Clayco, Forum Studio Chosen for High-Profile Kingshighway/Lindell Project

nextSTL has learned progress is being made on a much anticipated development at a choice Central West End intersection. Contracts have been awarded for the Koman Group and Koplar Properties mixed-use residential project at the corner of Kingshighway and Lindell Boulevards. The site is perhaps the city’s most prominent surface parking lot, directly across from both the Chase Park Plaza and 1,300-acre Forest Park.

Development lead The Koman Group recently selected Clayco as general contractor for the project. Forum Studio has also been hired to assist with design. The design house will work with renowned New York architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) in conceiving the approximate $100M high profile project. According to nextSTL sources the early plan imagines a mixed-use tower incorporating retail, office, and residential components.

nextSTL was first to report on the development, and KPF involvement, in June of 2014. KPF, one of the world’s biggest design firms, was recently named architect for a $1 billion proposed waterfront development in Boston. However, nextSTL sources say it was KPF’s Hudson Yards project in NYC that convinced the project team to choose 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}

The Koman Group will finance and manage much of the project. The firm was founded by former St. Louis football Cardinal and two-time Pro Bowl selection Bill Koman. It has developed more than $1 billion of commercial real-estate projects since 1985. A $47M 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 $7M in TIF aid along with private financing and state/federal historic tax credits to help fund the project.

Sources told nextSTL that prior to the General American Life Building deal the Koman Group came close to an agreement that would have put the new Laclede Gas corporate headquarters on the CWE development site. The gas company had optioned the land, but negotiations regarding a parking swap with the neighboring St. Regis co-op apartment building fell apart.

Koplar Properties owns the corner parking lot. According to records, the land has an appraised value of $1,911,900. The lot remained undeveloped through the construction boom surrounding the 1904 World’s Fair, and the 1920s which saw nearly 20 high-rise buildings constructed in the neighborhood. The site sat vacant through another building boom along Kingshighway in the 1950s. It is part of a block-long gap along with adjacent parking lots to the south, once the site of the Buckingham Hotel.

Sam Koplar, vice president of business development, is the project lead 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.

In 1986 now defunct developer Cordage-Nivek proposed two 30-story limestone-and-brick towers at the Koplar and Parc Frontenac apartment building 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 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 Koman and Koplar development site footprint is approximately twice as large, without adding the parking lots to the south.

The CWE lot is within Ward 17, represented by longtime Alderman Joseph Roddy. Roddy serves as chairman of the St. Louis Housing, Urban Development 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 of 2014 Alderman Roddy told members of HUDZ Committee that he was organizing a group to investigate how TIF and tax abatement is handled in the city of St. Louis. There are currently 122projects in the city of St. Louis receiving TIF funding. It remains unknown if 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. Attempts to reach The Koman Group and SamKoplar for comment were unsuccessful.