New Residential Development Proposed for U-City Delmar Harvard School Site

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Delmar Harvard residential infill proposal

Opened in 1913 as University City’s first elementary, the Delmar Harvard School may soon make way for a new residential development with up to 230 apartments. Long regarded as a top performing school, Delmar Harvard escaped closure in 2004, but declining enrollment led to its closure in 2011.

A conceptual design proposed by Virtual Realty Enterprises of Clayton shows two residential buildings. The west site fronting Trinity Avenue would replace a surface parking lot with approximately 50 apartments and wrap a six-story, 336-space parking garage. The larger east site would replace the Delmar Harvard School building with approximately 170 units connected to the parking garage via a bridge.

The western most portion of the project appears to be four stories, stepping up to five to hide the garage. The east site building is shown as five stories. The garage is shown as six stories, with one being below grade, and would include 30 spaces for public use.

Delmar Harvard residential infill proposal

Vacant since closing, the Delmar Harvard building has been considered for residential conversion. It’s relatively small size, just 27K sf on 1.65 acres, according to St. Louis County records, has made it difficult to work as apartments. Student housing and private educational uses have been explored as well.

In 2011, University City held a “Youth in the Loop” forum that produced several suggestions of a youth center. Delmar Harvard was mentioned by some participants as a possible location, but nothing came of the idea.

{the existing school building has been vacant since 2011 – image by Chris Yunker}

A neighborhood meeting with the developer is scheduled for December 1. It is expected that residents of the University Heights neighborhood to the west will express concern with the development. The common refrain expressed by home owners when considering adjacent development – preserving property values and aesthetics – are sure to be shared.

Currently, the roughly half dozen single family homes with a view across Trinity Avenue, look over an acre of empty asphalt parking lot. The addition of 230 apartments would be a big gain for the west end of the Delmar Loop. As parking, or rather charging for parking, has become a contentious issue in the Loop, adding residents would support local businesses without increasing pressure on parking.

Delmar Harvard residential infill proposal

Still owned by University City schools, the property is tax exempt, therefore the proposed residential development would produce a significant tax revenue increase. Architectural detail and material selection will determine the attractiveness of the development, but the scope and size fit the site well.

The vacant school and acre of surface parking may be the worst long term scenario for neighboring property values, and the economic health of University City, short of adding drive through fast food at the site. The three-acre site represents an important opportunity for University City to add residents and revenue and continue to build on recent developments to create a more diverse an economically sustainable neighborhood.

Delmar Harvard residential infill proposal

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  • ryan

    I am a resident of University Heights and I see no problem with this being built. It would help the local economy and would look much nicer than an old vacant building. I personally like having more people around and nice buildings in the area I live in. This is part of the reason I don’t live in West/south county. If you want to live in a less populated area then move out there.

  • Alex Ihnen

    Putting a pause on this since positions seem to be simply restated again and again. To me, it feels like a lot of fear of traffic, noise, and ugliness by neighbors. It would seem that these can be addressed by the developer, unless neighbors prove to be against just about anything.

  • Adam

    I have to go to bed. I’m sure there will be a few people around to pick up my slack tomorrow.

  • STLEnginerd

    So seems to me all the city first people should be taking the stance of ‘you don’t want this development… Fine let them build in the city. I’d much rather see this investment on the east side of Delmar.

    For this location I’d prefer a school converted to high end rental units and 3 story town houses along trinity. Maybe Not as lucrative but if the demand for small apartments is there they could just as easily be built further east or north where the investment is more needed.

    I wouldn’t speak strongly against it but I can’t say it’s my preferred use.

  • tpekren

    Who actually owns the property. Is the asphalt in question stilled owned by the school District? the city?
    With no dog in the fight I can certainly understand where the neighborhood is coming from concerning scale and scope. This proposal adds a significant amount of structure to the area. I can also envision different development routes including townhouses and or the city willing to take ownership of the school if residents shoot down this proposal.
    At same time, it sounds like a neighborhood that has conveniently used school property for its own use and now is claiming public space and entitlement. Sorry, I don’t buy that BS either. The school district and the community as a whole owns it if I read between the lines correctly and adding to the tax rolls is a viable path forward for both the school district and community.
    .
    My take, I think this density happening on the other end of the Loop or close to either Delmar and or Forest Park metrolink stations sooner the better. To the neighborhood, good luck with an asphalt lot and an empty school because neither is helping spread the pain of future U City property tax increases and I have even tougher time understanding how asphalt and empty building helps property values. Let alone an empty lot helps a declining school enrollment that resulted in the school shutting down in the first place.

    • Adam

      A poster below claims that

      “This post has neglected to point out that the blacktop playground area is actually part of University Heights Subdivision 1 and as such its use is governed by the subdivision indenture.”

      though I’m not sure why that would be the case. Is the old library parking lot part of the subdivision as well?

      • Bart Stewart

        The school district owned the property, and was just another property owner in our neighborhood. They paid annual assessments for neighborhood upkeep (sidewalks, tree lawns, snow removal, etc.) is my understanding. Therefore, whatever goes up should be up to the same scrutiny I would have to go through to make a major change to my property.

        • Adam

          Yes but who owns the property currently.

          • JG

            The school district owns the property, but regardless of who owns it, its use is subject to the UHeights #1 indenture because the playground/asphalt lot is within the boundaries of the subdivision. I have to check the indenture and the amendments made to it, but it’s my understanding that the property is zoned as common space.

          • Adam

            Okay, thanks.

          • Bart Stewart

            The school district still owns it. The sale of the property is contingent upon the developer getting the site rezoned and approval to demolish an historic building that is part of civic plaza

          • Adam

            The historic building being the Delmar Harvard School or something else?

          • Bart Stewart

            Yes, the DH building

        • Adam

          “Therefore, whatever goes up should be up to the same scrutiny I would have to go through to make a major change to my property.”

          Not sure how this follows from the fact that the school district formerly owned and maintained the property.

    • Bart Stewart

      Not looking at it as asphalt. Looking at it as open space. Anyone and everyone is/was free to use it as it belonged to the school district and was not locked/fenced in. Just like the area around Flynn Park school. I see many families enjoy that space when school is not in session as in essence it does belong to all of us as tax payers to the district. We would be ok with development here, but not as it is currently envisioned. Keeping it open would be the best use as that is the way it is zoned and was intended to be used.

      Open spaces are often better than filled spaces. Putting up buildings is not always the wisest use of space.

      No one has said we wish to keep school vacant. Just want sensible, historically responsible development not modernistic or typical suburban development that lacks any character. That would diminish the area as it is one of the main draws of living in UCity, especially the historic area around civic plaza.

      • Wabash

        “Just want sensible, historically responsible development not modernistic or typical suburban development that lacks any character. That would diminish the area as it is one of the main draws of living in UCity, especially the historic area around civic plaza.”

        While it has some historic gems, U. City’s “civic plaza” is not entirely devoid of “modernistic” development. COCA and the U. City Library are both examples of modern architecture. Both institutions are big draws to the immediate area, contribute to its appeal (and assumedly its property values), and certainly don’t diminish it in any way. A city or neighborhood can remain “historic” while incorporating contemporary styles.

  • Bart Stewart

    If we start rezoning public space, what’s to stop the next developer from gobbling up chunks of parks. Isn’t that what BJC was trying to do with Forest Park?

    Maybe the Mr. Warshaw should develop a small park/green space beside his high density development so his tenants actually have something other than concrete and asphalt as so many of you seem to be dead set against. Could you pass that along to him?

    • Wabash

      BJC renegotiated its lease of land from Forest Park, which has helped the finances of Forest Park and the City’s parks department as a whole.

      As for green space: the plan includes a courtyard, Metclafe Park is one block away, and Lewis Park is two blocks away.

      • Bart Stewart

        Yes. That is what we’d like to avoid here in U City. Green space being gobbled up to appease the “needs” of developers.

        • Adam

          There’s no green space being gobbled up by this proposal! It’s an asphalt lot! Why are we even discussing this? Forgive me but it just seems like a ploy to demonize the development.

          • Adam

            or I should say a diversion.

          • JG

            Adam, you seem more interested in verbal combat than in a civil discussion.

          • Adam

            No, JG, I’m just trying to get at the real reasons for the opposition. This situation has very little in common with the BJC/Forest Park lease deal—which actually benefitted Forest Park—so I fail to see how that’s relevant to the discussion.

            The level of opposition to change and new development in this city (by which I mean St. Louis + inner suburbs) is depressing and infuriating as I watch our peer cities grow and add young residents (which we badly need) while St. Louis continues to languish.

          • Bart Stewart

            I meant open space as well. Not just green space

  • Nathan Bookhout

    I’m not sure I get the argument for increased traffic on Trinity. From the renderings it looks as if the main access to the parking is from Delmar. With setbacks the only traffic added to the Heights neighborhood would likely be walkers.

    • Bart Stewart

      Look at the plan closely. There is access to neighborhood to Trinity between old library and police station. Traffic will divert here when it backs up at Mike King Drive, which IMO it inevitably will

      • Nathan Bookhout

        But it wouldn’t travel back into the neighborhood. It would also head back to Delmar. I think the neighborhood traffic angle is being overstated.

    • onecity

      I dunno, how about opening up Washington, Kingsbury, Waterman, etc along Big Bend so there are “alternate routes?” I’ve heard where there are open street grids, the traffic is dispersed rather than concentrated onto one or two arterial roads. Shocking!

      • Bart Stewart

        One City, Those are streets are not in University Heights

  • Wabash

    Maybe Virtual Realty Enterprises should abandon the western structure backing up to Trinity Ave., and expand the Kingsland fronting building to 8 stories and include basement and ground level parking (7 floors of apartments + ground-floor parking would give them the same number of apartments as the current proposal: 34 per floor x 7 floors = 238 apartments). .

    This would diminish the hysteria coming from U. Heights residents, would leave their “play ground” / buffer zone intact, and would increase the density and average proximity of the units to the Loop. Importantly (apparently), it would completely take Trinity Ave. out of the equation.

    There’s plenty of context for an 8 story residential tower, including the 6 story 6820 Delmar, 7 story 6631 Delmar, and 14 story 701 Westgate, all within 1 1/2 blocks of the site. Also, right next door University City Hall is only 5 stories, but at 135 feet is equivalent to a 9-10 story apartment building.

    If U. City residents aren’t willing to allow an 8 story apartment building in what is essentially their downtown, on a street without a single single-family home, with surface lots on either side of it, then the developer (and community) has bigger problems, and probably should look for building sites east of Limit Ave.

    • Bart Stewart

      We essentially don’t have a downtown. We are not STL or Clayton. We are a collection of historic neighborhoods linked to an eclectic nightlife/shopping destination. There is plenty of undeveloped land that could use infill on other end of Delmar. Why is the developer just targeting here.? Why not the other end? Proximity to Wash U maybe????

      We are not opposed to redevelopment of the site, just not high density development right next to a not very well equipped neighborhood to deal with increased noise/traffic. Build it sensibly and we will be on board. Leave some green space for the current west site and we would be for it. Why on earth does every historic building need to be redeveloped into something this large. I find it disengenuous when the developer says he can only get 22 units into the 3 story current DH building. But magically that turns into 150 if he adds two stories. Completely unnecessary.

      There are plenty of other rental units that are going up rented in the area just north of the Loop. What is to guarantee this area will be filled the way the developer thinks. What happens if the site sits half filled for several years? Then the opportunity for sensible development will be wasted and we will be the ones affected. So for sure we are going to examine it more carefully than any other neighborhood. To not do so would be irresponsible with our investment.

      • onecity

        Don’t have a downtown? Um, Delmar from the Lion gates east sure looks and feels like a downtown to me.

        • Bart Stewart

          Then I suppose every mid sized suburb has a downtown? When was the last time you said I’m going to downtown UCity? Let me guess, never. Nice try playing semantics. We have a business district with pretty nice mix of shopping/nightlife/restaurant options. We are UNIQUE amongst all municipalities in the metro area. Where do you live? What part of UCity does Alex live in? Curious if you’d be ok throwing up any old development next to your neighborhood? Why is the developers bottom line any different than our bottom line. He should make money while we lose money. All we are seeking is responsible development.

          • Adam

            You’re making good points but, speaking of playing semantics, your “any old development” comment is a little presumptuous and leading. And, yes, U City’s business district is very similar to the downtowns of small cities. Before opposing this development based on its size, I think you and the neighbors ought to be able to offer some kind of evidence–examples from similar projects or something—that it’s going to cause traffic problems.

          • Bart Stewart

            That should not be our job. Why should we have to take time out of busy life to do unpaid research. Look at the size of the main road leading in/out of development. There are three stop lights in a two block stretch on Delmar. Add to that the roundabout and now a possible trolley and you show me how the traffic will not be a mess. If 10% of cars (30) use that lane (just conjecturing with what I feel would be a low #), think about 30 cars backed up on Mike King Drive then trying to divert. What happens when it’s 60-70 cars. Visitors? Where will they park? The west site would abut the street I live on. Who’s to say they would not just go ahead and park in the neighborhood to avoid the traffic in their parking garage?

            Traffic studies should be the job of our city development team/department. Unfortunately, there isn’t much trust for our current city manager. Too often he and other city leaders are blinded by $$$.

            Thanks for acknowledging validity of some points!

          • Adam

            The city can make your street a permit-only zone if parking becomes an issue. People can take Kingsland to Vernon if they want to bypass Delmar, or cross over Delmar to Loop S. to go east. It would help if there weren’t so damn many private streets south of Delmar so we could have an actual functioning street grid like other cities. The article says there will be 30 spaces in the garage for public use, and it’s likely that tenants’ guests will be able to get guest passes. You’re offering a lot of hypotheticals, but I don’t think its fair to kill this project—a project that will be good, economically, for both STL and U City—based on a bunch of hypotheticals. Many of them can probably be addressed without drastically changing the project.

          • Bart Stewart

            Where have I stated desire to kill the project. Shape it yes. Especially since it will have a direct impact on my family and my neighbors. It would be irresponsible of us to not look out for ourselves.

          • Adam

            My apologies. You did not. Some have expressed more die-hard opposition. Julie Harwell, for example, seems to prefer asphalt over anything else. Others are using fond memories and the prospect of subjective ugliness to dismiss it.

          • Matt

            Not true, re-read my posts. I offered personal memories to make the point that the playground is not, and was not a parking lot. It is a playground that is also part of the heights neighborhood, and for many in the neighborhood it is an important space.

            Language is important, and if you say parking lot enough times, it suggests a precedent for the proposed structure…which would be a fiction.

          • Adam

            Well if language is important why do you get to call it a playground? There’s no playground equipment anywhere. If you can call it a playground because people can/have played there, then I can call it a parking lot since people can/have parked there.

          • matt

            I call it a playground because for at least the last half century that is what it has been. Just seems to make sense to call it what everyone else calls it.

          • Adam

            “Why is the developers bottom line any different than our bottom line. He should make money while we lose money.”

            It’s not just about bottom lines. It’s about creating a functional and vibrant city, which requires a certain level of density. Look at old photos of the Delmar/Kingsland intersection and you’ll see numerous buildings that aren’t there anymore.

          • Adam

            AND, it’s extremely presumptuous and unfounded to suggest that your property values would drop because of this development. It’s much more likely that they’ll increase as people like to live in vibrant places.

          • Bart Stewart

            That’s not presumptuous. It’s being realistic. If not done right this could seriously damage values. People also care about noise and light and parking when considering purchasing a house as it is an investment when you purchase not just rent and then move on if you have no investment as a renter would. So if the renters aren’t there or if the development ends up being too dense or too tacky then YES it WILL HAVE a negative effect. This is a HISTORIC neighborhood not some blighted underdeveloped area.

            I agree if done right it could have no negative effect but let’s be real in saying this will not be some huge boon for us. Housing values here have been relatively STABLE throughout this past five tumultuous housing market years. That’s a testament to the strength and vitality of strong home ownership and historic nature of our homes. This development will at best be a no net gain or loss for us. Developer has some risk but all the upside. We have as much risk, but little to no upside.

          • Adam

            The upside is that you benefit from the increased economic activity and infrastructure that accompanies an increase in population in a city that was built for almost a million people, lost two thirds of them, and badly needs to add more. (Yes, I know U. City isn’t technically St. Louis City but U. City lives and dies with St. Louis.) With increasing vitality comes increasing interest and increasing property values. Can you think of an example anywhere in the region where an upscale apartment complex lowered neighbors’ property values?

          • givemeapickle

            The functional, vibrant city you seek already exists…has for years. It was nurtured into existence over a long, interesting path, not created by a developer.

          • Bart Stewart

            Well said!

          • Adam

            So none of the buildings built in U. City over its long, interesting path were built by developers?

            And in regard to vibrancy I’m speaking about all of St. Louis City + the inner suburbs. Density spreads and leads to density in adjoining areas which leads to an overall healthy and vibrant region instead of a bunch of island neighborhoods like we currently have. But that density has to be seeded somewhere, and U. City is one of a few obvious choices as it already has the bones.

          • givemeapickle

            My friend, we don’t need high cost, high density, high turnover apartments to remain healthy.

            We need parents who believe in public schools; safe spaces for kids to play and explore; jazz, block parties, and big trees to sit under; people who take care of their neighbors; poets, professors, and scientists…and all the good stuff that makes u city a place people want to be.

          • Alex Ihnen

            I think that whether U-City likes it or not, the world (and the regional economy) are changing. This doesn’t mean wholesale change, but it should mean that we be aware of shifting markets. As people wait longer to marry, have fewer kids, and carry more debt, those who believe in public schools; safe spaces for kids to play and explore; jazz, block parties, and big trees to sit under; people who take care of their neighbors; poets, professors, and scientists, will need and want smaller residences that require less maintenance and debt than a 1920 four bedroom home.

          • Adam

            Also, not sure if you’ve been to an actual vibrant city lately but I have, and it would be nice to see St. Louis get back to that state.

          • JG

            Really, Adam, why the need to be so snide?

          • Adam

            Not being snide. Just wondering. There are a lot of people who don’t get out of St. Louis much and think that the region is vibrant. Compared to Omaha or Oklahoma City, maybe. Compared to cities of similar size that are currently prospering like Washington, Austin, Denver, etc. not so much. The difference is that young people are moving to those cities and they are adding density and transit infrastructure while St. Louis struggles to build a 6-story building.

          • Adam

            It seems that many St. Louisans are happy living in a disconnected, car-required, semi-suburban retirement community.

          • Bart Stewart

            Here’s where we have some agreement!

            Problem is the requirements to build this may require him to have so many parking spaces per unit. That is a major flaw in this whole development. It is so dense and will undoubtedly add cars to the mix. Ah but there’s the rub, how to get rid of those requirements that require him to build such a gigantic parking structure which is something we are not in favor of (the parking structure that is).

          • Adam

            Here’s the other rub: St. Louis does not currently have the infrastructure for that many people to live car-free (would you be able to there live car-free?), and it’s never going to have that infrastructure (i.e. public transportation and connected, walkable neighborhoods) until it reaches a certain density. That requires dense construction, particularly in areas that are most suited for it like the Loop (and the CWE, and downtown, and Clayton, and maybe the S. Grand area or the up-and-coming Grove).

          • Alex Ihnen

            Also – no evidence this development would decrease property values in University Heights. If done well, I believe it would increase values as new homebuyers wish to live in more dense, vibrant, walkable, economically sustainable communities – even if they want 5K sf for themselves.

          • Wabash

            “Then I suppose every mid sized suburb has a downtown? …Nice try playing semantics.”

            It’s not semantics. Many mid-sized suburbs have downtowns. To name a few: Maplewood, Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Clayton, Ladue, and Wellston. It’s actually quite common among inner-ring suburbs. U. City’s center of government, civic institutions, and commerce happens to be called The Loop instead of Downtown U. City.

      • Adam

        “I find it disengenuous when the developer says he can only get 22 units into the 3 story current DH building. But magically that turns into 150 if he adds two stories.”

        There’s more to redeveloping old buildings than just square footage. It may be that utilities or load-bearing structures are distributed in such a way that limits the division of the space.

        “What is to guarantee this area will be filled the way the developer thinks.”

        Obviously there’s no guarantee but the developer isn’t going to put up the money if they don’t think they’ll get a return on their investment. I’d say the chances of these apartments not renting—with their proximity to Wash U, the Loop, and public transit—is slim to none. I’d guess the developer thinks so too.

        • Alex Ihnen

          The footprint of the new building is larger than DH.

    • Bart Stewart

      Where is the hysteria? This discussion has been brought on by the fact that no one from the city has informed the closest residents to the development that something is taking place on the DH property. The city is playing a coy game with the developer trying to slip this one past the residents. No one on my street which is immediately adjacent to the west site heard about this project that has been two years in the making until a few of us got wind of it trying to be “sold” to a variety of citizen’s commissions that advise our city government. Why didn’t they seek our input before going to a women’s group in the neighborhood that our mayor is a part of?

      Only now is the developer trying to meet with us when clearly part of the land sits in our neighborhood. As a homeowner who bought here I knew upfront that I must conform to things that the neighborhood requires due to its historic nature. Why shouldn’t Mr. Warsaw be held to those same standards if he wishes to join our neighborhood?

  • Julie Harwell

    We, in U City, have never and will never want to look like West County. The thought of replacing beautiful historic Delmar Harvard with this hideous commercial establishment in our historic Loop should be unthinkable. And, seriously, a six story building blocking out every bit of light and sky from our Harvard Ave. neighbors? There are so many wonderful things that could be done with the existing building. And, as a U. Heights resident, I must insist we would much prefer our ugly old asphalt where our kids play kickball and learn to ride their bikes over soul-less architecture.

    • Adam

      Soul-less architecture? You haven’t even seen a rendering yet! And enough with the ridiculous exaggerations. Six-story buildings can not “block out every bit of light and sky”. Just stop.

      • Scity63116

        It’s more than likely soul-less architecture, considering what gets built these days. Again, 230 units is too big for the space. What about something 3 or 4 stories tall? That would better fit the scale of the existing historic neighborhood.

        • Adam

          “It’s more than likely soul-less architecture, considering what gets built these days.”

          That’s subjective.

          “Again, 230 units is too big for the space.”

          Also subjective. 6 stories is not that much taller than four, and there is precedent for six story buildings already. U. City Hall is 6 stories, for example. The current Delmar Harvard building looks to be about 5 stories. The Pageant and Moonlight Hotel are 5 and 8 stories respectively. We’re not talking about a skyscraper here. Jesus, there are row-homes in Boston that are 6 stories tall.

          • Scity63116

            I live in U city, not Boston. Frankly, I like that the U city hall towers over that area of Delmar. I went there on a field trip in second grade and continue to be thrilled when I go there as an adult. I am also not concerned about the height of the Pageant or the Moonrise. Taller developments on the east end of the loop aren’t obstructing the existing residential housing. This all being said, I would love to see the rendering. I have concerns about additional traffic on Trinity. It’s a rather quiet, calm neighborhood back there. I would bet the residents appreciate that.

            Yes, my comment about 230 units being too much for that space is subjective. All of our comments are our opinions. In my mind, 230 units translates to 200 cars to park. Of course, I anticipate the next reply will be that not everyone has a car.

          • Adam

            “Taller developments on the east end of the loop aren’t obstructing the existing residential housing.”

            As I said, this is the real reason for the opposition. It has nothing to do with preserving a “civic” space and everything to do with a sense of entitlement concerning property that you don’t own but that you believe you have the right to control. I’m not one who thinks that a developer should have free reign to build without consideration for the surrounding community, but there is so far no indication that the developer is being inconsiderate toward your neighborhood, nor is it realistic (or honest) to claim that a six story building is going to block out the sun, nor is there any cause to believe that the development would increase traffic on your neighborhood streets. Sure it will increase traffic along Kingsland and Delmar, but that is not your personal intersection. You don’t get to decide how much traffic is appropriate.

            “I have concerns about additional traffic on Trinity.”

            The above site plan shows no connection to Trinity.

            “Of course, I anticipate the next reply will be that not everyone has a car.”

            Nope. You’re correct. That’ll be about 200 cars to park. And since people like yourself oppose every dense development at all turns, even within urban areas, we’re likely never going to get to a level of density in which people can choose to live without cars (like in Boston). God forbid that a shadow might pass over your house at some point during the day (likely only in the early morning, if at all, considering the site orientation).

          • Bart Stewart

            If you look close enough there is an access point to Trinity which the developer conveniently fails to mention. It is between the old library and the police station. It is used when people wish to cut through to new library from Trinity, which is not often but could increase exponentially as the only other access to development is Mike King Drive. This is a very narrow street with very little use now except cars coming into library/police station. Imagine adding 300+ Cars to that entrance. I know not all will use at once, but throw in the trolley and potential exists for traffic snafus.

          • Adam

            In addition to the fact that not everyone will use it at once, there will be three separate entrances to the site, two of which are more direct than the one off Trinity. I think this is something that can be discussed with the developer and doesn’t require wholesale opposition to the size of the development.

          • Bart Stewart

            Where are others? At the October 22planning commission meeting, Warshaw said only access to site was via Mike King Drive and failed to mention the Trinity access point. He said all traffic would use one entrance/exit

          • Adam

            Off Kingsland through the library parking lot. Or is that one way? It looks more than large enough to accommodate two-way traffic so I’d argue for that if I were a resident.

          • Adam

            I was referring to Trinity as the third.

          • Bart Stewart

            The library is only an exit. It is not really wide enough for two way the way the parking is configured, but the developer seems to think that’s an option. So now you compound the problem by bringing in Library parking/traffic which at times can be very full.

          • Adam

            Sure, but people bound for the apartment complex will not be parking in the library parking lot so I don’t see why the fullness of the library lot would be consequential. Looking at the Google map aerial, there’s already plenty of room for two-way traffic (one lane in each direction) without reconfiguring the parking.

          • Adam

            It also looks like they could pretty easily extend Mike King Dr. past the Lewis Ctr and have another entrance/exit farther north on Kingsland.

          • Scity63116

            Adam,

            I never have said I was in control of this area or of any given intersection. You just seem to be all for whatever developments are proposed. Again, I am not against the demolition of the school or the possibility of building housing on that site. I do feel that 230 units is too much. That’s my opinion. For the record, I don’t live in the adjacent neighborhood.

          • Mary Kissane

            “The current Delmar Harvard building looks to be about 5 stories.” LOOKS TO BE? Oh, so you’re posting snide comebacks to people who LIVE here based on that level of understanding of the area? I’m a 50 year resident of U.City, but no, not a home owner. My children attended Delmar Harvard for K-5th grade. FYI, the DH building is TWO (2) stories high, ‘k? And I find the idea that the proposed [at least proposed as of a yr ago] development is the same number of stories as our unique and historic City Hall building to be a measure of just how inappropriate the proposal is. Almost right next to City Hall and as tall? Hideous. Nothing in Civic Plaza should be allowed to encroach on the City Hall as a tower.

          • rgbose

            6820 Delmar is 6 stories and it doesn’t detract from city hall’s grandeur.

          • Mary Kissane

            (1) 6820 Delmar isn’t a parking garage. And (b) 6820 Delmar is across Delmar and just east of City Hall, NOT standing right behind and aside it, like an ugly backdrop, on the same side of Delmar, marring the sight lines b/w City Hall and the Lions Gate.

          • rgbose

            I don’t understand. The replacement for the Harvard school isn’t a garage either. And it’s as far away from city hall as 6820 Delmar is.

    • matimal

      You speak for all residents of U city? How did I you get this job?

  • Scity63116

    As someone who has lived in U city over the past 20 yrs and have worked in the loop for 15, I think this proposed development has too many units for the space. I strongly feel that the historic neighborhoods of U city should be respected. Adding 230 units in place of the school is a massive change. I do wish that something would be built along the Kingsland side of the public parking lot.

    • onecity

      So you don’t want an additional 230 units’ worth of affluent young professionals near your business?

      • Scity63116

        I never said that I was against demolition of the school or building additional housing on that site. I am concerned that 230 units is excessive in my opinion.

  • Paul Hohmann

    Alex, I obviously didn’t look at this closely the other night before I sent this to you since I completely missed the fact that the school would be demolished. Seems like a wasted opportunity for a historic tax credit rehab as has happened with many STL Public Schools! I would guess they would not be able to get as many units, but the ones in the school would have a hell of a lot more character.

    I’m not going to say I wouldn’t support the project, but I certainly hope U-City demands proof of financing, a building permit and a guarantee that the project will be built before allowing demolition. The really stupid part of this is the giant surface parking lot across the street that needs to be turned into structured parking and sites for more development but the Loop SBD won’t let this happen!

  • Presbyterian

    I suspect the neighborhood will mainly be concerned about the project’s relation to Cornell (and Trinity) Ave… the only potion adjacent to the neighborhood. Attached is a streetview capture of the current relationship. I would expect residents to argue for a larger setback and/or lower building heights on that portion of the project.

    The rendering does show a three level facade along Cornell, broken up into smaller masses, stepping back to a fourth and fifth story. That tells me that the architect is trying to be sensitive to the single family context across the street.

    U City has a reputation for adversarial neighbors. I hope everyone can come to the table and work together on this one. This site will be developed — the school system doesn’t need the land but does need the money. This proposal looks like a promising start toward a project that could increase the urban density and fill in one of the urban holes that separate the Loop from some of its surrounding neighborhoods.

    I’d love to see detailed renderings. Detailing and materials make or break projects like this.

    • Presbyterian

      To bring on board the neighborhood, this relationship is the one that will be crucial to get right…

  • rgbose

    Might the developer have eyed the U CIty-owned surface lot across Kingsland instead had the Loop Special Business District not demanded it be taken it off the table at the end of the Parkview Gardens neighborhood planning?

    https://nextstl.com/2014/01/u-city-snatches-defeat-jaws-victory/

  • STLEnginerd

    They should structure any deal such that the ENTIRE west site is built out before tearing down the school. Don’t start with demo.

    • Alex Ihnen

      They should certainly require a building permit and financing to be in place before demolition of the school.

  • Bart Stewart

    Although you are correct in stating the area could be better served by not just sitting empty, you are completely wrong to say the neighborhoods property values would decline with leaving the lot empty. It has always been an open space and was designed that way as a buffer between the more bustling part of the loop and the neighborhood. We have no problem with some development of the site, we are opposed to this development as it detracts from the historical significance of the Civic Plaza and our neighborhood. The reason we chose to live here is for its historic appeal with proximity to the Loop, not to have the Loop encroach on us. There are plenty of other undeveloped/underdeveloped areas in UCity if we are looking to attract residents. There is also a way to make this project in line with the history of the neighborhood by scaling back on the immense footprint it will have. Do some research on the historic significance of the Civic Plaza and the design that was laid out for a very progressive city at the time. Making more progress does not mean turning a blind eye to the historic aspects of the community.

    • Alex Ihnen

      If the community prefers a parking lot and vacant building, it will be able to advocate for that. I find the ~”we want to be really close to the Loop, but not THAT close argument to be lacking. The proposal current lacks detail, and refinement of the plan will matter a great deal, but this is a big opportunity. Despite the wishes of homeowners everywhere, no city or neighborhood is stagnant. I’m well aware of the history of the area, but setting that history in stone and opposing all development doesn’t seem wise. The notion that the acre of worn asphalt is a buffer, or civic space is interesting. It certainly could be many things – park, single family homes, etc. Hopefully the current proposal receives fair consideration. The city will have to balance the wishes of immediate neighbors with what is best for U-City – though they may not be all that different.

      • Bart Stewart

        Not sure your dog in this fight. Not sure where you find my “argument” lacking when I wasn’t making an argument. I was pointing out the relative quiet of our neighborhood compared to that of the area closer to the Loop. Would you be in favor of a five or six story development directly across from where you live bringing in an influx of traffic/noise/light that you currently don’t face. Maybe you already live in an area like that, but we don’t. We do have an apartment immediately behind my house, but the scale is in proportion to our neighborhood and is housed in a historic building. Now those residents leases are not being renewed and all are being vacated. Coincidence?

        As I said, I am not opposed to development, but the development as proposed is extravagant in its scale and scope.

        Also, why has the city tried to hide this from our neighborhood as no one has come to those who may be most closely affected. They shopped the project around to several city commissions who have rejected the proposal based on historic preservation and traffic, yet the city is trying to sell this as a way to alleviate the economic problems we face. So disregard what current residents may want in order to make this developer a bit more profit. What will the city see when they inevitably will have to give him a TIF to make enough to get it done?

        Mr. Warshaw is also touting this as catering to an 28-40 crowd. His assertion is ludicrous as he is offering most of the units as one-bedroom 700 sq ft units at $700 -$800 price point. What 28-40 year old do you know that wants to live in that small of a place? How will this lead to diversity as you purport in your original post? At that price point who can afford that as a rental. Would be better off finding a 1000-1200 sq ft house like the ones in our neighborhood to purchase and put your money to work for yourself rather than a landlord.

        • matimal

          MEOWWWW!!!! The intensity of St. Louis’ internal divisions are evident in places other than Ferguson and Shaw.

        • Presbyterian

          $700 – $800 sounds low to me for a new one bedroom. That product in the central corridor is seldom below $1000. I’d believe that when I see it, except that may be the logic of smaller units… creating a product/pricepoint that is new to the market. I’ve read that the trend nationally is toward smaller units with better finishes.

          I came across this image of what was proposed in 1910. I’m kind of glad we never got a Taj Mahal. 🙂

          • Paul Hohmann

            While I love the former Shaare Emeth building across from City Hall inside and out, part of me wishes the Egyptian revival building that was built was still around.

          • Presbyterian

            Was the Egyptian building ever actually built?

          • Alex Ihnen

            It was built, but didn’t stand for long.

          • Presbyterian

            Wow. That was bizarre.

        • Alex Ihnen

          The 700sf apartment for young professionals is a thing now. For reference, the Vanguard Crossing apartments in U-City list the following rents: $1,510/1br/769sf, $1,595/1br/875sf, and up to $2,745/2br and $3,070/3br. Aventura in STL City’s Forest Park Southeast neighborhood rents for $1,150/1br/719sf, $1,450/2br/1,103sf. The proposals for new apartments in Clayton are focused on 700-900sf units, and will rent for $1,400+.

          • JG

            This post has neglected to point out that the blacktop playground area is actually part of University Heights Subdivision 1 and as such its use is governed by the subdivision indenture. Most of us who live adjacent to the proposed development purchased our property because of the character of the neighborhood and have legitimate concerns that that character be maintained. To dismiss our concerns as just another case of “not in my backyard” generalized opposition to development side steps the issue that the portion of the proposed development along Trinity/Harvard must be held to the same standards by which everyone in UHS1is held.

            The original post by Mr. Ihnen asserts that the “scope and size [of the project] fit the site well.” Really!

          • STLEnginerd

            well it is another case of nimby ism. The fact that your subdivision indenture may support your stance doesn’t really change that. It’s kind of funny the thought that some might think nimbyism is bad… Except in their own backyard…

          • Bart Stewart

            So I may be off in my estimations of the rental market. I thought I saw somewhere in a post by you but I can’t find it now about neighbors being opposed to adding diversity to the area. How can adding rental units at higher rates than home ownership bring about diversity?

      • moe

        “Despite the wishes of homeowners everywhere, no city or neighborhood is stagnant. I’m well aware of the history of the area, but setting that history in stone and opposing all development doesn’t seem wise.”….This argument could be used…oh let’s see….Slu buying up mid-town, WU ripping out everything east of the Hospital to Ikea, and a host of other places.
        Be careful what you wish for, it can (and has) come back to bite you.

        • Alex Ihnen

          This issue, as always, is what replaces what. For SLU especially, this site has been repeatedly vigilant and critical of its land use. For WU, something is usually built quickly after any demo, and generally more dense than what it replaces. There’s no one formula for community change, I was simply observing that market forces are always in play and that no place is stagnant.

      • Matt

        Funny thing how the playground where I learned to ride a bike, played hundreds of hours of games, made new friends, passed neighbors on walks, etc. etc. has become a “parking lot” in this an other discussions related to this proposed development. Portions of the space have been used for parking, but for decades there have been more important uses of the space that helped support a healthy community and vibrant neighborhood. Ignoring those uses by pretending it is just “worn asphalt” is arrogant and self serving.

        Nobody has said they are against “all development” — you must have got that from your argumentation 101 class — we just want ideas for the space that won’t negatively impact the quality of life and character of one of the most interesting historic neighborhoods in St. Louis. If the current proposal/developer can’t imagine a better use than a giant parking structure, it doesn’t deserve serious consideration, and certainly doesn’t deserve support.

        • Alex Ihnen

          The parking lot could be many things, and has certainly served many purposes. It was long used and maintained by the school system, which no longer wants or needs it. Something else is coming to the space. It would be interesting to consider other uses. In the end, U-City will have to balance the concerns of neighbors with the well-being of the city. Though, again, those need not necessarily be opposing views.

          • Matt

            Just for clarity, the “parking lot” portion of the playground is the small section closest to the old library. The proposed plan uses it for drop off. The rest of the playground has seen occasional overflow parking at school events, but has been a playground for decades, NOT a parking lot. For all practical purposes, the space has been an open, public space.

            Is it possible to imagine other uses? Absolutely. Would it be interesting to consider a multi-story above ground parking structure as progress for the community? Not even close.

          • Alex Ihnen

            What is being proposed isn’t a parking structure, it’s ~230 apartments for people to live in. This generally requires parking, and structured parking is a much better use of land than a large surface lot. There are issues with the proposal to be sure, and neighbors should be concerned. The parking garage should be fully hidden, or obscured (and draped with a growing facade), the apartments facing Trinity should defer to the scale of development there and not overwhelm. These are issues virtually everyone can agree on.

          • Matt

            A quick search on zillow shows 253 apartments for rent in U. City, along with hundreds of single family homes for sale. Add to that the homes and rentals available via other sites and sources, and the urgency for new high density apartments starts to be a little questionable.

            If the proposed density of the new apartments requires a large parking structure in the playground area, maybe it is the wrong plan for the site.

            Perhaps there is a workable model for the Delmar-Harvard site with the project done at the former Hanley Jr. High site…which was a thoughtful development that was scaled to the surrounding neighborhoods.

          • Adam

            How many of those 253 apartments are within walking distance to the Loop? The number of single family homes isn’t relevant; they’re two different markets.

          • matimal

            that’s a logic that any East German central planner would understand very well. What is so scary about letting supply and demand meet?

          • Matt

            If you are referring to the East German planners who shaped the Mitte borough, I’ll take your response as a compliment. I’m assuming you’re familiar with the area, but if not, it is definitely worth a visit…wonderful balance of green space, retail, access to culture, etc.

            I notice that in your profile picture you are surrounded by green space, not parking lots and tall buildings. Why is that?

          • matimal

            not even the semblance of a denial. wow.

          • Matt

            Not true. I deny you the ability to provoke. Over, out, and have a nice evening.

          • matimal

            Very true. You admit you admire the work of East German planners. You do realize that in the end all the value of all property in ucity cones from the value others give it through markets?

          • Matt

            No, I merely denied you the ability to make this thread into an argument about communism vs. the free market, which might have been funny, but probably very unproductive.

            The discussion is about making sure that if/when the Delmar-Harvard site is ultimately developed, it is done so with sensitivity to the neighborhood, and that the concerns of neighbors are incorporated into plans rather than dismissed…which seems to be what at least a couple of people on this blog think should happen.

            And yes, I admire the work that went into shaping Mitte, both from the east and the west. It is a great model for how a city can be shaped, and reshaped to support urban life. It is clear from your posts that my initial response was lost on you.

          • matimal

            Wow, just wow. You don’t accept that all the value of all property in ucity comes from larger makets. Got it. Is this the beginning of the People’s Republic of University City?

          • Presbyterian

            Just to clarify, we’re talking about this space. That’s definitely asphalt.

          • Adam

            I guarantee the opposition has nothing to do with preserving a public space and everything to do with the proximity of a “tall” building and additional traffic to their homes.

          • Matt

            You are not qualified to guarantee anything but your own opinion, and have clearly demonstrated a lack of interest in the actual reasons for issues with the proposed plan.

          • Adam

            The only reasons you’ve given so far are that you “learned to ride a bike” there, “played hundreds of hours of games”, “made new friends”, and “passed neighbors on walks”—all of which are very personal and generic-sounding activities that can occur anywhere, and none of which are good reasons for leaving this small asphalt parcel vacant.

            And no offense, but you have to realize how absurd it sounds to suggest that developing what is essentially a small parking lot without stripes on the edge of the neighborhoods is somehow going to “fundamentally reshape” the experiences of “the next few generations of heights residents”.

          • Matt

            Adam, I share personal experiences to simply illustrate to another person who posted, that the space is not, and has not been a parking lot. It has been an important part of the heights neighborhood. You obviously aren’t interested or convinced that matters.

            And no, it is not at all absurd to imagine the proposed multi story parking and high density housing fundamentally reshaping the experiences of the next few generations of heights residents. If your agenda doesn’t allow you to consider the impact on the neighborhood, I’m sorry.

            For what it is worth, multiple people I grew up with moved back to the neighborhood as adults. Why? Because it is a great place to live…and all that stuff you are so quick to dismiss actually matters to them.

            If I had to pick between monetizing every square inch or maintaining community, I’d pick community any day of the week.

          • Adam

            With due respect, Matt, your agenda apparently involves exaggerating the importance of this parking lot (sorry, but that’s basically what it is) to your neighborhood and exaggerating the impact that this development will have on your neighborhood.

            “If I had to pick between monetizing every square inch or maintaining community, I’d pick community any day of the week.”

            Nice false dichotomy. So there’s no community in places with dense development patterns? If that’s what you’re claiming, it’s demonstrably false. But you know that.

          • onecity

            If they want less traffic, how about alternate routes and opening some side streets to thru traffic, because U City is a nightmare to navigate if you aren’t on Delmar? That is a major reason my family crossed U City off our list of prospective places to live. Limited access, ick.

          • Adam

            Sounds good to me. But the Loop is one of the few places in the metro that is ripe for dense development with strong walkability and good access to transit. So open a few alternate routes if necessary but development is going to happen here as it should. This isn’t Valley Park where you’re guaranteed 5 acres and a mule. This is the C. I. T. Y.

          • onecity

            Then we are in agreement.

          • Matt

            Yes, but it is not a parking lot.

        • Adam

          Matt, I understand your apprehension concerning this project but let’s not pretend that the desires of the developer and the city and the prospective tenants are any more self-serving than your desire to preserve childhood memories. It also strikes me as a no-win situation that nothing can get built in this city without dedicated parking because St. Louisans love their cars yet, as we see, nobody wants it near their homes.

          • Matt

            No, silly. It isn’t about preserving my childhood memories. It is about ensuring that the next few generations of heights residents don’t have their experience of the neighborhood fundamentally reshaped by the narrow goals of a single developer…whose interests are contrary to those of the 100 year old neighborhood he seeks to change.

            It this proposal is unable to evolve into something that doesn’t harm the neighborhood, fantastic. If not, I’m sure someone with more vision will eventually come along with a better plan.

          • Adam

            I’d say that building apartments on an asphalt lot is a rather subjective definition of “harm” but you’re entitled to your opinion. Is there somewhere I can look to find a calendar of events that are held on this beloved civic space?

          • Matt

            Your sarcasm speaks volumes. At least you are being honest about your lack of concern for the existing community…and how the proposed plan might affect it.

          • Adam

            Spare me the dramatics. I’m not concerned because it’ll have little to no effect on the existing community and the added population and density will be good for both U. City and St. Louis City (“city” being the operative word in both cases). For the love of God it’s a little triangle of asphalt. Stop pretending like it’s a community asset.