Cortona at Forest Park Set to Open at the Highlands

Cortona at Forest Park Set to Open at the Highlands

The Cortona at Forest Park is a ~278 unit apartment complex rising in the Cheltenham neighborhood.  Visible from busy streets like Oakland and Hampton Avenues, and even Interstate 64, the apartment complex is scheduled for a February, 2014 completion.

This is an exciting part of town right now as there are several large projects in the works in the Hampton/I-64 area.  One is the construction of the Tri-Star Mercedes dealership that is underway.  This ~45,000 square foot project is an exciting addition to the former property of Fox 2 News at Berthold and Hampton that has been abandoned and empty since they left town for the staid burbs around 2008.

The other exciting development is the St. Louis Zoo’s purchase of the former Forest Park Hospital across Hampton.  The demolition of the hospital is underway right now and is making way for a 19 acre addition said to include a zoo-themed hotel, additional animal habitat and major new exhibit, pedestrian bridge and gondola going over I-64.

So it is exciting to see additional housing options popping up in this part of town. Additional residents will only boost the activity seen around here.  And hopefully the addition of residents and visitors will boost the happening business and entertainment district around Clayton and Tamm in Dogtown…led by my favorite soup joint in westside St. Louis at Nora’s at 1136 Tamm Avenue.

I am all for infill.  If we are ever going to see a gain in residents (which we haven’t seen since the early-mid 20th Century), we need to meet the housing needs for a diverse set of people seeking all kinds of different lifestyles.  I am of the opinion that new infill does not always need to be historic in appearance, in fact I think we need modern new designs melding with the old brick, stone and wood classics.  Take UIC’s Botanical Grove work in the Botanical Heights area as an example.

Or the many examples of quality construction and design from various eras in the Central West End.

Nothing is more beautiful than the best of two era complementing each other.

We need diversity in housing that offers people modern living amenities that compete with what is available in the suburbs and newer Midwestern cities that offer much more contemporary options than St. Louis.  Many people just don’t like living in old buildings.  They can be drafty, inefficient, laid out weird, wired with antiquated electric, etc.  Some people want the newest, most efficient kitchens, baths, windows, HVAC, lighting, floor plans, etc.

I think that is what the Cortona will bring…and with some interesting finishes to give the development a modern look.

The site is not a typical neighborhood setting like you can get in most parts of town, it is part of the larger Highlands office park that exists on the spot of the former St. Louis Arena.  There are a couple residential buildings called “The Lofts”, a hotel and restaurant, a building housing BJC operations and two other buildings with various tennants including financial, media and construction firms, etc.  A Jimmy Johns, Yoga studio and Comet Coffee and Microbakery are in the first floor facing Oakland Avenue.

{I’d use this greenspace for soccer}

{the Hampton Inn}

{office with first floor retail}

The wavy contours of the buildings are intended to emulate the roller coasters of the Highlands amusement park that once sat here.

So there will be those who’ll certainly criticize this as contemporary “business park living”, and I see the point, but I live in a traditional turn of the century St. Louis neighborhood and I don’t have as many walkable amenities as this (yet).  The location is awesome as one of the greatest urban parks in the country is across the Interstate.

The property manager for the Cortona, Mark Milford, reached out to me and gave me a sneak peek. He shared a lot of great info on the development, like the name, which was a nod to Cortona, Italy one of Steve Brown’s (Balke Brown) favorite places when he studied in Rome. Mark is a suburban St. Louis guy who’ll be living here soon.

The complex was still under construction upon my visit, so I’ll spare those photos. The first floor is scheduled for completion in February, 2014 and an additional floor will come online each following month.

The building is 5 stories, sits on 4.79 acres and has many, many modern amenities including an awesome 0.5 acre center courtyard area with a pool, outdoor 24′ fire table and center pit, BBQ grills, cabana with showers, bar and 3-tiered pool (lap pool, tanning ledge and hot tub).  Modern stuff like USB ports on the electrical outlets, recycling and trash chutes, etc.  There will be an Enterprise car share on site, and private covered/structured parking for its residents; there are 314 parking spots for the 278 units.  There is a dog run, a common space for parties that overlooks the courtyard, fitness center, multi-purpose game room, etc.

{future 3-tiered pool, private cabana, outdoor grills/bar, social areas}

{parking structure and dog run in the foreground}

{Cortona will not have access to or from Wise Avenue to the south}

{an pre-construction rendering of Cortona at Forest Park

Apartments range in size from studio/1 bath 575 sq. ft. to 2 br/2 bath 1299 sq. ft. All the luxuries of modern living one would expect are here, including great views of the city to the east.

This development is coming on line about the same time as The Aventura Phase II in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood to the east.  The styles are quite a contrast.  The Cortona is interesting and modern, the Aventura…well, if you pay attention to early commentary from the outspoken St. Louis lovers, you will have heard it referred to as “Straight Outta Ballwin”, plastic suburban schlock, cheapest possible, a private complex closed off from the surrounding neighborhood, a big middle finger to FPSE, etc.  I have chosen to keep my opinions of the Aventura off the Internet, but will gladly share if you buy me a beer.

{a little bit of the burbs right here in the middle of St. Louis}

The worst thing about this development is it is highly visibility along I-64 and it’s lack of context in a really cool neighborhood that is on the rise and has St. Louis’ beauty and soul all over it. Anyhow, congrats to the Cortona for adding a fresh, modern element to St. Louis’ new housing scene.


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