Half Million Dollar Custom Home by UIC Coming to The Grove

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UIC custom on Hunt

Get ready for the $500K home in Forest Park Southeast. In 2010, when UIC, an architecture, urban design, real estate development, general contracting, carpentry, and everything else practice, introduced a custom designed home at the eastern end of Gibson Avenue in what is known as The Grove it was a bit of a shock.

That project proposal, which included a one-bedroom apartment, had an estimated cost of $400K, though it would eventually be built for more than that amount. The Gibson home was designed and built for a couple who had decided The Grove was not only the place to be, but the place to stay. Since then, single family historic rehabs in the neighborhood have reached $250K.

In old McRee Town across Vandeventer Avenue to the south of The Grove, UIC has been playing city-builder. Anyone familiar with this area less than a decade ago would have bet, and lost heavily, against its resurgence. Now titled Botanical Grove, this is where one finds a public Montessori school with a waitlist double its capacity, a french patisserie, a wine bar and restaurant with white linen, gourmet fried chicken, and other shops. New homes here, by UIC, have sold for upwards of $300K.

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The half-million dollar Hunt Avenue home would occupy what are currently three 25ft-wide parcels on the northeast corner of Hunt and Newstead Avenues. Two lots, including the center lot with a dilapidated single-story vacant home, are owned by Forest West Properties, Inc. (Washington University Medical Center Redevelopment Corporation). The third is owned by the city’s vacant land landlord, the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA).

The 650sf home sits in a particularly vacant corner of a neighborhood with 20% residential vacancy and 16% owner-occupied properties. The 1890 structure will be incorporated into the new home, joined by a parallel contemporary structure to support a transverse second story. The historic structure will form a courtyard and master bedroom as part of the total 3,000sf home.

The Grove has seen a remarkable resurgence over the past decade. The booming Urban Chestnut Brewing Company took over a large empty warehouse, architecture firm SPACE reclaimed an ugly building for its now stellar office, restaurants, bars, performance venues, a coffee shop, and other retail have joined some long time stalwarts as well. The $85M Chouteau’s Grove project is set to introduce an eight-story, 300-unit apartment building, as well as 78K sf of retail, including a full size grocer. UIC recently introduced its Avant Grove contemporary single family infill project across Gibson from is earlier custom home. And four developers just received support from the neighborhood to build a mix of contemporary and faux historic homes on city-owned vacant lots.

This all sounds good, and it is, but walk the neighborhood and there remain enough vacant lots and falling buildings to earn well-founded skepticism of The Grove as a neighborhood on the rise. However, for those following area development, the trend is clear, and bigger things remain just over the horizon.

Yet, $500K? South of Manchester? On Hunt? Maybe if one wants to build a contemporary custom home in the City of St. Louis near all the best things the city has to offer – think Forest Park, Central West End, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Grand Center – maybe this is the place. Anyone familiar with the area now may be smart to bet on its future success.

{reference images of new construction incorporating an historic structure}

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Construction photos by Greg Johnson added 05/07/2016

Hunt UIC 3 Hunt UIC 2 Hunt UIC 1

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  • Rehab

    Do this to my house on swan lol! I have 2 lots anyone interested in paying me way too much for 2 lots and a 120year old house? $200k.

  • Pete Gardner

    Love it or hate it, this is huge progress. Even if you hate the style. The fact that someone is willing to put a half mil into the FPSE for a single home is could potentially be game changing. May be this could help turn over some property held by slum lords.
    In this case, I’m not sure why they incorporated the old structure?
    This immediate area is where the grove will potentially see its largest infill. Plenty of lots, plenty of tear downs. All it will take to see a wrath of demolition south of Manchester is new home prices creeping in the $350-500K range.

  • Tysalpha

    While there are a couple pragmatic issues with the layout (master bathroom sinks right behind the headboard, walking through the bathroom to get to the closet), overall it’s genious. I’m not sure what purpose the courtyard serves with so much enclosed backyard… but I like how they are echoing the footprint of the frontage, as if there were three buildings.

  • Carrie

    Don’t listen to the haters out there. This project is great. The area needs some shaking up asap!! Someone’s got to be bold and brave….

  • Paul S.

    3 lots? The right thing to do would be to throw up some townhouses, or a new multifamily apt building, something that’s actually in need in this immediate area. We need as many new apartments this area as we can build or renovate, and everyone knows it. Then a solid single family housing market can grow naturally. This a complete waste of space for one household. But since this area is becoming a playground for rich people with the wrong architects, (architects who have limited areas where they can even pull crap like this off) we will see a lot more of this. Truthfully, this architecture is a fart in the wind of time.
    The surrounding architecture, by the way took several hundred years to evolve and perfect… time will be the judge.

    • Adam

      Er… St. Louis is only 250 years old, and the Grove wasn’t established until the mid to late 1800s (then known as Adam’s Grove). So actually it didn’t take “several hundred years to evolve”. Oh, and it’s still evolving. Hence the new construction.

      • Mike F

        Perhaps he’s referring to the various styles of architecture and ornamentation represented by the built environment in the neighborhood: Italianate, Romanesque, eclectic, Beaux Arts, amongst others, all of which have their origins in the past millennium and beyond.

        • Adam

          So then he’s suggesting that contemporary architecture doesn’t draw from these same traditions? Everything up to this point did but, suddenly, not anymore? I hope not because that interpretation makes his comment seem even more disingenuous.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I completely understand what you’re saying, but I think there are a few things to consider here. This part of the neighborhood is likely about 50% vacant. It’s been emptying for a couple decades. So someone wants to build a single family home where three 750sf homes once stood? This is increase population density. The area shouldn’t all be one new home replacing three (even they’re long gone), but it’s not going be.

      Without seeing any particular study or evidence on this, I’d venture that it’s not the standard that apartments are built and then the single family housing market follows. Anyway, density can and is being added where it makes sense. There’s Aventura (so, so horrible), 20 apartments by UIC on Manchester, their warehouse conversion to apartments on Tower Grove Ave to the south. There are ~300 apts being added to the east end of The Grove, and the single family, duplex, and three-story multi-family infill just recently approved for scattered sites. We’ll hear more about residential in Cortex soon too. Then there are all the apartments already planned, or under construction in the CWE (West Pine Lofts, The Standard, Opus…). All of these make more sense than trying to build density on Hunt.

      Everyone has an opinion on architecture. I’ll only add that the surrounding area was built up over ~20years, using materials (especially brick) with virtually no transportation costs, and a huge skilled workforce being paid almost nothing. We can recreate form today (I like the Habitat homes in north city), but the detail and quality will not be the same. Seeing this home as the harbinger of two dozen more of the same presents a problem, but I’d bet against that happening.

      • John R

        You wrote about UIC, “their warehouse conversion to apartments on Tower Grove Ave to the south.” What you talkin about, Willis? /Gary Coleman affect.

        • Alex Ihnen

          10 studio/1br/2br apartments in a building no one would have missed: http://uicstl.com/tower-grove-mews/

          • John R

            Thanks… I was thinking maybe something else was in store.

      • John S.

        Aventura is the worst thing to happen to the Grove-EVER.

    • rgbose

      Here’s the worst. 3900 W Belle

      • Alex Ihnen

        Without a doubt, but still, with some mature trees and landscaping…not as horrible.

      • STLExplorer

        1913 E College is pretty bad too – it involved demolishing three homes and is right around that 500k mark (permits listed by the building division total approx. $515,000).

        • rgbose

          And they’re paying barely any property taxes even after what appears to be a 10 year abatement. I think this one got on one of the TV news programs way back when. “Someone built a big house in this area” was the angle.

          The other phenomenon that gets me is the skinny house on wide lot. Just down the street 1520 has a 47.5′ wide lot. Couldn’t be bothered to fix the sidewalks. At least ask for that for the tax abatement.

  • M M

    We should be restoring density in the city, not destroying it. If you want a lot the size of three city lots then move to the suburbs. This should not be allowed to be done and frankly UIC is irresponsible for designing it this way. I am shocked that the lot consolidation was approved for a single family house. It’s ridiculous. Also, it’s hideously ugly. Modern does not mean good design.

  • M M

    We should be restoring density in the city, not destroying it. If you want a lot the size of three city lots then move to the suburbs. This should not be allowed to be done and frankly UIC is irresponsible for designing it this way. I am shocked that the lot consolidation was approved for a single family house. It’s ridiculous. Also, it’s hideously ugly. Modern does not mean good design.

    • Adam

      While I’m not crazy about the design, I think the actual materials will look better than the rendering suggests (though I wish they would retain/incorporate the roofline of the existing house in some fashion). And regarding density, take a look at the intersection on Google. I don’t think an apartment building is appropriate for the context, and I’d rather have a household paying property taxes on a $500K home than three vacant lots, especially given the preponderance of vacant lots in the neighborhood.

    • Adam

      While I’m not crazy about the design, I think the actual materials will look better than the rendering suggests (though I wish they would retain/incorporate the roofline of the existing house in some fashion). And regarding density, take a look at the intersection on Google. I don’t think an apartment building is appropriate for the context, and I’d rather have a household paying property taxes on a $500K home than three vacant lots, especially given the preponderance of vacant lots in the neighborhood.

    • Adam

      While I’m not crazy about the design, I think the actual materials will look better than the rendering suggests (though I wish they would retain/incorporate the roofline of the existing house in some fashion). And regarding density, take a look at the intersection on Google. I don’t think an apartment building is appropriate for the context, and I’d rather have a household paying property taxes on a $500K home than three vacant lots, especially given the preponderance of vacant lots in the neighborhood.

    • M M

      So basically what you are saying is that anyone with enough money should be allowed to do whatever they want and that what is urbanistically correct for this site does not matter? If we actually built three single family homes for $200,000 each on these lots they would generate more tax revenue than what is proposed. Ever better, you can build three $500,000 homes on these three lots. If we continue to allow these terrible moves to be made then we will lose everything that makes these urban neighborhoods great. I am all for modern architecture, in fact I hate new homes that try to look old. My issue here is with the lot consolidation. In this case, the design is bad… as is most of the stuff that UIC has done.

      • John R

        Aesthetics aside, the site plan does have the residence sit well with the street…. it is basically a large home on two small 25′ lots + a side lot. Not too much difference with the not uncommon situation in nabes like TGS or Shaw where a single-family also occupies an adjacent parcel as a sideyard. If this were to become a common situation for infill in FPSE I would be more concerned, same too if there are a bunch of tear-downs for McMansions, but as I suspect this home will be a rather unique occurrence I think it is kind of cool.

        • onecity

          Exactly. It’s not like this is an 18000 sf lot. The biggest problem, development-wise, in STL, is the lots in many cases are so narrow as to limit natural light and side windows. I’m all for any consolidation of lots less than 35 ft wide into 40-45ft wide lots, or in other words making about 45005000 sf lots the norm.

  • M M

    We should be restoring density in the city, not destroying it. If you want a lot the size of three city lots then move to the suburbs. This should not be allowed to be done and frankly UIC is irresponsible for designing it this way. I am shocked that the lot consolidation was approved for a single family house. It’s ridiculous. Also, it’s hideously ugly. Modern does not mean good design.

  • Brad Fratello

    The owners of this new project are terrific people and the house will be wonderful. As to the UIC contemporary home/apartment built in 2011-2 on Gibson, that project’s final cost actually wound up WELL north of $400k, not south of it.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Thanks Brad – story has been updated.

  • John R

    Obviously the demographics of both FPSE and McRee Town are dramatically changing, but I’d love to know what the raw population counts are. I think it is safe to say that at minimum the rate of significant decline during the 00s has slowed, but it would be interesting to know if actual gains have occurred yet.

    • tge

      I’d bet smallish decline.

      • John R

        I’m with you for the current state but I think by the next census we’ll see at least a bit of an increase in both. And there are some significant opportunities for large historic rehab projects in both neighborhoods…. I’ve heard rumors of interest in National Register listing for the Suburban Packaging building (Tower Grove and Vandeventer) and I’d love to see things like the Chouteau Building and Columbia Iron Works get a mixed-use rehab. And then there is the mother of all potential projects, the Liggett Tobacco Company wonderland.

        • tpekren

          With both of you guys, roughly a break even scenario. Smaller households just make it difficult to have big gains with modest but good to see infill happening. I really think CORTEX needs to land a big employer or two. That happens and you will see more significant gain for FPSE and areas immediately outside of CWE.

          • John R

            yeah, it will be the number of multi-family units that could really drive growth; we’ve had the Aventura and now the 300 unit proposal for the east end of the Grove. Add in a couple others and we could possibly add 1,000 new multi-family units over the course of a decade… that would be pretty impressive for a rather smallish area.

        • Mike F

          For those who are unfamiliar, the Suburban Packaging building was originally the printing plant for Woodward and Tiernan printers:

          http://preservationresearch.com/current-projects/woodward-tiernan-printing-company-building/

          As a former rotogravure pressman, I take interest in all things printing.

          • John R

            Thanks so much for sharing, Mike! Personally, I’d rather see mixed-use residential here rather than a non-taxing school. Hopefully the company relocates elsewhere in town if this moves forward.

          • Mike F

            The school proposal is the least-desirable, not only because of the limitations put on the building, but for the razing of other structures for bloody parking. In addition, I’m staunchly against the charter school movement, especially if corporate or religious sponsors are involved.

          • John R

            Ouch… I said above conversion of the Wooward & Tiernan and Columbia Iron Works buildings could add some considerable mixed-use density to the area but now I see one may become a school and the other a parking lot for said school. Plus demo of some homes.

  • Michael C.

    Wow, impressive. I continue to be amazed at the Grove’s redevelopment. I’m also glad they chose to preserve and incorporate the 100 year old home.

    • John R

      Very awesome to see that 19th c. structure included.