A Tour of the Central West End’s Biggest Building Boom in Half a Century

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The mid-20th Century was good to the Central West End. While St. Louis as a whole started bleeding residents to the suburbs post-World War II, the Central West End countered by building both modern high-rises and low slung single story buildings that thought of the car as much as the pedestrian. This construction boom of the mid 20th Century is best taken in along Lindell Boulevard.

Sadly, some of these mid-century treasures have been destroyed for, of all things, a church parking lot (RIP: San Luis Apartments).

This investment during the dawn of the city’s worst times paid off as it has added a fresh take on good architecture and design in the age of the automobile. I love the way the best of two eras compliment each other…sure the brick, wood and stone of the golden St. Louis age is hard to beat, but there is beauty in the mid-century structures as well.

The elliptical AAA building barely escaped the wrecking ball and now co-exists with a CVS store. An early HOK design, once home to the St. Louis Housing Authority, will become a bank and apartments.

IMG_4455

4100 Lindell - St. Louis, MO

The Central West End was a neighborhood that saw building and growth during the mid-century, but it appeared to have fizzled out by the 1980s-1990s. Outside of the former “Gaslight Square” part of town, there just wasn’t that much construction in the neighborhood.

That has changed in recent months, and the evidence has presented itself to the region with the constant addition and reshuffling of tower construction cranes dotting the skyline.

Drive down I-64 at night and you can see the blinking lights on the cranes like fireflies in the summer night.

There are cranes towering over Kingshighway working on the Barnes/Jewish main hospital campus. They are visible from many vantage points within the neighborhood:

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

These cranes are building a new Children’s Hospital tower at the corner of Kingshighway and Forest Park Avenue. It’s just one part of the $1B+ medical campus revitalization project. The new building will look like this:

BJC-Children's Hospital Revitalization project - St. Louis, MO

There is a lot to be optimistic about in this part of the city. Maybe more so now, than any other time since the neighborhood was originally built out.

The massive construction cranes are signs of the investment right here in St. Louis as opposed to the seemingly endless corporate investments in Clayton, MO and then ongoing along the I-64 corridor in the farther flung suburbs.

If you like density and interesting modern architecture, keep your eyes peeled, and look up, the construction cranes will lead you to the action.

The St. Louis College of Pharmacy expansion at Taylor Avenue and Parkview Place is taking place on a former surface parking lot, land it swapped with Washington University:

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO
The finished product should look something like this:

St. Louis College of Pharmacy - St. Louis, MO

This beautiful modern building compliments some of the older buildings on campus, including the recently renovated Jones Hall.

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

Just south on Taylor Avenue between Scott and McKinley Avenues, you have the Washington University Scott McKinley Research, a 130K+ sf energy efficient, flexible human biology research center.

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO
The finished product should look something like this:

McKinley Research Building @ WUSM - St. Louis, MO

McKinley Research Building @ WUSM - St. Louis, MO

This building is rising on a former surface parking lot, as well.

Speaking of parking lots, another construction crane can be seen rising above a massive multi-level parking structure going up near Duncan and Taylor Avenues:

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

The finished product will look like this, from the other side:

BJC parking garage and connector

This is a critical piece of the puzzle, consolidating and stacking the parking spaces vs. sprawling them out on surface lots.

There are other two-story buildings, equally modern and sleek going up along Taylor Avenue, and other consuming form surface parking or vacant space.

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

This one will be the new Washington University School of Medicine Environmental Health and Safety Department building:

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

And the finished product:

WUSM - Health & Safety Facility

And don’t forget the nearly completed Shriner’s Hospital for Children at 4400 Clayton, overlooking I-64. This is a boon for St. Louis as the former hospital was moved to the suburban city of Frontenac, MO approximately 50 years ago. This is a return to St. Louis for the Shriner’s Hospital as they started in the city in 1924.

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

This ~90,000 square foot hospital include 12 inpatient beds, three surgical suites, and 18 clinic examination rooms. It also features enhanced space for its clinical research center for metabolic bone diseases and more room for same-day surgery patients. Other additions to benefit patients are nine rooms for outpatient family housing, a state of the art interactive and educational activity area and dedicated space for collaborative research with Washington University scientists (source).

But, it’s not just the southern fringe of the neighborhood that is seeing new life, the heart of the Central West End right around Euclid between Lindell and Delmar is seeing activity as well.

Toward the heart of the neighborhood at Euclid and Lindell is the start of a project that will turn a former suburban-setback building to a 15 story mixed use building bringing height and density that the neighborhood and city deserve.

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

Construction should start soon…with plans looking something like this:

4643 Lindell - The Opus Group

Then again just north at Euclid and West Pine is another crane with the construction of a mixed use building with residential and a Whole Foods grocer at street level.

Here’s how the site looks as of publishing:

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

Central West End construction - St. Louis, MO

And the final product:

CityWalk on Euclid - St. Louis, MO

This lot had been vacant since the demo of the mid-century Doctor’s Building in 2008.  What a loss, but hey, gotta keep looking to the future…and the future looks pretty bright in the Central West End.

Just look up, there are construction cranes dotting the skyline…exciting times.

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  • Robbie Roberts

    I do think St Louis is behind, but not far behind. Dallas has a total of 23 high rise buildings currently under construction, with about 20 more planned. The surrounding suburbs have just about as many.

    • John R

      Since you’ve resuscitated this comment section it’s interesting to note that in the year since this story was published we’ve continued to have a steady march of rehab projects downtown but no new construction… however, rumors are now swirling about a couple possible new build projects for downtown. Probably not tall towers but hopefully still impressive.

  • Richard O

    All this construction is great for St. Louis however it pales in comparison to other cities. All these projects are either under construction or planned and ready for a ground breaking. Baltimore has a 48-story 300 Pratt Building, Boston has the 60-story Millennium Tower, 61-story Four Seasons Hotel and the 46-story Boston Garden Tower, Milwaukee the 37-story Van Buren Street Tower, 44-story Couture and 33-story Northwestern Mutual Tower, Minneapolis the 36-story Gateway, 35-story Alatus Tower, 45-story Franklin Street Properties Tower, 32-story Ritz Block Tower and 30-story Mortenson Tower, Philadelphia 47-story SLS Tower, 26-story 500 Walnut Building, 32-story 709 Chestnut Tower, 52-story W hotel, 23-story Chinatown Tower, 59-story 1,121 foot Comcast Innovation & Technology Center and the 49-story FMC tower, Seattle/Bellevue has at least 15 new buildings ranging from 34 to 77-stories. I haven’t even included Atlanta, Dallas, Houston or San Francisco. Nothing of this scope is planned for St. Louis. In fact the last notable tall building in St. Louis was the Thomas Eagleton Federal Courthouse which opened in 2000 which means its been15 years and counting for a substantial new high-rise building in St. Louis. Why? Well we have the self-serving nimby’s in the CWE who hollered when Opus planned a mere 28-story building at Lindell and Euclid and now we are excited about a 15-story replacement. They even went as far as to limit any new buildings in that district at 250 feet unless you are on Kingshighway and south of Forest Park Boulevard. Does St. Louis ever have a chance of creating a truly urban environment when you have such small minded conservative people? Other reasons include: we don’t have any local developers willing to take a chance on building 40 or 50-story residential buildings and then the corporate community absolutely refuses to invest jobs and office space anywhere in the city. Right now the developers in CORTEX are clearing out an old industrial area and creating a suburban style campus in an urban environment. Take a look at University City in Philadelphia if you want to get an idea on how to develop an urban environment. Is there any hope this can change in St. Louis? It is so damn frustrating to see this city with so much potential wasted on being too conservative, run by a lack of leadership and way too bigoted. I know the readers of this blog are concerned about the lack of major high-rise development. How can we make this change?

    • John R

      I think the answer is two-fold. First, we need Good Jobs. Good Jobs, Good Jobs… our regional economic recovery since the recession has been almost at rock bottom nationally for large metros and we can’t expect urban construction, especially high-rise, to happen nearly at the levels of growing cities until that improves. Second, downtown needs to reclaim its role as the region’s primary office market. That clearly has happened in Detroit with large corporate moves into the CBD and it can — and needs — to happen, here. In the meantime, it looks like Clayton will be where we see a bit of high-rise office/residential construction.

      I’d also add Pittsburgh’s under-construction 33 story PNC tower as high-rise construction in a peer city. Cleveland also hopes to begin work on a 54 story residential tower later this year.

    • jhoff1257

      The 26 story Park East Tower opened in the CWE in 2007 and the 25 story Roberts Tower opened Downtown in 2010. Both of those are only a few stories short of the Eagleton building. Not to mention the 31 story and 27 story buildings under construction in Clayton. A dense urban city does not have to be a skyscraper forest either. While St. Louis has a long way to go to look like some of the cities you mentioned, we actually do have some great urban areas. The CWE is one of them. South Grand, Cherokee, Lafayette Square, Washington Avenue, The Grove, Tower Grove, Shaw and several others. Some of them are even in the County. Are they jam packed with skyscrapers? No, and they shouldn’t be. There is something to be said for human scaled walkable development. Keep in mind all of those cities you mentioned have similar neighborhoods and similar NIMBYs.

      I do agree to some that some parts of the city are being pushed to be to suburban and that our conservative suburbs do hold us back as a region. But high-rise development shouldn’t be at the top of our list. Filling in the holes with urban scaled development, which is happening by the way, should be the first step. High rise development will follow when the density is there.

      • Richard O

        I’m not advocating canyons of high-rise development but there should be considerably more than what we have and perception is most of the battle to convince people to move here and that includes jobs. I agree we have some very nice urban neighborhoods but there should be a mix of low, mid and high rise developments to create the urban density that makes a vibrant community.Thanks for your input.

        • John R

          I absolutely agree. These towers being built in other cities are reflecting higher economic and population growth but also confidence… these other places are also proceeding with mid-rise infill for the bulk of their new construction. Having a couple 25 story or so residential in the downtown CBD would be huge as well as a modest new office tower(s) in BPV to round out the rehab of historic buildings and offer a type of product that appeals to many.

          I don’t want Cordish/Cards and Drury to wait for whatever time a certain amount of rehab or mid-rise infill projects occur… I want them to proceed with a bit of risk but have confidence that our core is growing and their projects will be successful.

      • Alex Ihnen

        4545 Lindell is another recent high rise. The Clayton towers aren’t under construction yet, but they’re coming.

    • matimal

      You have edifice envy. Silicon Valley, Austin, and Charlotte are a handful of glass towers surrounded by parking lots for all their economic growth. Are they busy building Soulards, Central West Ends, or UCity’s? The answer is no. You can’t always see the glass half empty.

      • Ljparr

        You are totally wrong about Charlotte. You need to visit there sometime. It’s booming with residential (all urban).

        • matimal

          I was there a month ago. Vast parking lots and 12 lane highways.

    • David H

      High-rise residential towers bring residents. Residents bring revenue which drives further development. I totally agree, Richard.

    • Luftmentsch

      The problem is the lack of growth and construction in downtown St. Louis. The call for skyscrapers in the CWE and the accusations of NIMBYism are silly. It’s wrong for people living in a low-rise urban historic district to reject skyscrapers “in their backyard?” I suppose you think Capitol Hill in DC or German Town in Cincy should also be decorated with 30-story towers? I could understand the angry moralizing if we were talking about homeless shelters or rec centers, but if we’re talking about pricey residential towers, then this is a gross misuse of the term NIMBY.

      • matimal

        There’s no “German Town in Cincy,” but I agree that the lack of construction in downtown St. Louis is certainly ‘a’ problem, but I don’t know if it is “the” problem of St. Louis. We can’t ever lose sight that metro st. louis’ success is the foundation of any economic activity here. Clayton and the CWE aren’t the enemy of downtown St. Louis, Dallas, Chicago, Denver, and Houston are the enemy of metro St. Louis.

        • Luftmentsch

          Guess I combined Over-The-Rhine in Cincinatti with German Town in Columbus. In any case, my point is that low-rise historic neighborhoods are not the ideal place for highrise condos. If other cities are surpassing us in the number of skyscrapers, it hardly makes sense to blame the Nimby’s of the CWE.

          • matimal

            It’s spelled ‘Cincinnati.’ Columbus’ German Village is FAR, FAR lower density than Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine (OTR). There are 12 and 13 story buildings in OTR and most buildings have party walls and meet the sidewalk and it is immediately adjacent to Cincinnati’s Central Business District. Too very different neighborhoods. The CWE is a classic American midtown-style neighborhood which can handle a lot of density.

        • Dr. Sidom Azibo

          None of those places you’ve mentioned are enemies to STL. The city itself is its own enemy in terms of economic development. There has been too slow an effort to tap into the under 40 demo. Conservatism and shady contractors are partially to blame.

  • Guest

    When will While Foods open? Any date set?

    • John R

      I believe they aim for a (late?) Fall opening.

  • Mike

    Midtown = Boomtown.
    Everyday I see all the cranes around midtown and it reminds me of Dubai. Love it!

  • Presbyterian

    Cranes, cranes everywhere…

  • John R

    As the area grows hopefully we’ll see more office space come on line as well. It was great to see Core 10 Architecture relocate to Lindell a few years back from the County and I think more companies would have an interest in making similar moves. But there really isn’t a lot of modern space available… I’m not thinking towering office buildings but just a decent supply of smaller spaces fitting into the new construction that would be attractive for smaller firms. I believe Optimists would like such a space. The HOK-designed building on Lindell referenced above originally was home to the Remington Rand Company, btw.

  • tpekren

    So any new news from the Koplar/Koman/Clayco group for the corner of Lindell/Kingshighway? This corner truly needs a signature tower!! Even if it means more mid or low rise on other infill spots still to be had

  • stldoc

    Yes indeed! Plus add in all the construction underway as you head toward Midtown with the Cortex boom and new metrolink stop, Ikea, 450 bed Standford apartments, Gerhart restoration, and 206 unit West Pine Lofts. And more in the pipeline!