Hotel, Bank and Mixed-Use Infill Proposals Come Before Forest Park Southeast Next Week

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Restoration St. Louis infill proposal - FPSE
{Restoration St. Louis' proposed mixed-use infill at 4400 Manchester Avenue}

Next Tuesday, the Forest Park Southeast Development Committee will hear three proposals for new projects in the neighborhood. More information is now available for the Hilton Home Hotel proposal we reported in September for the corner of Chouteau and Taylor Avenues. A signature corner building at Manchester and Tower Grove may become a Reliance Bank branch and the first new mixed-use infill may be coming to a vacant lot near the new Urban Chestnut brewery

The five-story $8.7M proposal for a mixed-use building at 4400 Manchester Avenue would be the first for the neighborhood. Renderings show 14,000 sf of ground floor office and retail space with 55 Universal Design apartments above. The Restoration St. Louis corporate office would occupy much of the first floor. Current offices are located within the Corronado building on Lindell, which was recently sold along with several adjacent buildings. The developer would like to see a pizza or pasta restaurant fill the remaining retail space.

Restoration St. Louis infill proposal - FPSE
{floor plan for 4400 Manchester shows office space and a restaurant storefront}

Restoration St. Louis infill proposal - FPSE
{a slight variation with extended balconys and facade variation without material colors added}

The development site has been vacant since the 1970s according to Restoration St. Louis. While the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood has changed and changed again over the past few decades, many of the vacant lots are decades old. With the conversion of the Renard Paper Company building into a new Urban Chestnut Brewing Company retail and brewing facility, this long empty corner is suddenly attractive for development. The only item apparently not included in the current proposal is a parking plan.

Reliance Bank proposal - FPSE
{rendering of proposed Reliance Bank at Tower Grove and Manchester}

Reliance Bank is hoping to occupy the northwest corner of Tower Grove and Manchester Avenues. The building has been through a couple occupants over the past decade and been vacant for several years. The proposal would make use of the large adjacent parking lot for a two-lane drive up ATM and 13 parking spaces. The building has been partially restored by Red Brick Management and full build-out is estimated at just less than $1M. While it's apparent that the building was once adjoined to others along Manchester, it's been several decades since those buildings disappeared. With any luck, the building wont be allowed to be painted.

Reliance Bank proposal - FPSE

Reliance Bank proposal - FPSE

Manchester at Tower Grove_195X
{looking east at Manchester and Tower Grove, proposed Reliance Bank to the left}

The four-story, 107-room $12.8M Hilton Home Hotel proposal for Chouteau and Taylor is, according to our information, a vast improvement over the original plan that had the hotel surrounding by parking that abutted both streets. Let's hope that the current proposal is just one more iteration on the way to something much, much better. While the proposal offers different color schemes and the choice of building materials will get attention (again, what happened with Aventura?!), the site plan is what matters.

Hilton Home Hotel proposal - FPSE

Hilton Home Hotel proposal - FPSE

Hilton Home Hotel proposal - FPSE
{various color schemes have virually no affect on our urban form, focus should remain on the site plan}

Current site plans show the building sitting along Taylor Avenue, though not parallel to that street. The hotel is more than 100 feet from Chouteau and a worthless "pocket park" is plopped down on this urban corner. The hotel entrance faces north, looking over I-64 and towards the medical center and new Shriners Hospital. Next to the pocket park, surrounding by fencing, along Chouteau would be the hotel parking lot, with more fencing. This is an entirely inappropriate form for this urban neighborhood. Any building here needs to address the neighborhood, not turn its ugly back to it. While placing the entrance as far from the residences will be welcome be some, what's left is a lifeless institutional facade where activity should be.

Below are just two quick scribbles of better site plans (in orange and red). The building should front Chouteau and Taylor, or even better, leave space for additional development along these streets. The 65ft x 100ft does this, in theory. Better would be pushing the hotel to the corner and allowing space for a new ~100ft x 120ft lot infill project along Chouteau (in blue). The best scenario would be to leave the pocket park and area in blue below open to future development. Hopefully the committee forgets about color schemes, worries less about materials and gets the form right.

Capture12_1

Chouteau-Taylor rendering 1
{this old proposal for the corner shows an ideal urban form}

Taken together, the three proposals represent yet another wave of development activity in the region's quickest changing neighborhood. The proposals show a market confidence in the neighborhood and the in turn, the neighborhood should have the confidence to demand better design. This will continue to be more important as the change is only starting. A new MetroLink station near the east end of the neighborhood will better serve residents and businesses, CORTEX will add thousands of jobs in the coming years, the Botanical Grove development is just down Tower Grove, and major retail will be announced soon for the Vandeventer corridor just north of the neighborhood.

aerial
{aerial view of FPSE proposals}

The Forest Park Southeast Development Committee is a function of Park Central Development, a community development corporation. This appears to be the first time the committee meeting agenda has been posted online in advance. The public posting and the clear statement that meetings are open to the public is a significant and welcome change. A major premise of this site is that changes big and small happen all the time in our city, shaping our lives for years to come, and too often residents are not aware of plans that will greatly alter their neighborhood and daily experience. Hopefully this trend continues at Park Central as well as other neighborhood committees across the city.

Mixed-use infill proposal for Forest Park Southeast neighborhood at 4400 Manchester – St. Louis, MO by nextSTL.com

Reliance Bank proposal for 4301 Manchester in Forest Park Southeast neighborhood – St. Louis, MO by nextSTL.com

Hilton Home Hotel Proposal for Forest Park Southeast neighborhood – St. Louis, MO 11/2013 by nextSTL.com

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  • baopuANDu

    I wonder if any of these proposed Manchester projects are still going thru. I’d love to have the undeveloped lot opposite UCBC.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The vacant lot opposite UCBC is still empty. The proposal isn’t moving forward at this time. The Reliance Bank is done and better than the rendering (they didn’t paint the brick). The Hilton Hotel is finished and open. Also, on Manchester, this mixed-use building is currently under construction: https://nextstl.com/2015/04/building-permit-issued-for-new-uic-mixed-use-building-in-the-grove-4321-manchester/

      • baopuANDu

        Thanks, Alex! Is Forest Park Southeast Restoration, LLC still the title holder of 4400 Manchester? Any news on if anything is in the pipeline?

        • Alex Ihnen

          Yes it is. Restoration St. Louis has been doing some big work in Davenport, IA with the restoration of the Blackhawk Hotel there. Rumor is another Blackhawk Hotel is planned for downtown St. Louis. They own dozens of lots/buildings in FPSE and many are being actively marketed and have had a lot of interest. Find the right fit may take time, but more projects are coming.

  • STLEnginerd

    Maybe they are tired of getting raked over the coals for Aventura. What IF we all swear to never speak ill of Aventura’s design again in exchange for site remediation. I’d do that deal :).

    • rbeedee

      Lol, you can sign me up for that deal as well!

  • rbeedee

    I don’t think the hotel developers are open to moving their building to the corner of Taylor and Chouteau. Serious environmental remediation would need to be done to that corner in order to build on that lot, which is why they are proposing a pocket park, which may wind up being the neighborhood dog park. Their initial proposal was to put a fountain on the corner instead. They also want highway visibility. I think if tax abatement is denied, they will build their hotel as proposed, adjacent to I-64, with EFIS and Hardy-Plank siding as the facade. Do you think tax abatement in exchange for brick facade would be a worthwhile trade, or would it be better to deny tax abatement and leave the design as-is? I am on the fence right now. I don’t want them to build another building with a cheap and ugly facade, but I also feel like giving tax abatement to avoid a bad design is kind of like paying a ransom. This is one of the few times I’m glad I am not on the committee that has to vote yea or nay…

    For the apartment building on Manchester, there is a rumor going around that Restoration St. Louis wants to demo several buildings they own on Swan behind the proposed new building for a surface parking lot, which I think would be a mistake.

    • STLEnginerd

      Any Idea what the source of the remediation is. Was there a gas leak there at some point from the Gasometer. When digging a Basment / Foundation isn’t a significant portion of the dirt removed anyway. How deep does it go and how toxic is it? I think tax credits should be tied to properly remediation of the environmental hazard on the corner. If they choose not to build there then sell it and let someone else do it but the eviromental disaster of the last century need to be dealt with. Its not going to get cheaper. These are issues that this city needs to grapple with at some point.

      • rbeedee

        I have heard both chemicals from the gasometer itself and lead from the paint used to paint the gasometer. I agree with your larger point, the city needs to come up with a way to deal with developers more generally, and specifically deal with rehabilitation of our many contaminated former industrial sites. The state brownfield program seems to work ok (though it may be a little corrupt), but it seems to be geared towards larger sites than this one. It would be nice if Laclede offered to clean it up themselves, but they don’t seem terribly interested in that. The form-based code being assembled in FPSE will help dictate site use and form, but exemptions will still be available, and I suspect heavily contaminated sites will be considered good candidates for variances.

        The developers say they will not remediate the corner, and there is no way to compel them to sell the land to someone else who wants to do it better, even if such a party existed. The immediate question facing the neighborhood is, “is it better to deny tax abatement and get the EFIS/Hardie-Plank building, or pay the ransom in exchange for a brick building?

    • Alex Ihnen

      A brick facade won’t help the design. So don’t pay millions for walls of 2/3rds fake brick veneer. Much better to pay for remediation so something worthwhile can be built at the corner. No matter what happens, the building itself won’t be brick.

      IIRC – there was a big hole at that corner for quite a while. Certainly there’s a foundation still under there that would have to be dug out. A small manufacturing company once occupied the corner and so there could be chemical issues, but nothing from the old gasometer would be worse than where Aventura was built.

  • I make sense

    It’s refreshing to see people wanting to invest in our community. I like all the proposals – hotel, bank and apartments.

  • rgbose

    What’s a Universal Design apartments?

  • rgbose

    “The development site has been vacant since the 1970s according the Restoration St. Louis.” FWIW, according to the Assessor’s website there was a permit to demo “HANDWRECK 2 STORY BRICK COMMERCIAL BLDG ” in Jan of 1998. Hope they don’t tear anything else down for parking.

  • gthang5

    Your other right for the bank picture? (it’s on the left)

  • Benjamin Aronov

    Bank building looks pretty good in white, some variation to the block could be good. Why the dissaproving reaction?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Brick – specifically 100+ year old soft clay bricks aren’t meant to be painted. Here are just five reasons from Memphis Landmarks Commssion:

      1) It is an unnecessary treatment for the material and not needed for purposes of maintenance and longevity.
      2) It changes the original character of the historic building and compromises its architectural integrity.
      3) It creates an expensive maintenance issue (for the need to keep repainting) which never existed before.
      4) It can damage both the brick cladding (i.e., the exterior) and potentially cause interior damage if moisture
      is trapped in the bricks and cannot “breathe” as the material normally would in its natural state.
      5) It is difficult (and expensive!) to remove and can become a permanent change.

      • Presbyterian

        If Historic Tax Credits are in play, the proposal to paint the brick likely will be denied.

      • Don

        A good question and a good answer.

      • samizdat

        And my own informal addition, based on observation:

        6) It is often a sign that rather than properly repoint the brick joints, and other such essential exterior maintenance, the owner has unwisely chosen to paint the building, likely because of the cost difference between the two choices.

        I’ve often wondered what other corners get cut when observing painted brick.