Changing Tide of City Development Reaches South of Manchester in The Grove

Building Pros proposal - The Grove

The big sexy news in The Grove may be the Paramount/UIC contemporary infill, but another item on the neighborhood development committee agenda may be a more important indicator of the area’s future. The Building Pros LLC is planning to construct two attached single family homes at 1303 South Boyle.

The homes would be approximately 2,400sf, feature four bedrooms, two baths and full basements. Estimated sales price is listed as $300,000. The developer is seeking a 10-year tax abatement and support to purchase a vacant city-owned lot.

If you don’t know, South Boyle isn’t the sexy part of The Grove. While UIC’s custom home is wedged into a lot on the far east end of Gibson Avenue, the high rents and higher home sale prices have long been marked on the east by the barricaded Newstead Avenue, and on the south by Manchester, if not Arco.

Boyle at Norfolk streetview{the lot is currently a small garden with as asphalt lot behind}

Building Pros proposal - The Grove

Building Pros proposal - The Grove{adjacent homes are shown renovated, but are not part of the current proposal}

Investment in the eastern half and southern half (south of Manchester) has remained largely absent. There, the building stock if often smaller with a mix of stick frame homes. Recently the Forest Park Southeast Historic District was extended south of Manchester, making some buildings eligible for historic tax credits for the first time.

Plans and proposals for significant infill on the south side have come and gone. With a bevy of vacant lots, and a big institutional land owner, development has stalled. Washington University, as Forest West Properties, Inc. via the Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation, owns approximately 80 parcels in the neighborhood south of Manchester. Nothing appears to be happening with the Washington University lots, as this proposal is for land owned by the city via the Land Reutilization Authority.

WUSTL owned property - FPSE{blue dots indicate Washington University ownership}

Forest Park Southeast Historic District expansion{the FPSE historic district was recently extended south of Manchester}

Boyle at Norfolk streetview{Boyle Avenue is marked by a row of a dozen single-story shotgun homes (3 of them here)}

Just a few blocks south, UIC has been able to acquire large parts of the eastern end of what was McRee Town and re-envision it as Botanical Grove. Yet this is a different type of development, building two homes in a corner of The Grove without control or prospects for a large number of adjacent sites. Redeveloping a city requires both, and more.

So who is The Building Pros? This seems a good time to remind readers to maybe not judge a developer by its website. “We Are the #1 Garage Builder in St. Louis!!!” the site screams. But never mind that, the FPSEDC agenda states that The Building Pros have been rehabbing and building new homes in Shaw, Tower Grove East, Tower Grove South and Southwest Garden in recent years.

The project some may recognize is the incredible rehab of the Hyde Park Beer building at 3128 Morganford. The London Tea Room moved to the building in March of this year from its long time home in downtown St. Louis. The new location features a cafe and event space.

London Tea Room x 3

That project alone means we should probably give the renderings for The Grove homes a second look, or maybe squint with one eye. The homes could be nice. The windows appear large, there’s a hefty cornice. As with many projects, the quality of the details will determine its final appeal. For all the regulations and review, the somewhat similar infill in Lafayette Square hasn’t been stellar, and so it’s hard to know what to expect.

Renderings provided to FPSEDC by the developer show two adjacent renovated homes that would appear to fit the style of their previous work. With any luck this is an indication of a future project. It easy to imagine their interest in these properties as they relate to the proposed homes. One is owned by Washington University, while the other is owner occupied according to city records. The proposal will be presented to the Park Central Forest Park Southeast Development Committee at this evening’s meeting (June 24).

In all of that, one shouldn’t lose track of the fact a relatively small development company is hoping to snag two vacant city-owned lots in a neglected corner of The Grove and turn a profit on $300,000 single family homes. To anyone watching development in the City of St. Louis for a decade or more, this represents a remarkable change in urban investment and a vote of confidence in the city.