Vacant 500K SF Jefferson Arms Building Under Contract

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JA

The 500K sf Jefferson Arms (415 N. Tucker Boulevard), long a physical anchor of Tucker Avenue in downtown St. Louis may be closer to reuse. According to the St. Louis Business Journal the building is now reportedly under contract by Turkish developer Mukemmel “Mike” Sarimsakci of Alterra International. The company’s projects include developments in Turkey, Tajikistan, Kazakstan, and in the United States, Dallas, TX.

In 2011 we wrote about a plan to remake the massive Jefferson Arms. That plan, by McGowan Brothers Development, would have renovated the half-million square foot building as affordable apartments and office space for Teach For America. The vision died as the project failed to win New Market Tax Credits.

The hulking Jefferson Arms is among a dwindling, but still large inventory, of vacant downtown buildings. The 1.2M sf Railway Exchange building is empty, as is the smaller Chemical building, and the Millennium Hotel complex (both show how plans quickly come and go). Further west the Municipal Courts building awaits a new occupant. The 538K sf Arcade building recently underwent a complete remake.

Alterra’s nine-story 700K sf Butler Brothers Building (c. 1911) in Dallas is that company’s nearest similar project to the Jefferson Arms, and it may be quite similar. The $90M redevelopment of the Butler Brothers Building is nearly completion and will feature apartments and a Marriott brand hotel, as well as an addition built on two adjacent surface parking lots.

That project may also lend a peek into how the long vacant Jefferson Arms redevelopment could be financed. The Butler Brothers project was unveiled in 2012. Dallas committed to a $5M TIF. Alterra utilized the EB-5 program for financing. EB-5 is an immigrant investment program created in 1990. It sets aside EB-5 visa for foreigners who invest in commercial enterprises. Applicants must make a $1M investment, or $500K in rural or high-unemployment areas, and create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Sarimsakci signed up 99 investors from China to help finance the Butler Brothers project. In addition, the requested TIF increased to $10M. That project is to include 340 garage parking spaces, a 238-room hotel, and 274 apartments.

The reorientation of Tucker Boulevard as a major downtown St. Louis thoroughfare extending from the Stan Musial bridge, which carries Interstate 70 across the Mississippi River, was expected to spur development in this part of downtown. Building owner David Jump paid $1.25M for the Jefferson Arms in 2010 – an 89% discount on the $18M 2006 sales price. The building itself is massive and anchors a very prominent view in the central business district, though one dotted with parking lots and bank drive-throughs.

Never in imminent danger of demolition, the building has been empty since 2008 when Pyramid Development purchased and shuttered the building. That planned renovation never took place and while more than 80% occupied as low income housing at purchase, the Jefferson Arms has sat empty since.

The building has a long and interesting history. The first phase, built in 1904, is the 13-story section facing Tucker Boulevard designed by St. Louis firm Barnett, Haynes & Barnett. The second phase is a 12-story annex to the west. Designed by Chicago firm Teich & Sullivan, it was built in 1928 and created a total of 910 hotel rooms. It became a Hilton Hotel in 1950, then a Sheraton Hotel in the 1955 and finally retirement apartments in the 1970s. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Since then, the building has been through several owners, lawsuits and a bank foreclosure.

The Jefferson Arms today – images by R.J. Hartbeck:

Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck Jefferson Hotel by R.J. Hartbeck

The Jefferson Arms:

JA_Tucker postcard
{the Jefferson Hotel (right) has anchored Tucker Avenue since 1904}


{Sheraton highlighted the river and later urban renewal in its Sheraton-Jefferson ads}

jeff_arms
{the Jefferson Hotel showning the addition (left) lacking bay windows}

Jefferson_Arms Randall Studio rendering for Pyramid
{now out-of-date rendering by Randall Studio for Pyramid}

And while the Jefferson Arms ballroom has seen better days, it’s still rather glamorous:

JA ballroom

The Butler Brothers Building in Dallas, TX by Alterra:

BB Dallas 6

BB Dallas 5

BB Dallas 3

BB Dallas2

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  • Alan Smithee

    I have heard that multiple offers earlier this year to buy the Jefferson Arms were rejected because the seller wants to keep the attached Jefferson Arms parking garage.

    I wonder how this new group will handle such a large building with no parking?

  • jkf1220

    Let’s hope that the developer can pull together the financing to get this done. There is precedent for using EB5 for these types of development elsewhere. But it will still need historic tax credits and others to have a shot. Combine JA with 705 Olive, CPI and International Shoe and you have over 1 million sf of historic buildings downtown that are positioned for redevelopment. Chemical and Railway purchase may be coming soon. Financing all will be a challenge and I worry about too many hotels. Looks like we will need that major expansion of America’s Center.

  • mc

    Great news! St. Louis is really on a roll. There are so many negative stories about St. Louis nationally, but don’t listen to them. They don’t see the real positive things St. Louis has to offer. They are biased and they don’t really care about us. We have great city. St. Louis is a great place to live, raise a family, work, and play. We have so much and I am grateful to live here. -28 year old CWE city dweller.

  • Eric Casper

    City Target anyone?! With apartments and condos on top. Yes please.

    • Riggle

      Pipe dream, but amazing, I’d settle for a legit walgreens

      • Nick

        A Walgreens would be amazing

    • Chicagoan

      Does the downtown area have the population to support a Target?

      It could be close to reaching that number.

      Also, I think CityTarget is no more, everything is just “Target”.

      • Alex Ihnen

        A small Target, whatever you want to call it, probably.

      • Riggle

        No, but the central corridor (city) and near south side do, gotta pull some of them away from hampton village and brenthood (shudder)

        • Alex Ihnen

          Right. That’s why I’d suspect a Target *might go on the outskirts of downtown somewhere, if anywhere. It would need to be easily accessible by drivers to catch a large enough population.

          • Tim E

            Interesting to note the Dollar store vs. we want a Target (or similar) battle going on in North City if not mistaken. Target and Walmart must not think it is there yet for N City and downtown otherwise something along N. Tucker would come together at this point. Or, McKee must truly have things screwed up and no one is going down the road of having to work with him.

  • Don

    I’ve got my fingers crossed,…..

  • STLEnginerd

    I’d feel more comfortable if they were seeking historic tax credits. That would prevent them from desecrating the exterior, and perhaps convince them to salvage the Gold Room. Maybe they are already planning that, but it’s hard to tell at this point.

    • Alex Ihnen

      My guess is that for a project like this the developer will seek historic tax credits.

    • Tim E

      I believe in the post dispatch article they state that the developer intends to be sitting down with city and economic development office to seek out what incentives are possible. At some level some financial work and number crunching including possible incentives have been done behind the scenes with some well placed discussions & calls to city officials on what the developer can realistically expect.
      .
      I believe one of the MO statehouse bills and noted on another Nextstl posting wants to prioritize transportation funding over tax credits, including state historic tax credits. Probably to much lesser extent but I wonder if this has some developers with the means to go forward thinking the best time to capitalize on the market & uptick in tech jobs, downtown remaining building stock and incentives is now. The market will be fickle but once legislators start taking tax credits and other incentives come off the table they will most likely not come back.
      .

  • Thomas

    Tucker is such an enormously wide street. I believe there is a tunnel underneath the street if I’m not mistaken. Would be really great to see the north south metrolink proposal realign to utilize that section since its already there and there is plenty of room to spare. Would be great for that area with SLU Law, the courts, city hall, and the kind of halfway point on wash ave. close by for utilization, and I believe far enough from existing stations downtown that it wouldn’t be overkill. That would also chop up the huge distance to cross Tucker into more modest bites. It could be a great boulevard if more enterprises are encouraged to face it instead of the bias toward east west streets. Anyone know if there are any plans at all for improvements to the tucker streetscape?

    • rgbose

      Tunnel was filled with styrofoam blocks

    • Tim E

      As rgbose noted, the tunnel got filled with Styrofoam when city got stimulus funds to rebuild Tucker Ave from Wash Ave to Carr Ave believe as part of the new Mississippi River Bridge approach, downtown access.
      .
      Also, believe tunnel ended abruptly at or just before Washington Ave and was last being used for delivering freight/boxcars of paper to St Louis Dispatch downtown printing plant. That had to be decades ago.

      • STLEnginerd

        The idealist in me will say styrofoam seems easier to remove than dirt, and that was have is halfway to the viaduct which is where it could be extended to making the downtown stretch completely below grade which would be awesome.

        The pragmatist in me is cynical and depressing and I prefer to ignore him. The 14th street alignment feels like a series of less than optimal compromises.

        • jhoff1257

          That Tucker tunnel is never coming back. Those foam blocks were encased in dirt, then a layer of concrete and then filled in with more dirt. 14th makes more sense for an LRT alignment from a transfer standpoint. MetroLink, MetroBus, Amtrak, and any future commuter rail lines will all converge at 14th.

          • Tim E

            Certainly agree the tunnel/old terminus is not coming back just like Union Station will not be a rail hub for any foreseeable future. But some dirt, Styrofoam, and layer of concrete can be overcome it just doesn’t make sense.
            .
            I think your point on 14th is right on, going forward you have to interconnect with what is in place now not what was in the past even if some of the past infrastructure had a great past. Unfortunately what came as replacement simply lacks the grandeur and prestige once afforded.

          • jhoff1257

            Except that foam, dirt, and concrete is supporting a rehabbed bridge that was in danger of collapsing before that fill was there. There would be far more involved then just removing the fill.

            And while I too would like to see Union Station used again that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. For that kind of money Amtrak would have to turn STL into a hub or at the very least we’d need 4 or 5 commuter lines to justify such an expense. Gateway isn’t Union but from a multi modal standpoint it’s actually one of the better stations out there.

          • Tim E

            Believe the bridge was removed out right and a regular sub base and road/concrete surface was installed. Styro was a cheap filler for a big void space.

          • jhoff1257

            You are right. Whoops. If I recall they might have used the foam to hold the walls of the adjoining buildings up while they rebuilt the road. I think there was a fear at one point that if they took the bridge out those buildings could collapse.

          • smeal1

            styrofoam blocks were used because if they had just used dirt to backfill in the tunnel, the basement walls of many of those buildings would or could not support the horizontal pressures that would of been generated .

  • SnakePlissken

    Huge news but as mentioned in the article projects have come and gone. Hopefully this group can pull the project together. The street presence near the building is horrendous. Locust and 13th at night can be an experience. Problem spots need to be addressed if anything is going to succeed.

    I’m curious to know more about their financing. Any examples of St. Louis projects that have utilized EB-5? Could this be a way to attract foreign investment, create a new buyer pool for St. Louis properties?

    Off topic – I’d love to see Tucker dressed up. Neons, video boards, green wall, large scale murals, etc. How can we make this happen!? Contacting property owners? An agency within the City?

  • Riggle

    That thing in Dallas is HEINOUS

  • Presbyterian

    This is quite a big break for downtown. The Jefferson Arms is a massive project–too big for most developers. It gives me hope that the Railway Exchange will eventually see redevelopment, as well.

    I can’t wait to find out more of what they plan to do with the Jefferson Arms.

    • Tim E

      I think you will see a huge apartment block with some amazing amenities that this structure can afford. How many new apartments can offer its residents a ballroom like the one pictured above for private event or ballroom for resident movie night or three story penthouses on top with some selective knockouts and stairways. Heck, you could probably find a way to put in an indoor pool with a massive gym and not make a dent in square footage. Put in a two or three story hydraulic car lift and now you could add some parking if strong enough above the ground floors but below the residences
      .
      The Railway exchange I think will be interesting for different reasons but I can envision it as a tech hub onto itself – Trex on steriods. Ground floor retail giving way to a data center for maybe office with a residential/hotel or maybe a full blown coders vocational school overseen by launchcode. I think you could place all the above in and then some in the Railway Exchange and it would perfectly fit for a structure that once was home of department store HQ with its flagship department store on the lower levels.

  • Justin

    Exciting news. Hopefully this project will move foward.