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

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

Update Feb 11, 2018- The parking lot is now home to a temporary police station