Koplar Hires Kohn Pederson Fox (KPF) to Design CWE Landmark Project

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nextSTL has learned renowned New York architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) has been hired to provide design services to envision a new future for the corner of Kingshighway and Lindell Boulevards. Perhaps the city’s most prominent surface parking lot, the site directly from both the Chase Park Plaza, and 1,300-acre Forest Park, has never been developed.

Through the construction boom surrounding the 1904 World’s Fair, the 1920s, which saw nearly 20 high-rise buildings constructed, and the addition of buildings along Kingshighway in the 1950s, the corner lot has remained undeveloped. The site is part of a block long gap along with adjacent parking lots to the south, once the site of the Buckingham Hotel.

Commercial real estate developers Sam Koplar and the Koman Group are attending to preconstruction activities regarding the new landmark project. KPF is one of the biggest design firms in the world. They were recently named architect for a $1 billion proposed waterfront development in Boston. However, it was reportedly KPF’s Hudson Yards project in NYC that convinced the project team to chose the architect for the CWE project.

{KFP’s Hudson Yard project brought the firm to attention of Koplar and the Koman Group}

{KPF was recently named the architect for a proposed Boston waterfront project}

Little has been decided about the project, including the final footprint. The parking lots to the south are owned by the Parc Frontenac apartments and St. Regis condominiums. No deal has been reached to include them in the development at this time. Early visioning is said include a mixed-use tower incorporating retail, office and residential components.

The design process for a significant tower can take years, with further planning, development and construction adding a couple years to the timeline. The project site has no height restriction on new construction. There is currently no deadline for the project. The 16-story Parc Frontenac across West Pine Boulevard to the south was constructed in 1956.

The most significant mixed-use high-rise addition to the Central West End in recent years is the Park East Tower at nearby Euclid and Laclede Avenues. The 26-story, 89-unit building was the first new condominium tower in the City of St. Louis in 30 years when it was completed in 2007. The Koplar project site footprint is approximately twice as large, without adding the parking lots to the south.

In 1986 now defunct developer Cordage-Nivek proposed two 30-story limestone-and-brick towers at the Koplar and Parc Frontenac parking lots. The $100 million project was to feature a 320-room Hilton hotel, office space, and residential living according to Jeff Fister’s The Days and Nights of the Central West End. A television studio, four-screen theatre, retail space, and parking were also to be components of the unrealized development.

{the mid-1980s proposal would have spanned the Koplar property and adjacent parking lots}

The Koman Group is working hard to come up with financing and will manage much of the project according to nextSTL sources. The firm was founded by former St. Louis football Cardinal and two-time Pro Bowl selection Bill Koman. The firm has developed more than $1 billion of commercial real-estate projects since 1985. The appraised value of the CWE lot is $1,911,900.00.

The sale of a Koman Group West County property could help finance the mixed-use CWE project with Koplar. nextSTL was first to report the firm is shopping their CityPlace property in Creve Couer with Chicago-based commercial real estate capital intermediary Holliday Fenoglio Fowler. The 884,308 sq. ft. building is touted by the seller as being, “known by all who live and work in the St. Louis area as the crown jewel of suburban St. Louis.”

The CWE lot is within Ward 17, represented by longtime Alderman Joseph Roddy. Roddy serves as chairman of the St. Louis Housing, UrbanDevelopment and Zoning Committee (HUDZC). Eight committee members consider all matters regarding housing, urban development and zoning, including the Community Development Agency and Commission, the St. Louis Development Corporation and the appropriation and disbursement of all federal funding administered.

{the Buckingham Hotel seen between the Chase-Park Plaza and Parc Frontenac buildings (center)}

{the Buckingham was renovated several times before being demolished in the 1970s}

In May Alderman Roddy told members of HUDZC that he was organizing a group to investigate how TIF and tax abatement is handled in the city of St. Louis. There are currently 122 projects in the city of St. Louis receiving TIF funding. It remains too early in the development process to know what, if any, incentives will be sought, but Roddy recently decided to not endorse TIF, or tax abatement for a 200-unit apartment project in the neighborhood, effectively canceling that project.

Proponents point to the Cortex development as an example of good St. Louis TIF in action. There, more than 2,500 jobs are expected to be created. These jobs will help St. Louis attract and retain more well-paid professionals throughout the city. However, detractors claim that rampant use of TIF for retail development and the benefit of individual neighborhoods is not good for sustained regional economic growth.

Roddy has stated that he wants to bring officials from the city comptroller’s office, the St. Louis Public School District, and the St. Louis Development Corporation into the working mix. He wants to discern how the subsidies are distributed. According to a St. Louis Public Radio post Roddy expects to come up with a more complete plan in the next few months.

{the project site (center) is the most prominent of several surface parking lots in the CWE}

A $47 million renovation of the General American Life Building on Market Street in downtown is the Koman Group’s most recent undertaking. The postmodern building along the Gateway Mall was designed by inaugural Pritzker Prize recipient Philip Johnson, and was completed in 1978. The renovation will facilitate the Laclede Gas headquarters move. The Koman Group is receiving $7 million in TIF aid along with private financing and state/federal historic tax credits to help fund the project.

Prior to the General American Life Building deal the Koman Group reportedly came close to an agreement that would have put the new Laclede Gas corporate headquarters on the Koplar property. The gas company had optioned the land, but negotiations regarding a parking swap with a neighboring property fell apart.

Sam Koplar is vice president of business development for the longstanding family-owned commercial real estate firm. Koplar properties has built and/or managed many iconic St. Louis and regional developments including the Chase Park Plaza, Powell Symphony Hall, and The Lodge of the Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, MO.

Though no cost estimate is available, the mixed-use project with the Koman Group will clearly be Sam Koplar’s biggest to date. In 2004 Koplar, then 24, directed the $20 million redevelopment of Maryland Plaza. A nostalgic favorite for CWE shoppers and diners, the commercially successful project was financed in part with a $5 million TIF. Most recently Koplar and partner Ted Gast opened The York House on Lindell in 2012. That project was a $12 million restoration of the former Chase Apartments building. In addition to a HUD loan of $6.5 million, the York House development was partially financed with $3 million in state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

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  • Chris Stritzel

    Geoff, any new information regarding this project? A friend who works for the city told me a announcement is coming before May but the Tower will be equal in height to the Chase. Any ideas?!?!

  • tpekren

    Geoff, Didn’t click at first when you stated rumblings of a pharmacy of a commercial tenant, but what do you think is the outside chance that Medicine Shoppe is shopping for new corporate space/new digs? St. Louis based pharmacy chain.

    • Geoff Whittington

      Hey TPK. Just so happens I have a Medicine Shoppe source I can ask. Will do. CVS wouldn’t surprise me either. Try and get back to you soon. Thanks.

      • CWE STUD

        Hey Geoff, what did you learn from your Medicine Shoppe source?

        • Geoff Whittington

          Hey CWE STUD. Hoping to touch base with them this weekend. Will let you know what I find out.

  • tpekren

    Geoff, What is your take on Koman Group involvement beyond finding financing and managing the project. I believe they are well known for some very successful commercial/office space development but don’t know their success with residential let alone hotel rooms. Do you think their is a serious office space/commercial component will be added? Koman also seems to do a good job of bringing tenants to the space they develop. Any ideas who would be interested in locating in CWE? You have mentioned Bunge NA in a previous post. Anything with APEX Oil, believe their initial plans to expand didn’t go over to well with Clayton.
    Finally, Is this the follow up to your teaser from an earlier post on a new residential tower in the works?

    • Geoff Whittington

      This is the development I referenced earlier. However, I am also following a smaller potential CWE residential development currently in planning stages. Residentially, Koman Group has ownership/management interest in Clayton on the Park, the Union Club Apartments in Lafayette Square, CityPlace Condominiums in Creve Couer, and Brittany Acres in Bridgeton. Hope so regarding the office space component for the Koplar/Koman development. Downtown needed to retain Laclede, but what an interesting idea they were planning. Can’t think, off top of head, of potential commercial anchor for the new development, though I have heard rumblings about a potential pharmacy. Need to check about Apex.

      • John R

        Bus Journal reported today that the Koman Group is putting up for sale its Motor Lofts downtown and Union Club Apartments.

        • Geoff Whittington

          Thanks John.

      • tpekren

        Thanks Geoff, I think CWE would be an ideal corporate office location for a major Caltholic based healthcare provider already based in St. Louis. Believe they are based in Maryland Heights and have been on the acquisition and expansion mode. It would also be a nice fit considering the St. Louis Cathederal is just down the street.
        Also, Can’t help think to myself about reading of Walgreens, based up the road in greater Chicago, pursuing the possibility of relocating corporate HQ oversees for the sake of taxes. How about a Walgreens NA HQ in CWE? That would be a big win and can imagine the possibilities that it brings for CORTEX.

        • John R

          I believe you are thinking of Ascension Health, which is indeed a major player in the health care industry…. its on Edmunson Rd. by the airport with very non-descript offices… it’s almost like they don’t want to be seen.

  • Jeff Fister

    Great post! Now that Ted & Sam Koplar have successfully developed Maryland Plaza (after a long wait), it’s nice to see them finally turning their sights to this long-neglected corner. It has remained vacant through a series of market ups and downs. With little vacant space available in the CWE to develop commercially, and nearby Cortex/IKEA booming, this could be the right time. Interesting that there are no height restrictions; I wonder how big an issue the “shadows” will be. I remember a nearby high-rise plan was shot down in part because of neighbors’ concerns about tall buildings and their footprint. I doubt the St. Regis residents are looking forward to a next-door skyscraper.

    • Geoff Whittington

      Thanks Jeff. I think it would be hard to get anywhere on this project without St. Regis board approval.

      • Guest

        It’s a shame that St. Louis seems to be cursed by stodgy old NIMBYism. The outcry from people living far west of Kingshighway protesting the height of the Thomas Eagleton Courthouse obstructing their view of the arch when plans were presented…the little old lady protesting the proposed CWE highrise would shade her yard so her flowers wouldn’t get enough sunshine (in the city’s most prestigious high rise housing neighborhood, yet), and then the laughably idiotic idea that no highrise taller than the SECOND tallest highrise should be built…the crashing old bores who defeated those wonderful art nouveau arches that were proposed for Forest Park. I, for one, am embarrassed by such blatant stupidity, and flabbergasted that anyone would take such nonsense seriously.
        These types of inane protests do nothing but cause this city not to move forward and render it boring. Can they truly not witness the cities that have passed us up and left us in the dust….Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas? Look at their skylines. Face it, towering skyscrapers are a mark of progress…they can label the idea behind them whatever they want, but the proofs in the puddin’.
        People who stand in the way of progress need to put in their place.
        That said, this corner needs something very dramatic, the taller and glitzier the better…it would be sensible and fitting for the premier urban/high rise neighborhood of the city.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I sort of understand that some St. Regis residents would like to keep their view of…a parking lot, a few trees and a busy road (let’s be honest, it’s not a view of Forest Park except for a few of the highest units). The value and attractiveness of living at the St. Regis would be much greater if there were a quality development next door. In what world does have a surface parking lot next to your condo create more value than being in a car-optional neighborhood with retail and other entities.

  • imran

    I hope it is impressive and all but I would almost rather see such a signature tower go up downtown. Would look great against the arch. A conversation between two modernist sculptures…….

  • Mike F

    Hudson Yards. Isn’t that the development where they basically engineered a monumental platform over the rail yards, and are for all intents and purposes building the towers above? That is one of the most impressive projects I’ve heard about in years. And the designs for the individual towers k-i-l-l. (When I first read about Hudson, I had shivers running up and down my spine).

    And while I realize that this project is in the most preliminary of stages, I’m wondering how the “Don’t shade me, bro!” crowd is going to think about this. Not to mention how this town’s primal fear of nearly all things modern, unusual, or heaven forfend!, asymmetrical will cope with what could be the most avant garde design this burgh has seen in years (provided, of course, Koplar/Koman go in that direction; though I can’t imagine hiring this firm if it wasn’t their intent to provide this town with a swift kick in its conservative, parochial pants).

    Where do I need to go to beg them to do this, and choose the craziest, most mind-bending design KPF can conceive?

    • Geoff Whittington

      Way too early to tell. All speculation at this point, but I have heard twin 20-story mixed-use towers with underground parking mentioned.

    • Marc D

      What do you think of the One Hundred tower going up at West Pine and Kingshighway? And I wonder if this prevents the the Kopler to build on their portion of that block or not?

  • Randy

    What building height would be ideal here? Something that matches the Chase Park Plaza? Taller? 30 floors would be 2 floors taller than the Chase and provide a nice contrast to its design at this intersection.

    • Mike F

      Matching the Chase would be good. Perhaps a little taller or shorter would be fine with me, too. (I’m not really a height fetishist).

      • STLEnginerd

        I also am not a height fetishist, but I’d like to see it a ‘little taller than the Chase. Reason being I envision a view level with either restaurant, and or bar, with a 360 view. I think it needs to be able to see clearly all the way downtown, and all the way to Clayton. As well as some kind of indicator for tourists as to which points of interest they might like to visit. (Zoo Botanical Gardens, Muny, Loop, Clayton, Basilica, Grand Center, Downtown/Arch) I think all of these should be viewable from the top floor. I think St. Louis struggles a little bit to be recognized as a tourist destination, but that it has a TON of things to offer visitors.

        I’d include a hotel component with mid-high market brand, like Hilton, Embassy Suites, Marriot or Hyatt Regency. Along with condominiums. I think CWE and St. Louis in general need to expand their apartment offering, but at this location i think luxury condos could command a premium price, so apartemnts would not be my first choice here.

        I would avoid office as there is more accessibly areas like CORTEX, Downtown, and Clayton, which serve those uses better, and the parking requirements would overwhelm the site.

        Also please work out something witht the adjacent tower on a shared parking facility and build the lots at Kingshighway and Pine as well… Please.

        • Dick

          Yeah, let’s make it all premium condos that are really expensive. That way I can’t live there.

          Just kidding, it would be nice if there were a few floors where the average person can kind of afford a place.

          • dempster holland

            Go over to Waterman west of Kingshighway or to
            Pershing west of Union. There should be plenty of lower
            cost apartments there. The essence of the CWE is that
            there is someplace for everyone, but not necessarily in
            the same building

        • ben

          “I would avoid office as there is more accessibly areas like CORTEX,
          Downtown, and Clayton, which serve those uses better, and the parking
          requirements would overwhelm the site.”

          Ideally, you want 1:1 office:residential to help minimize the spatial mismatch that characterizes big parts of our region. Why make people go to Clayton or other places. A big part of walkability is not having to dick around with driving or even taking transit.

          • John R

            I agree office can be an attractive part of this development and should be looked at. Nothing major, but even a modest number of floors occupied by small or mid-sized firms would add a nice mix. I could see it attractive for firms that might not be looking at a downtown move but would feel comfortable in a leafier, tonier City setting. The more city options the better.

          • John

            I agree a 650+ foot building would be the cumshot of the St. Louis skyline. Not from the river, but from Forest Park. We should have something at least as tall as the Arch! And I wouldn’t mind like 5 floors of offices, either. Especially if we’re looking at a 40+ story building.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Right. Clayton is way over “officed”. That’s why they’ve made all their “downtown” streets five lanes – so that they serve as access roads to the highways, and not city streets.

          • onecity

            I hit Kingshighway a few weeks ago, totally the middle of rush hour. It was incredible how much traffic was heading south and west to I-64, and how little was headed north. That tells me there is a big residential lack in the immediate vicinity of the hospitals and CWE. I think a far, far, far, far better use of resources here, rather than building a vanity tower on FP, would be to direct the same resources into the neighborhoods immediately north of the CWE and on the east end of the CWE. There are a lot of people that simply prefer single family residences, and a group like KPF could have an amazing impact both guiding adaptive reuse of existing housing stock and developing new urban single family architecture to appeal to the professionals working in the CWE. The traffic problems are solvable through the elimination of spatial mismatch. And I believe you can attract the right people to the areas north and adjacent to CWE, as long as a complete neighborhood solution/vision is offered, such that prospective residents aren’t made to feel like lone urban pioneers.

          • STLEnginerd

            My thinking is that even though office workers are one of the densest uses of space in an urban environment. An office worker might require 100 sqft per employee. Which is great, BUT if 90% of those employees drive (and make no mistake they will) then the requisite parking is pretty huge. An office worker might require an equal amount of parking space to actual office. The way this site is hemmed in against Forest Park, the Chase and Mansion Row on Lindell the parking needs that have fit this site are pretty huge. and accommodating them on the site would IMHO mean its several floors of parking that would detract from the architectural quality of the site.

            Also IMHO office under utilizes the main attraction of the site. Forest Park. Sure you’ll have nice views but residents, and hotel guest are FAR more likely to utilize the park.

            Also I don’t forsee Lindell and Kingshighway, as a bustling pedestrian intersection in the same way that Lindell and Euclid could be. If I was doing office, I would put it there instead. I think Kingshighway will still be dominated by auto traffic wihich is why i imagined a valet lane on that side of the building, with retail facing Lindell.

            I put the highest priority on a decent branded hotel because CWE is undeserved IMHO. There is Business traffic from CORTEX, and Barnes, people visiting family at Barnes, and tourism traffic for Forest park and the surrounding attractions (Loop, CWE, Clayton etc.). Basically outside downtown, I don’t think St. Louis has the hotel capacity for the tourism it SHOULD be drawing. I think a tall building here could be our Sears tower with a top floor viewing delivering views of the very best that is St. Louis. I don’t foresee anything the height of Sears, but tallest in the neighborhood is important.

            Luxury condos is my second priority. First off it works here and not in very many other places. Secondly attracting well moneyed residents is a priority for St. Louis as the 1% income tax means these people have outsized influence on the financial health of the city. Also Luxury condos are a big indicator of a premiere neighborhood so having a sign on this building that says “NEW LUXURY CONDOS Starting at 399K” would draw a lot of other people into the neighborhood even if they can’t afford to live in this building. Lastly to anybody thinking there should be affordable housing at this location… Ha. You don’t build affordable housing on the most premiere lots in any city anywhere. Unless the city plans to cede the luxury condo market to Clayton any residential here will be high end.

            Just my opinion of course.

          • Alex Ihnen

            All the above sounds great. I don’t know that retail, residential, or hotel requires any less parking than office, however.

          • STLEnginerd

            Well I’m thinking typical parking requirements I couldn’t find St. Louis zoning requirements and I realize the two examples i found aren’t the most urban examples but as a zoning comparison it illustrates my point.


            For an office it calls for 2.5-5 spaces for every 1000 square feet. For residential or hotel it could be less than 1 space per 1000 square feet usually 1 space per unit or per bedroom. If there was a good way to have office workers park during the day and residents are still guaranteed their spots somehow then i would be supportive as an efficient use of parking infrastructure, but more than likely you’d be looking at having the garage half full all day with workers and half full at night with residents.

            Low density retail like upscale or pedestrian oriented storefronts aren’t super parking intensive, but a city target would be. Again, not my first choice at that location, but money talks.

            If some CEO wants it bad enough, I guess I could be convinced but I don’t think its the ideal use for the site.

            A really great article on parking ratios shows that on average office requires almost double the parking that residential does.


    • opendorz

      Because of the “Arch Syndrome”, St. Louis seems to have a strong aversion to anything taller than 500 ft. This is a shame. We desperately need a new “landmark” building of substantial (650+ft) height. And since this lot is well away of downtown, it would not detract from that monument’s majesty. Of all major (and many lesser) US cities, we have probably the shortest, maximum height building, the Tom Eagleton Courthouse, I believe. Nothing makes a statement of growth and prosperity like a soaring skyscraper on the horizon. It’s the right time for St. Louis to go for it!

      • I don’t think its the Arch syndrome (maybe a perverse anti-growth NIMBY-syndrome in CWE’s case).

        Unfortunately, St. Louis hasn’t had the stability or the national business presence for investors to back a massive residential and/or business tower. For commercial, you likely need a BIG tenant signed up just to get investors to answer the phone, and then the existing business presence/interest to assure them that there will be plenty more mid-to-kinda-large businesses to fill in the rest.

        Another important point is that though we’ve been saved any big ones in, what, 100+ years (?), that fault line becomes much more of an insurance risk the higher the building goes.

        You’re right though — there is sometimes this latent adversity to spectacle and success. Very odd.

  • CentralWestEnd Dude.

    I have been waiting on this for years. I cannot wait to hear more about this exciting project taking place on one of the most, if not THE most important undeveloped intersections in the City of St. Louis. So excited about what’s going on in the city.
    Any plans for the Kindred parking lot (SW corner of Lindell – Euclid) and the lots across West Pine from the new Whole Foods development where Boy Scouts and Tip Top Cleaners are today? It would be nice to make that corner really tight. Guys/Gals If we can get these right, there will be no stopping the City.

  • Presbyterian

    I can’t wait to see how this project develops. Definitely excited by the choice of architect!