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

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.