Townhomes Proposed for Vacant Central West End Lot on Sarah Street

215 N. Sarah - St. Louis, MO

The Lawrence Group is proposing to build 13 for-sale townhomes on two vacant lots at 215 N. Sarah Street in the city’s Central West End. The site totals approximately 22,000sf and sits adjacent to that developer’s 4100 Lindell project.

The developer is asking that variances be granted for lack of retail on Sarah, adding a curb cut on Sarah, and introducing a different setback along West Pine. The project was presented to the West Pine-Laclede Neighborhood Association in September and received a favorable reaction. According to one source, Park Central Development Corporation will support the request for variances.

215 N. Sarah - St. Louis, MO

215 N. Sarah - St. Louis, MO

The growth of Cortex and the adjacent medical complex is bolstering the Central West End housing market. While several large apartment buildings are under construction, new for-sale townhomes and condominiums have been rare in the market.

Projects like this will help dictate future neighborhood development patterns. If the project is granted variances, construction is expected to begin spring 2016 and be completed in seven months. Total project cost is estimated to be $5M. Project addresses include 4101 West Pine Boulevard and 215-221 Sarah Street.

The Central West End Form Based District was meant create a retail corridor along Sarah Street, something of a Euclid Avenue on the east end of the neighborhood. The code has yet to have a big positive impact on retail opportunities here. The recently completed West Pine Lofts was granted a variance to not include street front retail. Around the corner, 4108 Lindell Boulevard was allowed to demolished for fewer than a dozen parking spaces facing Lindell.

{existing view looking northwest from Sarah Street}

{existing view looking north from West Pine Avenue}

{existing view looking southwest from Sarah Street}

West Pine Lofts - St. Louis, MO{now completed West Pine Lofts across Sarah from proposed townhomes}

The concept of Sarah as a retail street makes some sense, but has always faced challenges. Home to The Block, Scottish Arms, New Market Hardware, and now Retreat Gastropub, the strip’s retail growth is limited due to existing apartments, condos, and the CET office building, all lacking street level retail space.

If the vacant lots along Sarah could have been infilled with mixed-use projects and added first floor retail, there was big potential. This is what the form based code sought. However, variances are diluting this potential and likely precluding any chance of a robust retail corridor.

Where small scale retail fits in this part of the city is an unresolved challenge. With Saint Louis University owning several corners (surface parking lots) and other land along Vandeventer, it will not become a retail corridor despite the wonderful Gerhart Block renovation project.

The Lindell Marketplace could be reimagined, but would likely continue to be home to chain stores and not be a small scale, walkable, integrated part of the neighborhood. Elsewhere along Lindell is a poor fit due to building type and scale. Forest Park Avenue doesn’t work well either. Other north-south streets are established residential.

A re-made Laclede Avenue east of Sarah has potential as a street nearest a blank slate and with great connections to SLU and the Central West End, and being near, but not staring at, IKEA and its sea of asphalt. The Cortex development is focused on concentrating retail development on east-west running Duncan Avenue a couple blocks to the south. If true-mixed use can begin to fill the empty spaces there, retail could find success.

215 N. Sarah - St. Louis, MO

215 N. Sarah - St. Louis, MO