Gateway at Kirkwood, Evolving Suburban Development Patterns and Walkable Communities

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Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{Novus Properties' "Gateway at Kirkwood" proposal site outlined in blue}

The intersection of Manchester and Kirkwood Roads isn't pretty, unless you love cars. On each of the four corners at the intersection of these main thoroughfares sits a car dealership. The city asked for and has now been presented a plan called "Gateway at Kirkwood" by Novus Properties that the company believes will spruce up the most trafficked northern entry to Kirkwood. Tenants could be open for business as early as October 2015.

Initial chatter months ago speculated that a walkable development, a "second downtown" might be on the table. What's being presented in a little more pedestrian (unfortunately not for pedestrians). At this location it's no surprise to see traditional suburban setbacks and strip malls, we mean "boutique shopping centers". The good news is the reported $73M plan would also add senior living and other apartment options as well as a couple dozen townhomes.

Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{"Gateway to Kirkwood" site plan}

This may not feel like another downtown, but there's a little irony in that the historical downtown Kirkwood is becoming a little more like this proposed development every year. Large mixed-use buildings have been built, but parking continues to dominate. We called this "self-inflicted suburbanism" two years ago when the city spent $1.43M to buy and demo two downtown storefronts for 46 parking spaces. 


{orange = existing parking, green = demolition for parking, blue = possible location of parking garage}

The proposed "Gateway at Kirkwood" development is interesting as an evolution of the surbuban small retail and mixed-use development pattern. Heavily trafficked intersections like this one experienced widening and deadening over the past half century. More and faster traffic led to less habitable and inviting uses.

This proposal highlights potential for a more attractive "welcome" to Kirkwood, a boost in city tax receipts, jobs and some added greenspace. It lists primary strengths of the site as high traffic counts and ample disposable income nearby. Cited weaknesses include: "multiple property owners and residents in the area w/ different wants & needs", "commercial property abuting residential", and a need for public financing due to high property acquisition costs. The project would seek various levels and types of public subsidy (see project proposal below).

Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{"Gateway" will likely carry the aesthetic of Market at McKnight, a nearby Novus project}

The same pros and cons play out again and again as suburban areas that have been built out for decades see businesses and buildings near the end of their life cycles. Businesses seek locations with high traffic counts. Relatively smaller businesses (smaller than big box), seem to be finding a foothold, and demand is rising for residences in specific, and somewhat walkable, locations.

We still believe that the St. Louis suburban municipality that first embraces a truly walkable, sustainable development plan will break the boom-bust cycle of development and emerge over time as a stable and sought after community. The conflict being played out is the desire for a walkable environment with demand for parking so people can drive there. Clayton, Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Creve Coeur, parts of the City of St. Louis and elsewhere are all hoping, even doing some planning, for a more dense, walkable future, but none have fully embraced policies to support the vision. Until this happens, the latest evolution of the suburban development pattern at least looks like an improvement from the past.

"Gateway at Kirkwood" Prominent Features (from proposal document)

  • Prominent fountain with an inscription reading Gateway at Kirkwood
  • Attractively landscaped green space; a designated area with lighting and seating
  • +/-15,000sf freestanding, high-end, boutique supermarket (Fresh Thyme)
  • +/-20,000sf specialty retail center comprised of boutique shops
  • +/-5,000sf freestanding bank
  • +/-14,000sf freestanding CVS Pharmacy with drive through
  • +/-4,000sf quick-service restaurant with drive through
  • Four-story, 65-unit luxury multifamily apartment building with first floor retail
  • Four-story, 100-unit luxury senior living/retirement community
  • Two luxury townhome sites on each side of N. Kirkwood Road
  • Tree-lined street; ample buffering from existing residential homes; 670+ parking spaces
  • Fashionable light posts dispersed along N. Kirkwood Road and the Manchester "entranceway"
  • Small statue, shrine, or epitaph dedicated to the City of Kirwood

Development prototypes included in development proposal:

Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{retail}

Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{mixed-use}

Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{free standing retail}

Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{retirement community}

Gateway at Kirkwood - Novus Properties proposal
{townhomes}

Gateway at Kirkwood Site Proposal by Novus – Kirkwood, MO
by nextSTL.com

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