Finally: Chemical Building Gets Financing for 120 Apartments, First Floor Retail

Alexa aerial

Landwhite Developers LLC founder David Roos told WhoLou Friday the company has secured financing for a proposed $34 million mixed-use renovation of the Chemical Building in downtown’s Old Post Office District. The proposed plan will transform the 17-story, 167,000 sq. ft. building at Eighth Street and Olive into 120 apartments with ground level retail. Additional sources say Paric Corp. has been selected general contractor for the project.

Landwhite bought the Chemical Building in 2012 from Centrue Bank for nearly $4 million. The bank foreclosed on the property in 2011 after Chemical Building Acquisition LLC, a group of investors from California, filed for bankruptcy. According to previous news reports, the building has already been stripped and is ready for conversion. A jewelry store is the only current tenant in the building which is also known as the Alexa Lofts Building, a name from a previous condo development proposal.

Chemical Building

Chemical 3
{one of the Benish Restaurant and Catering Company’s chain of eight locations occupied the first floor of the Chemical Building, c. 1920}

Landwhite was founded in 2009 by Roos and two partners from New York. The company specializes in acquiring vacant vintage properties, typically converting them into contemporary apartment buildings featuring retail space. Landwhite, headquartered in Granger, Indiana also has projects in Chicago and Kansas City.

The brick, terra cotta, and cast iron Chemical Building was designed by Henry Ives Cobb and built in 1896. Several longstanding St. Louis businesses including the Shorthand Institute, later known as the Carlton School for Secretaries, have occupied space in the Chemical Building through the years. In 1934 legendary St. Louis cafeteria Miss Hullings opened their first location in the basement of the building. Dooley’s Ltd., another popular downtown eatery, operated in the Chemical Building for nearly 40 years. Dooley’s is currently located in Grand Center near the Fox Theatre.
 
Although the building ranks among the more appreciated historic buildings today, it received a less than glowing architectural review in The Brickbuilder at the time it was built: It contains no special features, other than those found in other first-class office buildings. It is seventeen stories high, in what Barr Ferree is pleased to call the degenerate Chicago style; its many angular bays and the numerous ornamented horizontal lines suggest, to use a common expression, that the architect had found "a good thing," and was tempted to "push it along." He has left He has left no quiet spot upon which we may rest the eye, and, although we may be awed by its great height we find it lacks the impressive simplicity and imposing grandeur of its less pretentious neighbor, the Union Trust Building….The architect has given us quite a surprise by the use of very vivid red brick and terra-cotta, quite out of the ordinary in this day of lighter colors.

Downtown neighborhood - STL
{the Chemical Building today – image by Mark Groth}

Chemical Building – National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form by nextSTL