TIGER Grant Seeks MetroLink Station Funding, Reveals More About Cortex

*update U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill announced today (9.9.2014) that the Cortex MetroLink station has been chosen as a TIGER grant recipient and will receive $10,300,000. The award also covers enhancements to the adjacent Central West End station, where a larger platform and other changes are anticipated.

Cortex MetroLink and Wexford

Some cities have touted their TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant applications. Although the public has no ability to push a grant across the finish line, and the program received requests totaling 15x the funding available ($600M) in its current round, many see the process as a way to show that a community is working hard to leverage all possible funding sources.

This hasn’t been the case in St. Louis. For example, MoDOT’s application on behalf of CityArchRiver for reversing I-44 ramps at the Arch grounds, and other roadway projects wasn’t promoted locally, or discussed publicly. Generally it seems that no one wants to promote an application that is unlikely to succeed. They may also not wish to highlight that TIGER grant applications contain a lot of information.

{preliminary design of the proposed Cortex MetroLink station}

In March we were the first to report about a planned 500,000sf expansion of science and technology space at Cortex. Those plans appear to have grown by 40% since then. In addition to the three office and research buildings previously conceived, a significant residential component is possible, while an 11 story, 2,450 space parking garage appears substantially smaller.

“Wexford is planning on investing approximately $140M in a 700,000sf research, laboratory and residential transit oriented development project adjacent to the proposed Metro site,” states a TIGER grant letter of support from Wexford Science & Techology. Wexford owns the Cortex I and @4240 buildings, and the U.S. Metals & Supply site where the new project would be built. Baltimore-based Wexford specializes in developing technology and science mixed-use office parks in partnership with universities and institutional partners.

{this site plan from March 2014 has already seen substantial changes}

The letter of support goes on to state that the project would produce more than 1,800 permanent full-time jobs, and that without a new MetroLink station, the project’s density would be lessened to accommodate more parking. A successful TIGER grant application would move the project ahead quickly. Even without the grant, it remains difficult to see the proposed MetroLink station not being built given the incredible amount of adjacent investment.

Of course it’s smart to pursue any and all funding options for the project. Just earlier this month it appeared that state funding may be available to build the station, but a line item for the station in a large statewide capital projects funding bill was stripped literally at the 11th hour.

The amazing thing about following the accelerating pace of development at Cortex is how fast the proverbial goal posts are being moved. Just last year the 200-acre, decade-old effort felt too expansive to fill over several generations. As project after project has been announced in recent months, the measure of “highest and best use” of developable land may be changing.

Of additional interest in the TIGER grant application is an alignment study from Great River Greenway’s proposed Midtown Loop. The off-street multi-use trail would connect Forest Park, the adjacent medical campus, Cortex, Saint Louis University, and the Grand Center arts and entertainment district, as well as two existing GRG trails. The study shows using the trestle adjacent to the coming Ikea and Midtown Station retail development.

Midtown Trestle{the Midtown Trestle could provide a crucial link for the Midtown Loop}

Great Rivers Greenway Midtown Loop{the Midtown Loop would connect several existing and future trails}

An included rendering (top) of the proposed Wexford project also gives a small glimpse of surrounding development. While planning continues to be refined, significant infill is shown south of the MetroLink alignment (currently a surface parking lot serving the new BJC @ The Commons building) and along Duncan. A 15-story tower is shown on Duncan at The Commons, a site previously targeted for residential or hotel development.

Cortex MetroLink Station TIGER Grant Narrative 2014 by nextSTL.com