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

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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

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  • Patrick Kleaver

    An update. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported (Sept. 2015) that the lender has just foreclosed on the Chemical Building. Rehab work that was (supposedly) to begin in May (and when it didn’t, was then planned to start in August) never happened.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Foreclosure isn’t necessary a bad sign. In this case it’s a needed step before another developer can have a shot at it.

      • Patrick Kleaver

        You may be right, but I have my doubts about another developer taking a chance on it, considering past attempts have not gotten anywhere.

  • Patrick Kleaver

    Here we are, two years later, and the Chemical Building has seen no more work done, while the Arcade Building is on track to be rehabbed and reopened by December 2015.
    I was a patient of a podiatrist years back who had an office on one of the Chemical’s top floors, and was impressed with the great view he had looking towards the west. I knew somebody interested in a condo there when plans were being made to convert it from an office building to the “Alexa” and he had even had floor plans drawn up for his individual condo’s layout. When the Alexa project went nowhere, I recall a subsequent owner claiming (just before the Arcade work started) that an issue for them was tenant parking – they were trying to work something out with the city-owned garage at 7th and Pine to have spaces there set aside for new Chemical tenants. After the work on the Arcade began in earnest, city officials said it was hoped that would “jump-start” the Chemical owners into beginning their rehab. Well, apparently it didn’t! (By the way, I was also a customer of the jeweler on the first floor – the only Chemical occupant remaining – and he said he had been told work was to finally begin in May 2015, but as of this posting, it hasn’t apparently started.)

  • John

    What’s happening with this now?

  • Hasan

    Great news. Any idea of a start date?

    • Geoff Whittington

      Sources tell me subcontractors are currently being selected and the project will start “right away”…

  • Dan

    Terrific…let it spread to other nearby buildings!

  • jhoff1257

    On to the Arcade…

    • John R

      On to the Chemical!

      • jhoff1257

        Haha…I guess so. Wonder what happened here.

  • JustFlushIt

    I wonder what ever happened with Dubinsky and the California group. He didn’t get the full purchase price in 2005, instead taking about 1/3 as an equity stake in the redevelopment. Guess he’s out that money.

    Also, the basement of that place was FULL of vintage fixtures that were in pristine condition. I wonder where those ended up?

    • Kevin

      Our neighbors are vintage collectors and I had heard about the vintage fixtures in the basement from them. They, too, are wondering what became of them. My neighbors suspect that they were probably sold off at some point by one of the last few owners as some quick money.

  • Matt

    This is great! Hopefully some great tenants can move in to the ground floor retail (and the apartments).

  • dredger

    I was starting wondering when you were going to throw out the next tidbit of good biz news. This is great to hear. Maybe IKEA and GOOGLE will be next 🙂

    Like Mark said a good read! Which I went back for a second read after reading the lame PD article that is based on a Clayton banker who lives in Ladue arguing that having some restaurants seeing good business is what is going to turn things around for Clayton as long as they can find more parking, sorry PD but thought it was really weak article on what CBD is lacking. Plus, I don’t know what pieces coming together that the PD article is talking about for CBD. The decent mixed use/residential tower/infill on the east end near Forsyth metrolink station has been dead for a while and a decent hotel proposal believe on Maryland Ave came crashing down in part by nimby mentality even before it went up (Instead a hotel goes up in Brentwood). Both those pieces would have been a huge help for CBD.
    So its nice to see some investment coming through were it is going to matter in the long run. Downtown is coming back by putting people back into buildings like Chemical Building, either it residents or workers. It only be a matter of time before downtown will see even more wins with business also even if it takes one small Macy’s step back for every two steps forward

    • JustFlushIt

      Is there a google rumor?

      • Psycho Tim

        I’m guessing that’s about the hope for Google Fiber?

      • Adam

        there was a thread on here called “Google STL”… seems to be missing now but all the posts can still be searched. perhaps the nextSTL purveyors removed it? did the rumors get out of hand?

      • Adam

        i’m just blind. here’s the thread:

      • Dredger

        Look under the the business, retail of the Nextstl fourm section. Their should be a Google post by Gone Corporate. Some discussion on Google opening a office in the area after Gone Corporate had some comments passed onto him. Can’t speak for him but respect Gone Corporates comments and don’t think they come lightly.
        My comments, good on opinion/speculation but light on sources other then what is already stated in media. Hoping any Google rumors for St. Louis will come to frutition.

  • Presbyterian

    Love it! “How dare they build a red building in these days of neutral [email protected]#!?”

  • Simon Nogin

    My favorite building downtown. I’m ecstatic! Don, this made my YEAR!

    • Don

      It’s a spectacular building. I could go a full year!

      It’s my favorite building in the city and I hope they do a first class job.

      • JustFlushIt

        Hopefully they saved some of that shoulder high marble wainscoting.

  • Don

    That is awesome. The Chemical Building is a real treasure and this just made my month!

  • Mark Groth

    Great news and a great read…I liked reading this line from the 1896 Brickbuilder critique: “the degenerate Chicago style”