St. Louis City Multi-Family Building Permits Skyrocket in 2015

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While big new construction announcements have been grabbing most of the headlines (and the numbers are big) at nextSTL lately, the latest numbers show that 2015 is set to be a banner year for small scale development. Much of the city was built in a fine-grained development pattern, and most before the advent of the personal automobile. Granularity is an important feature of strong neighborhoods and cities. The permit numbers indicate these buildings are seeing new life.

There’s good news on several fronts, but the eye-popping number lies in the St. Louis City multi-family rehab count. Permits are on pace to surpass last year’s 4084 housing units by 75% and 2013’s 2,992 by 140%. Through November there have been permits for 6,588 units. According to the US Census there are 92,587 housing units in multi-family buildings. Huge sums are being invested in St. Louis’ existing housing stock.

{2015 could reach 6 times that of 2012 – STLHBA Reports – 2015 extrapolated}

STL City housing permits 3{Building permits of all types in St. Louis City total $652M in 2015 year-to-date}

The Home Builders Association of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri (STLHBA) compiles building permit data for single-family and multi-family housing construction and publishes the data each month. For the City of St. Louis it also tracks significant rehab activity by total units. They define significant rehab as projects with a construction value of a minimum of $30,000. Another important caveat is that all the units of a building are counted. So if for example a 12-unit building has >$30,000 in masonry work, 12 units are counted.

STL City housing permits 5{Multi-family building permits from STLHBA October 2015 report}

Single-family permits are outpacing last year in every county.

STL City housing permits{Single-family building permits from STLHBA October 2015 report}

STL City housing permits 2{The study area is the area within I-270 which has 600,000 fewer people 1970-2011 – Todd Swanstrom}

It would be interesting to know how many of these units were previously occupied or empty. The St. Louis region has been very good at over-supplying housing. During the 1990s 1.7 housing units were built for every additional household. The forces of segregation, fragmentation, federal, state, regional housing and transportation policies and subsidies have lead to abandonment, displacement, wealth destruction, and infrastructure liability accumulation across the region.

Are these rehabbed units (and the new ones) filling with new households (Millennials moving out of their parents’ basement, immigration, divorce, etc), in which case this should be celebrated as it means more people living closer, next to already existing infrastructure in lieu of even more low-productivity development on the edges of the region? Or are other places being abandoned? Or are people being displaced to put buildings at a higher price point? Surely some of all these are occurring.

Todd Swanstrom of University of Missouri – St. Louis and Hank Webber of Washington University in St. Louis have been studying the housing patterns of the area. Below are two of their presentations. Their on-going analysis will shed light on St. Louis’ changing housing landscape. Might we see the blue line above show a positive slope in 2020?

Neighborhood Change in the St.
Louis Region Since 1970:
What Explains Success?

What's Brewing? St. Louis' West End as an Emerging Neighborhood: The Broader Context by

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  • brickhugger

    Late to the party, but I notice some interesting items:

    1) single family permits are remarkably flat across the entire metro. Not sure if this is good or bad, or simply a reflection of the national difficulties in first-time mortgages as a result of the mortgage crisis. Even in the faster growing areas, new growth is slow, except in Franklin County, which doesn’t show a dramatic increase regardless. I would love to see 2016 numbers, even though they will be incomplete, as what I’ve seen in the home sales market suggests those numbers will change. And yes, I get that these are new home starts, so add in a third category: existing home sales.

    2) st louis apartment permits are off the chain! Maybe not as much as some other places (Houston is building close to 30 THOUSAND! apartments this year: ), but more than the rest of the metro combined it seems.

    3) I like that there is activity scattered all over the north side. Want to see (lots!) more, but the fact that there is activity, and that the entire north side is seeing development activity, is very reassuring.

    4) Density requires transit, and vice versa, and this applies to the ‘burbs as much as the center (hint hint)

  • John R

    November permit #’s are out and the city added just under 500 more multi-fam rehabs, so the scorching total has now surpassed 6,500. We’re also slightly ahead of ’14 numbers with single-family rehab; however, it looks like we may fall shy on new construction numbers on both multi-family and single family.

    Also on a technical note, I’m pretty sure if a developer converts a previously non-residential building to apartments, those are counted as rehabs and not new construction (even though those are new units to the rolls.) So that would have some impact on the percentage of existing units seeing rehab.

  • jhoff1257

    Outside of the lively pizza discussion below this is excellent news. Let’s hope the City can keep the same pace in coming years and we might actually see some population growth come next census.

  • citylover

    Love to see the inner core becoming more dense. A lot of people my age (16-20s) are done with the suburbs. I think people are looking for somewhere they can walk around and be a part of vibrant neighborhoods. Many are fed up with the utopia type lifestyle and brainwashing to hate blacks, Jews, gays, etc.

    The older gen is definitely scared/ against urban living. I like to go downtown just for fun and my parents fear that I will be shot/ mugged/ raped. Many parents in St Charles won’t even let their kids go to the city. It’s sad but maybe this trend is reversing. But I also fear that kids will choose to live past wentzville because of the way they’ve been brought up to pack their bags and move as soon as the first black guy moves in. Kind of the St Charles mindset

    • Chicagoan

      Your generation isn’t the first generation to gravitate back to the city. It’s taken a couple of “trailblazers”, if you will, to do it, but people have been coming back to the city since the 1990’s.

      Ideals have shifted. Most young people’s parents wanted to get married, have kids, and buy a house in the suburbs. That’s where a lot of the jobs were and a suburban lifestyle was preferred.

      Now, we’re seeing a lot of jobs coming back to the city. St. Louis is kind of missing the boat on this, but there’s been some movement toward the national trend. In other cities, a lot of those companies that started in the city, then moved to a sprawling suburban campus to meet demand, are now coming back to the city. The people will inevitably come with, I think. Will they stay long term, though, is another question.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Of course people have been moving back to the city forever, but there’s been a net loss for a very long time. The 1990s saw the first net migration to St. Louis City by any age group in 50 years. Those 20-29-year-olds are often overlooked as a influence on city revitalization. The past decade saw that age group with a rather large net migration to St. Louis City. The next group “moving back”, but still in negative net territory (with all other age groups) is the 50-59yo group.

  • Chicagoan

    What was the context of the Chicago-style pizza and St. Louis-style pizza slide?

    I’m curious, as a Chicagoan 🙂

    Also, do you guys actually like St. Louis-style pizza? Can’t say I really ever eat Chicago-style pizza. I usually go to Giordano’s, or one of the Chicago-style chains, when I’m hosting family or visitors.

    It’s good, just not something Chicagoans regularly eat.

    • Guest

      I was born and raised in the St. Louis area (east side). I’m 66. The first time I had pizza was at Woolworth’s in downtown St. Louis in 1958 when I was 9. At that time it was made by hand (I don’t think frozen pizza was invented yet, if it was I’m sure the quality was quite poor), thin crust with sausage from the Hill, and mozzarella cheese. I immediately fell in love with pizza. In the late 60’s and early 70’s when having pizza in St. Louis it had mozzarella cheese on it (Talayna’s on FP Parkway at Skinker was one place). I don’t know when, where or how provel came about as “the cheese” for St. Louis Pizza but I’m not a fan of it. The flavor is a little too overpowering in relation to the other toppings but I don’t cry “foul!” like too many non residents do. If I’m somewhere that pizza is served to me (not ordered) and it has provel cheese I’ll eat a piece or two…but I’d rather have mozzarella on it. Provel cheese to me is like Velveeta. Who wants Velveeta when you could have cheddar, or even good sharp American?
      I do like the thin crust, if made half way decent. Which brings me to Chicago style. Yeah, I like it too. Actually, the crust really isn’t much of an issue for me…it’s the ingredients. If there’s a good balance of quality ingredients to the crust (as long as the crust isn’t made from a tube of crescent rolls…lol) that’s what constitutes a good pizza IMO. St. Louis style, Chicago style, New York style, Kalamazoo style…I don’t care. If tastes good, it’s good.
      All I can add to that is pizza is a personal thing. That’s what makes it an interesting culinary experience, and if we get silly over it that ruins the fun of enjoying it.

      • matimal

        Aren’t there pizza blogs you could post on?

      • Chicagoan

        Chicagoans and New Yorkers (there’s a lot of transplants in both cities) always argue about this, which is funny because the people of each city don’t even really eat their city’s particular style.

        Chicago has an amazing pizza scene and very little of it is Chicago-style. There will always be the Chicago-style staples, like Giordano’s and what not, but it’s so much bigger than that.

        There are very popular places making pizza in the most random styles. I’ve had anything from obscure Italian types to Quad Cities-style. Who knew there ever was a Quad Cities-style? It’s delicious.

    • Adam

      I grew up in St. Louis and I honestly, 100% prefer St. Louis style pizza over both NY and Chicago styles. NY is too droopy and I don’t like my pizza in pie form. I’m not that picky about cheese but I definitely enjoy Provel as much as other types.

    • jhoff1257

      Chicago pizza is tomato soup in a bread bowl.

      • Chicagoan

        I think it’s pretty good. The general thought is that it’s based off of a Piedmontese Easter dish. It’s just not something that Chicagoans eat all that regularly, as there are too many other great pizza places in the city. If you go to Giordano’s or one of the other pizzerias who specialize in it, the place is usually filled with suburbanites and tourists.

        I’d imagine it’s somewhat similar with Imo’s. I was a tourist and I knew about St. Louis-style pizza, so I had to try it.

        • jhoff1257

          It’s not at all similar in St. Louis. My sister lives in Chicago so I’m well aware that you people don’t really eat the pizza you claim as your own.

          That is not the case here. It never made any sense to me to claim something “Chicago Style” and whenever someone brings it up everyone in Chicago is like “well no one really eats it.” Kind of baffling. Either way every St. Louis native I knows loves Imo’s, definitely not a “tourist or suburban” thing.

          • Chicagoan

            Interesting. I know a number of StL transplants here that really don’t like Imo’s. One of them has that Pi Pizzeria shirt with “Provel” crossed out by a red circle & slash.

            It’s all personal preference, I guess.

      • moorlander

        Why must one’s pizza preference always be considered in absolutes? Are you all siths?
        I, for one, am an equal opportunity pizza lover. I think there is a time and a place for NY, Chi, and StL pizza styles. I do not discriminate.

        • jhoff1257

          I’m not quite sure why this is directed at me…I just enjoy sharing Jon Stewart’s pizza takedown. I for one prefer the thin cracker crust cut into squares, regardless of cheese or toppings. I also like a thicker pizza, and I even like deep dish occasionally.

          But not as much as I like Jon Stewart.

      • Steve S.

        I’m not sure what’s wrong with a good old-fashioned Philly-style tomato pie?

    • Brian

      I think the pizza reference is based on the idea that Chicago is denser and thicker than St. Louis, which is thin and spread out. Also, the Chicago pie is divided into larger slices, while the St. Louis pie is divided into many more slices, representing its scores of municipalities (some with as few as 16 residents). The problem is that neither pie shows the racial segregation endemic to both cities. Regarding pizza preference, I am a fan of New Haven pizza and avoid Chicago and St. Louis pizza at all cost.

  • Presbyterian

    Looking at that map is really encouraging. The Central Corridor is really hot right now, but it’s good to see activity citywide. This was a great year rebuilding St. Louis!

  • PeterXCV

    Are the scribds cut off? The Gravois Park thing would be interesting but is just sort of randomly one slide in the second one.