Proposal Would Replace Vacant YMCA with Office & Retail, Rehab Pelican Building

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Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

Mixed-use development may be coming to the long vacant YMCA and Pelican Building site on South Grand Boulevard. Several blocks north of the historic, and busy South Grand business district. The property is now under contract by First & Main Properties, led by Richard Robinson. Planned is a total of 35,276K sf, including a full rehabilitation of the corner Pelican Building, and construction of two-story retail and office building on the YMCA site designed by TR,i Architects.

This stretch just north of Tower Grove Park had struggled with vacancy as neighbors have debated the type of development desired. Quik Trip’s proposal for a gas station in the site, was met met with loud opposition from neighbors. Another proposal to for an animal therapy business didn’t get off the ground. Two blocks south, a standalone Starbucks on a vacant auto repair site moved forward only after significant feedback and review. There are new condos here, but also drive-through fast food.

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

Now it appears that the wait, and the demand by the community for better development, may pay off. Sources tell nextSTL that tenants have not be signed for the project, but the developer, and those briefed on the development are confident there is demand. Though the proposal is just now public, it appears to have been pulled from the self and dusted off, with design files dated as 2007.

According to a traffic study posted on the project website, the site sees nearly 28,000 vehicles a day. This is an impressive number which should bode well for commercial development. It is especially interesting when considering the road diet to the south, where four traffic lanes were reduced to two several years ago. The project description notes “parking will be exceptional for an urban location.” By this they mean there will be lots of parking — 150 off-street spaces.

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

The new building would consist of 16K sf of first floor restaurant and retail space, with 16K sf of office space on the second level. The Pelican Building plan shows 2,900sf of restaurant space on the first level, and 2,500sf of office space on floors two and three.

First & Main Properties commissioned a demographic report dated January 2015 that shows an expected stable population over the current decade, after a 17% loss from 2000-2010 within a mile radius of the site. While the immediate area’s population (and that of the city) has continued to decline, pockets of increased median income are appearing. The Shaw, Compton Heights, Tower Grove East, and Tower Grove South neighborhoods are one such area.

From the First & Main Properties website:

Located in the heart of the historic and thriving South Grand corridor, Pelican Court is a welcome new addition to the neighborhood’s eclectic mix of boutiques, specialty stores, ethnic restaurants and national retail outlets. This creative 35,276 square foot mixed-use development will accommodate unique and quality restaurants, retailers and office users. Designed to complement the historic urban streetscape, this 2-acre, 2-building project will unite the historic, iconic, 3-story Victorian red-brick Pelican Building, which will be renovated to the highest standards, with a 2-story New Building with first-class retail and restaurant space on the first floor, and first-class office space on the second floor, built with the highest-quality materials. Access to the site is excellent via a traffic light at Grand and Shenandoah, and curb cuts on both Shenandoah and Vanderburgh. Parking will be exceptional for an urban location – 150 convenient, free off-street parking spaces.Exposure and visibility of the buildings, storefronts and signage will be outstanding due to both buildings being situated directly on the street with no front setbacks. In addition, the site enjoys an impressive traffic count on South Grand of 27,794 vehicles per day – December 2013 Study.

*if you want to see the interior of the YMCA building before it’s gone, click here

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  • The Ghost of H L Mencken

    Any updates on this?

  • Mark

    this reminds me of the lonely stretch of retail on Forest Park Pkwy in the CWE that is perpetually half-empty. this is top-down development at its most banal and ineffective form. bland, monolithic facade; still too short to create significant “density”; nothing for the community, just cash in the developer’s pockets.

    • Adam

      What “lonely stretch of retail” are you talking about? Do you mean the strip-mall at FPP and Taylor? If so that’s a pretty silly comparison. Also not seeing how the proposed building is in any way “monolithic”—the scale is similar to buildings all along Grand, including S. Grand near Tower Grove Park. Would you consider those to be monolithic? Same scale, and Grand South Grand is doing great. We’re not going to get a high-rise on every empty lot. Would you prefer that it remain empty? That the Pelican Bldg. continue to deteriorate? Now if this thing gets filled with cell phone stores and cash-checking joints you might have a legitimate complaint, but otherwise I think your objections are pretty far-fetched.

      • Mark

        Not sure the comparison is silly or far-fetched since you knew exactly which building I meant. Name another bldg on S. Grand that is the length of the proposed new building – it’s more than five times the length of the Pelican, whose rehabilitation shouldn’t depend on the construction of a neighboring strip mall. I’d prefer a better design that doesn’t water down the streetscape with a wall of faux-historic sentimentality. If bland new construction were my taste, I’d move to Park Ave. in Lafayette Square.

        I don’t blame the architect, whose work I otherwise enjoy. It’s the developer’s aesthetics in question here.

        • tgeperson

          Mark, can you point to an example of something that would meet your standards? I don’t know the dimensions at issue, but the planned new building to me does not seem appreciably longer than, say, the building on the east side of Grand at Arsenal or the building just across Arsenal running from Arsenal to Hartford. If you want to criticize the materials or elevations or whatever, those seem like valid complaints, but criticizing the length of the building seems curious to meet since this would establish a “street wall” and largely shield parking from view – a good thing.

        • Adam

          Mark, I knew which one you were talking about because it’s the ONLY retail stretch on FPP in the CWE. It’s a silly comparison because THAT is a classic one-story strip mall with parking in front, whereas the proposed building is 2-story mixed use and abuts the sidewalk. The proposed building is not that much longer than the buildings to either side of Wyoming on the east side of Grand, for example.

  • Presbyterian

    I’m glad to see this project might be moving forward!

  • Carey On Lovely

    Thrilled to see development in this prominent spot. This is a major step in expanding the Grand corridor. To developers out there listening… PLEASE consider putting a gym in some of the retail space. There is low access in the neighborhood and LOTS of people in TGS and Shaw who are seeking a place to workout.

  • Carey On Lovely

    Thrilled to see development in this prominent spot. This is a major step in expanding the Grand corridor. To developers out there listening… PLEASE consider putting a gym in some of the retail space. There is low access in the neighborhood and LOTS of people in TGS and Shaw who are seeking a place to workout.

    • Danny

      I’ve been thinking for years that a 24 hour fitness gym or whatever would do incredible business around the Tower Grove neighborhoods

  • Dustin Bopp

    Joe, it was originally a Lawrence Group project and after it stalled the first time was brought to us at TR,i.

  • joe

    Those are all Lawrence Group Images…

  • John R

    Would have loved to see residential on a third floor but this is pretty good overall…. a better version of the single-story retail where the Kinko’s and Bread Co is south of Arsenal but of course not as grand as the historic building across the street where the Guerrilla Street Food restaurant is going in and that has office on the second floor.

  • Adam

    i can’t recall—is there no on-street parking along this stretch of Grand? given the number of off-street spots accompanying this project i can’t help but be a little less excited about it. that first block of Shennandoah off of Grand is going to be atrocious.

    • John R

      there is no street parking along this stretch.

    • John R

      I forgot to add that Shenandoah frontage is pretty bleak now and nothing would be demolished there so with good landscaping, etc. I am not sure how much an issue it would be other than there will be a lot more traffic.

      • Adam

        right, i’m not saying it will be any worse than it is now, just that any potential for something larger/denser will be gone.

      • Adam

        another building the size of the Pelican, at least, could occupy the southeast corner of the proposed parking lot at the cost of about 25 parking spots at most. that would do a great deal to enhance the Shenandoah street wall. i have a hard time believing that all those spots are going to be filled on any given day.

        • John R

          That would be good… it would be a smaller version of those homes (I believe 2 were newly built) at the SE corner of Juniata and Arkansas that break up the immense surface parking behind Rooster and Commerce. Even something like that small natural foods store on Arsenal behind the Qdoba would be an improvement if space is tight.

  • Michael C.

    Very exciting news for South Grand. This is exactly what we needed! Love that the Pelican building is being restored.

  • Danny

    Looks good. Will hopefully succeed at pushing some more activity northward from the Grand South Grand stretch. Does seem like a lot of parking but maybe that’s just necessary for office and retail. I wonder if they’d consider adding some residential on the Shenandoah frontage. That would help to connect the pedestrian flow from the Tower Grove East side better than an extra ~20 parking spaces

  • Dustin Bopp

    Personally, I would have gone that direction given the latitude. Building to the street was my most important priority.

  • Overall a good proposal, but it’s too bad they’re opting for yet another faux-historic look. It’s time for some truly modern, inspiring new construction on Grand. Why don’t local developers check out what’s being built in other cities?

  • Dustin Bopp

    I was the lead architect on this project eight years ago when I was with TR, i. I am glad to see it’s likely this important site will be better utilized and the Pelican Building (an official City Landmark) will finally be renovated.