$51M Encore at Forest Park to Add 246 Apartments to The Highlands

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Encore at Forest Park

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Highlands will soon be home to another 246 apartments, bringing a total of 725 apartments to the site of the demolished Arena. Plans call for Encore at Forest Park to break ground in April and be completed in 2017.

The $51M project will be built on the last remaining open parcel at the site, 3 acres at the far south end. The building is planned to be six stories and include 37 studio, 126 1BR, 79 2BR, and four 3BR units. The adjacent Cortona at Forest Park was reportedly a $42M project.

The Highlands has been developed by Balke Brown. The Encore, as the new apartment building will be named, has been designed by Humphreys & Partners and will be built by Holland Construction. The two companies have paired up on Cortona at Forest Park, The Heights at Manhassett, and The Residences at Sunset Ridge in Des Peres.

The Highlands

Cortona at Forest Park - St. Louis, MO
{Cortona at Forest Park opened in 2014}

The Highlands - St. Louis, MO
{site of Encore had previously been marketed as additional office space}

Cheltenham neighborhood - STL
{the Arena, demolished in 1999, was home to the St. Louis Blues at the Highlands}

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  • John R

    A building permit was applied for recently so it looks like this project is on track.

  • Chicagoan

    This design kind of looks like a college dorm or a middle-market hotel, honestly. Cheap materials, strange use of red, presumably as a “pop” color. Parking lot up front.

    Oh well, at least it’s symmetrical, which I’ve always appreciated. Nice balconies and windows, too, with the little outdoor space above the entrance.

    I just can’t shake the fact that it looks like a new construction Doubletree or Courtyard hotel.

    • Andy

      I agree. It was possible to do something truly incredible in that space after the area was town down. Once again: profitability triumphs over well thought out planning and design. On the other hand density is density. This neighborhood’s population was 620 per the 2010 US Census. I’d have to imagine that is has quadrupled since then based on the # of units built on this site.

      • Chicagoan

        Unfortunately, it doesn’t look much like a neighborhood right now. A Hampton Inn, a Hardee’s, a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and a sea of parking. Feels like an office park.

        • Adam

          It’s very similar to the type of development seen all over the Denver metro area, for example: large apartment communities with suburban site plans. The unfortunate part about this development is that it’s a suburban island in an urban location. Probably 90% of new residential across the country is this type of canned, middle market construction, though.

          • Chicagoan

            I know it’s not like there’s a train station right there, but I just can’t get over all of the parking. They can’t put it underground, or in a parking garage, or nicely conceal it in a high-rise building? If they did any of this, they could have a better chance of creating an urban development, but right now, this just looks like a suburban office park.

            I’ll be honest, this sort of thing isn’t being built here in Chicago. We’re not perfect, parking is always a topic of discussion at community meetings and it drives me crazy. But the TOD movement has really taken off here and when there’s parking, it’s always underground, in a garage, or concealed. Surface parking is really rare to see right now and I hope it stays that way.

            We’re also still dealing with the classic first-floor retail, three floors of parking, and housing on top look, but I don’t think we’re alone in that detail.

          • Adam

            “I’ll be honest, this sort of thing isn’t being built here in Chicago.”

            Well, sure. TOD/high-density development is much lower risk in Chicago. The market in St. Louis has been parking-oriented for years and developers are hesitant to deviate from their tried and true patterns. I’ll bet you this type of thing is getting built elsewhere in Chicagoland outside of the city proper, though.

          • Chicagoan

            Oh, it definitely is. There are a number of wretched suburbs off of the highway building things that look just like this. It makes me sad.

          • Adam

            Yeah, I don’t understand why it’s nearly impossible to get developers to even put surface parking BEHIND buildings, much less under them. Are they afraid people will just keep on drivin’ if they can’t see the parking lot from the street?

          • Chicagoan

            I mean, it really doesn’t look that bad. It’s a simple, symmetrical building. It could do without the red, but it is what it is.

            I agree, though, is it so hard to put the parking behind the building and have a sign up front about parking in the back? It’s such a small change but it improves the streetscape so much.

          • Adam

            I should have qualified: across the country with the exception of some high-demand, high-density cities like Chicago and NYC.

          • As long as its mostly quarantined to this 3×3 site, I begrudgingly accept it. You’re right next to a highway, so single-family homes and backyard barbecues would be a hard sell. It’s important though, that the surrounding neighborhood develop in direct contrast to that of the site — 1,2,3 story flats and street-level storefronts. The neighborhood still then functions and grows as a neighborhood, and the Highlanders (there can be only one!) can actually be meaningful participants in the neighborhood’s growth and success..

          • Adam

            All the Highlands needs is a couple of through streets and BAM it’s part of the neighborhood. I would think that could reasonably happen at some point in the future…

        • John R

          The dealership is outside the development, but you are right that the project has the feel of an office park; that’s in part b/c that is what it primarily was intended to be when launched 15 years ago. As building new office has been more of a struggle than apartments, the developers shifted plans.

          I suspect that in hindsight they may have laid things out differently and perhaps gone with some residential and with more height for the original buildings fronting Oakland to allow for great views of the park but all in all it has been a pretty successful redevelopment, especially as it was one of the first larger projects to get off the ground.

          Also, while it isn’t great urban design, I do think it appeals to what probably is a large market in the region… someone who likes a central location but doesn’t want to go full city… while not a gated community, it pretty much is an island or retreat, and that has some appeal.

  • Andy

    Hopefully this development will open an additional ingress/egress point or two into the Cheltenham neighborhood. Keeping this development as a island off hwy 40 isn’t conducive for further development of the adjacent vacant/underused industrial space. It would be nice to see this neighborhood’s property values increase near that of neighboring Clayton/Tamm or The Hill.

  • Tim E

    Now if Forest Park Community College would sell off some surface parking lots to Balk Brown and use the money to build structured parking. That would give Balk Brown an opportunity to carry Wise Ave as through street on the back side Forest Park CC and start another development to compliment a very successful Highland’s development

    • John R

      that would be awesome…. or how ’bout moving the whole campus to anchor the Railroad Exchange like Webster did for Arcade/Wright?

  • jim

    Nice. Have worked in the Highlands for 8 years and it’s been awesome to see the residential density build up here…Now, only if Forest Park would move the maintenance sheds to somewhere less conspicuous (i.e., the direct view from my office)…

    • JZ71

      The maintenance sheds were there first . . . there no “good” place to move them!

    • Framer

      I agree, Jim. Those maintenance sheds have been a peeve of mine for years now. Surely they can figure something to do with them.

      • jhoff1257

        While I agree about the maintenance sheds I think JZ71 is right. There is no better place to move them. Right now they are in a less traveled area of the park next to a freeway. That’s about as good as it’s gonna get.

        • John R

          Moving them may not be the most feasible thing to do, but better screening would be helpful…. there are trees planted there (relatively recently I believe) that hopefully will mature into a decent canopy. I think it would also be nice if they could place whatever modest-sized green infrastructure would be appropriate for the rear of the facility. Anyway, helping improve the appearance of the area would be helpful.