look really, really tacky. Could the upper floors be residential, office, or hotel?

    • Alex Ihnen

      The muni courts building will be office space. Any retail would be a ground level. The proposed new construction would include street-level retail.

  • DowntownJohn

    As a neighbor, I’m thrilled to see this proposal. It will be a real asset to downtown west, and bring the area that much closer to the critical mass needed to reach the potential of the district.

    Here’s an idea that I admit is a little out of left field; but I think it satisfies a need, and would have more benefits than one might think at first: Include in the plans a very large public restroom facility to be opened only during the big civic events at Soldier’s Memorial Park. Perhaps the City and/or Parks Department can lease the space and maintain it, and pass the expense on to the event organizers through user fees. Tens of thousands of people come to the neighborhood during the largest of these events, such as the Komen Run; and more and more events are being scheduled here every year; for example, Pridefest will be moving here starting next year. Currently, there is a big event almost every weekend throughout the warm weather months. Some benefits:

    -Tens of thousands of additional visitors to the proposed development. Many of those visits will end in trade with merchants.

    -Elimination of the need for porta-potties having to be brought in for every event at Soldier’s Memorial. This not only would save money for the organizers, it would make the events much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye and to the nose.

    -Raise the level of comfort and sophistication of our city’s big civic events.

    -Make the Municipal Court project a literal extension of the Gateway Mall, not just an annex to it.

    The idea is a little out-there, I know. But it’s something that if executed properly with the cooperation of the City and Parks Department could be a real boon to downtown west, the Gateway Mall park, all of the large civic events, and the Municipal Court Development.

  • KBShapiro

    Hasan and Vertical…congrats on your proposed project. It looks great and hopefully everything comes together.
    The corridor between Busch Stadium and Scottrade Center, in my opinion, has a ton of potential and I feel this project will complement the already completed developments in this area of dowtown St. Louis (Peabody Opera, Cupples Station area with the Westin Hotel, Cupples 9 (fully leased), Sheraton, Ballpark Lofts (where we have a couple restaurant deals working on the first floor), Cannon Design building, new garages, Rodgers Townsend/JBucks building, etc).

  • Presbyterian

    Love it.

  • RyleyinSTL

    I dread the thought of yet another carpark downtown. I have never once had a problem parking my car in downtown STL. There are plenty of spaces and they are all cheap (compared to other nearby cities). We all know how well they destroy the pedestrian experience Nothing says “don’t bother coming over here” to a pedestrian more than a ugly carpark.

    Vacant lot next to a busy LRT station, sounds like a gold mine….how might this project be leveraged more toward that?

    Saying that, this project is great news.

  • Cortez

    I would just add more options to keep cool from the sunshine in the humid summer months and the sign is a great idea! I will be praying this turns out great for St. Louis.

  • tpekren

    Can’t help but think, only if they would build and design with the idea of a residential tower over the parking garage. Put out first phase (as above) and second phase renderings with a tower.
    Yes, foundation work, etc. will make it a more expensive parking garage in the short term but think a glass tower overlooking the roof top garden with views of the arch on the other side would be kick ass. Heck put in a heated pool bar for the roof top garden. That would be a heck of pre or post game place.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I believe that the developer is at least exploring exactly what you propose.

    • Hasan

      We’re exploring residential.

  • Kevin

    Awesome news!

    If this comes to fruition, that City Hall parking lot will look great with some more residential infill.

    (Also, didn’t realize how terribly the Sheraton Hotel is cut off by the entrance ramp to 64…hopefully that gets redone later on.)

  • Interesting pitch. From my man-on-the-street view, I suspect retail will be tough within the courts building itself. Better to focus on office/professional space in there.

    For the rear addition, I’d like to see the commercial section continued as a full ‘L’ east to the City Hall lot. A full commercial wall will help encourage/strengthen development for a Clark Street corridor from Busch Stadium to Union Station and set a street line for similar future construction on the City Hall lot.

    (Any little bit helps though, and the USPS loading docks to the west will always serve as a barricade to full development…)

    • Hasan

      Yes, retail in the courts bldg will be tough so we’re planning to have the spaces as restaurants. While we like the idea of having retail to come around Clark, everything comes down to economics. Is there enough demand to fill additional retail, are there too many restaurants in this area, etc. But yes, thats the plan, to build up the Clark Ave corridor.