St. Louis City, Pace Properties Focused on Building IKEA at Forest Park Avenue Site

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{nextSTL rendering of St. Louis City IKEA}

Several WhoLou sources are alleging that highly-coveted Swedish-based furniture chain Ikea intends to develop their first St. Louis store close to the campus of St. Louis University. The 300,000 sq. ft. store will allegedly be built near the Laclede Gas and Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center complexes on Forest Park Ave. between Sarah Street and Vandeventer Ave.

The company has 285 stores in more than 20 countries and designs its own product which is then produced by more than 1,000 suppliers in 50-plus countries. With only 38 stores in the United States boasting an Ikea is regarded by many cities as a retail status symbol. Rumors in St. Louis often take on a life of their own. A store opening that was recently announced for Kansas City is expected to be open by the end of 2014.

The St. Louis store location has been rumored over several years to be a part of numerous area development projects. Most recently Pace Properties attempted to lure Ikea to their Hadley Township development in Richmond Heights near Highway 40 and Hanley Rd. In that case, Pace was unable to aquire all the property needed for the development. An adjacent development for a Menards is proceeding.

Ikea is being represented by Pace in St. Louis. Stephen Heitz, vp of development for Pace, would neither confirm nor deny the allegations. Heitz stated, “Ikea is committed to having a presence in St. Louis but no decisions on a site have been made final.” Via email Ikea U.S. representative Joseph Roth commented, “Ikea has acknowledged that the St. Louis area is large enough to support a store – and that we have many customers there – we have not yet committed to any specific site in, or time-frame for entering the St. Louis area.” 

Sources further allege that the location of the store has been a closely guarded secret and despite not receiving confirmation remain confident that this is the area Ikea and Pace are working on developing. According to the Post-Dispatch in July of 2012 an Ikea spokesperson told them and a reporter from Kansas City that there were no plans for stores in their respective cities then announced plans for a Kansas City store that September.

The project would potentially also include major ramp construction off of Highway 40 to ease access to the site according to sources. For reference, the Cincinnati area Ikea in West Chester, OH (Cincinnati) is 344,000 sq. ft., has 1,400 parking spaces and employs 400 people. There is no word on a final site plan, or parking development in St. Louis. Assuming all possible taxes are incurred, the St. Louis store could bring more than $6M in tax revenue to the city. In Kansas City the 22-acre Ikea development is expecting sales of more than $80 million per year.

{Bloomington, MN IKEA – 336,000 sq. ft. on 15 acres}

The St. Louis IKEA would be one of the more urban locations in the US and a big win for the city as the majority of locations scouted have been in St. Louis County. The Forest Park Avenue site would just a couple short blocks from a planned MetroLink station between Boyle Avenue and Sarah Street. The station is being considered as part of the expanding CORTEX science and research district. The development is another leap forward in development momentum for the city's central corridor. Recently, Whole Foods announced a store for the Central West End, the city is regaining a Mercedes dealership after a 15-year absence and several housing developments have been announced.

The area bordered by Forest Park, Vandeventer, Duncan and Sarah measures approximately 16 acres, the majority of which is owned by Laclede Gas. CORTEX owns several adjacent parcels to the south. Laclede Gas, located at 720 Olive, has been considering a relocation of their headquarters from downtown. The Post-Dispatch reported in December that the company plans to stay in the city, but is considering constructing a new building on nine acres they own along Forest Park Avenue.

Much in the same way a Whole Foods can be a catalyst for development, providing consumer metrics that lure other retailers and developers, it's expected that an IKEA, and the consumer traffic it generates, would lead to significant development of the surrounding area. A block east, the long vacant Federal-Mogul site has been rumored at the site of a Target store and other retailers in the past. Such efforts could be revived with the IKEA development nearby.

IKEA_ownership map
*image added 3/11/13 {Laclede Gas holdings in blue, CORTEX in yellow, City of St. Louis in Red – other colors represent various private ownership}

*images below added 7/25/13

Images via ULI Technical Assistant Panel Briefing Book – Development at a Future Cortex MetroLink Station

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  • Mark Nugent

    Great reporting. Just a stylistic note, when you say that sources “allege” something, it implies that they’re accusing someone of wrongdoing. I think the word you want is “claim.”

    • Geoff Whittington

      Thank you. I picked up the allege(d)(ly) habit while pulling files in the civil courts. My intent has been to declare with positiveness; assert; claim: to allege a fact. Will make a change for future items..

  • T-Leb

    I watched the Ikea documentary on MSNBC, but I have never thought to purchase any products they make. I think if the building was a smart design and parking was “interesting” I would check the store out and might find something to buy. If Ikea were to locate to the county, I doubt I would have any interest in visiting.

  • I wish they were coming to STL. It doesn’t make sense that they aren’t here. We often travel to Chicago to shop. We even rent a mini-van to bring home the haul. But alas… Here is a response from the Dispatch.

  • CityGal

    SO excited. Now I won’t have to drive 5 hours to go to an IKEA and it will force the suburbanites to travel into the dreaded city…hopefully this will help give downtown a little boost that is so desperately needs!

  • Don

    Does anyone know, is that grain elevator still in use?

  • Pauline

    How can I get in touch with Ikea? I want to beg for a store here.

  • JustFlushIt

    This is the same way Marcia Brady got Davy Jones to sing at the school dance. Everyone is getting played again.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Wait a second, Davy Jones did sing at Marcia’s prom. So…

      • JustFlushIt

        So… this story keeps surfacing in an attempt to guilt Ikea into opening a store in a market that doesn’t support their revenue requirements. Who knows, maybe we’ll hear Daydream Believer some day.

        • Presbyterian

          Not exactly what’s happening … Though if I thought it would work, I would absolutely try to guilt Ikea into building in the central corridor. But Ikea doesn’t work that way. The St. Louis market is their top US interest right now because they believe they can make money here. Internal Ikea rumors are that St. Louis is next, followed by Miami then Nashville.

  • ntheknow

    I have seen survey crews working this site all last week. Thati s not to say its surveys for Ikea, it could have something to do with Laclede Gas’s parent company, The Laclede Group, wanting to leave their current rented HQ’s downtown and bulid a new HQ combined with their operations dept. Keep your eye on LG’s new CEO Suzanne Sitherwood to see what her loyalty to the city really is, or if she’ll move the enitre operation, including HQ & all 3 operations satellites to the old Chrysler Plant location. I guarantee you if Ms. Sitherwood is able to unload this parcel at a reasonable price, she will move everything to Fenton.

    • I like the Chrysler locale too. Easy off and on the interstate and access to a lot of land. Nice.

  • you-topia

    This could potentially be good for the city but a lot depends on execution. The city can’t forget about good urban design while it froths at the mouth for an IKEA. Sarah Street and other nearby areas could benefit from the influx of people to the area but not if IKEA is the catalyst for a suburban big box strip mall along Forest Park Parkway.

  • Imran

    There must be a site in the Mill Creek Valley area where a big blue box could fit right in and be accessible from the highway. Ofcourse we would take it anywhere. IKEA is just about the only big box store I feel this way about.

  • City Life

    I live in the city and I would like to see it put in the county preferably where the old Chrysler plant stood. If we are going to draw out of town customers they are not going to want to navigate the city and risk the dangers of it as well.

    • RumAGoGO

      I don’t know many people who live in the city and proceed to tell people it’s dangerous and hard to navigate. If you live in the city, cross your fingers and toes that this happens. People will come regardless of where it is placed, but for once the city could actually get some sales tax benefit instead of the majority of us city-dwellers spending our money out of the city limits.

  • jack

    can’t wait to try their horsemeatballs

  • Jennifer

    That red property by the grain elevators is actually owned by Metro. The City’s database is in error.

  • Jason Fedorow

    Looking at the money…. Just a wild guess… it would be cheaper to assemble this much land North of Delmar… I’m a tax payer… We will pay for this.

    • Don

      Yes, it would be cheaper and there is a reason for that. North of Delmar is not a desirable location for a large retailer. Access, for one, is too difficult.

      Location, location, location,….

  • Nat M. Zorach

    Gotta say that it would be grand if we focused on retail and manufacturing solutions that actually made quality products instead of cheap imported junk. It’s a comment on the mediocrity of innovation and progressivism in St. Louis that some think that an IKEA defines “progress.”

    • Alex Ihnen

      20% of the City of St. Louis is vacant. Regardless of the merit of a particular company, the city needs development. In this case, the vast majority of tax revenue would come from those outside the city.

      • John R

        Let’s let IKEA sales tax be sole source of 3/16th Arch tax!

  • Yet again, St. Louis will be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th Century … plain vanilla design with mediocre quality … that’s “The Lou” in a nutshell. The 21st Century will have to wait a while longer.

    • Presbyterian

      Looking over your past comments, I’m a little surprised to hear you sound so progressive, Woody 🙂

  • FrankDeGraaf

    It’s amazing how some comment without actually reading and comprehending the the post first. A typical IKEA store is +/- 300,000 Sq.ft., which is 7 acres. The area in Midtown/CWE is +/- 15 acres, with room for expansion. A standard size IKEA + parking garage can be built here, as is shown in the photo of the Minneapolis/Bloomington IKEA on the same 15 acre footprint. Note: I’ve also heard from several independent sources that this location is in the works. Of course nothing is sure before the contracts are signed.

  • nextSTL website

    Why does nextSTL do this? In journalism, you aren’t supposed to report anything unless it is true and can be verified. true journalism. you are reporting gossip and now over a dozen of my fb friends have shared your post like it was gospel. Sure, you are now getting more traffic to this website. Good job.

    • Alex Ihnen

      It’s true and verified that the city, Pace and IKEA are focused on this development – which is what is being reported.

    • Geoff Whittington

      Thank you. I believe the info to be good and your argument weak. This a viable piece. All the correct calls were made. Sources independent of each other have confirmed the validity of this project.

      • In all fairness, I’m not sure that Ikea is “set to build here.” Are Ikea, Pace, and the city negotiating to place an Ikea here? It would seem so.

        • Alex Ihnen

          The original headline was mine, not Geoff’s. We do our best to report what we know and not simply rumors.

  • Joe O

    This site really doesn’t seem to fit their model. They tend to establish residence closer to airports for cheaper logistics, not city centers. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • Marcus

      You might have to explain the Boston and Cincinnati IKEAs in that case. This one in St. Louis would be 5x closer to the airport than either of those.

    • FrankDeGraaf

      None of IKEA’s inventory is transported by air. All of it by sea and domestically by trucks and a small bit of rail through huge distribution centers.

    • Don

      You should visit the IKEA in Brooklyn NY that opened a couple years ago in an abandoned warehouse. This site is nearly identical to the Brooklyn site with the exception that the St Louis site has considerably better access.

      Here’s a Google map link:

  • Paul Hohmann

    The Gerhart Block should be safe with the large Metropolitan Police garage just west of it. Even if both the Gerhart and garage were acquired, the site would not be large enough. An Ikea w/ its loading dock is about 500 feet deep, which means Duncan would likely go away or be pushed south if this were to happen.

    • Presbyterian

      Map has been added today, which should clarify things. I do hope the grain elevators stay. I hated those things for fifteen years, but now they’ve really grown on me.

      • Adam

        yeah, i was thinking other side of Forest Park Ave. the map clarified.

  • Adam

    Should we be concerned about the Gerhart block? That site is pretty shallow. I’m having a hard time imagining an Ikea fitting there without more demolition. I sure as hell hope not… I’m fine with Ikea but this just seems like a really bad spot for it given how anti-urban their stores are.

    • Adam

      my bad. i was thinking other side of Forest Park Ave. not that Gerhart couldn’t still be in danger.

  • Nick

    Right in the middle of the city? Wouldn’t it have to be smaller than the normal IKEA if we put it in the central corridor? Maybe “IKEA: City” It’s great to think about a big business coming to the city, but right in the freaking middle of town? Like someone said below, it’d have to have underground parking to make up for the huge footprint it would have.

  • Jessica

    I’m new to STL and it blows my mind that we don’t have an ikea here. There are so many universities and colleges near by… When I “furnished” my first place, it was almost exclusively ikea, since that’s what we could afford at the time. I’d really like to see one here.

  • Think big

    Ha, 20 stores will be built before St. Louis leadership gets through with all their lawsuits and environmental studies. If the aldermen or other leaders can’t make money off this project, it will not be built. Small mindedness will win again.

    • jhoff1257

      You sound a little small-minded.

      • He’s got a point. You can bet that the “powers that be” have been prepped for this. The writings been on the wall for at least a few years. The palms have long-since been greased, one way or another.

        We can’t help but wonder if “Bully-Boy Biondi” has his grubby paws in there, somewhere, somehow.

    • samizdat

      Well, considering the Federal-Mogul site will need extensive remediation (asbestos, lead, heavy metals, just for starts), I would think environmental studies will be a given. And desirable, for that matter. As for City management (note that I don’t use the word ‘leadership’), well, greasy palms will make for a speedy outcome, if IKEA is indeed thinking about this site.

  • Steven M.

    Irresponsible reporting, guys.

    • NSC City

      How so? Seems right on.

      • Presbyterian

        All the scuttlebutt I’m hearing only confirms the story.

        • TheMiscHarpoon

          Yeah, it’s still all speculation.

          • Presbyterian

            Or sources speaking on condition of anonymity.

    • Simon Nogin

      I disagree. They cover that it is rumored, but explain that many sources have stated this information. This is great reporting, and for those of us very interested in the city’s continued growth I like to hear where proposed developments could be going in.

  • mike della genga

    GREAT NEWS! Just when I’m about to move back to St. Louis from Europe after three years!

  • Presbyterian

    Here we go again. Gosh, I hope this one is real. Again. Just like last time. And the time before that. Oh, yeah … and the time before that, too …

  • STLgasm

    If true, I hope parking will be addressed smartly. Could be a huge boon for Midtown.

    • mike della genga

      all parking should be required to go underground. period.

  • rawest

    Excellent news, if true. But, please, no meatballs or cakes…