Green Street Pursues Redevelopment of The Armory, Acquires 500 Prospect

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The Armory_STL_1600

nextSTL has learned that Green Street Development LLC is in active discussions with more than one potential user to repurpose the Armory building at 3660 Market Street. Several options continue to be explored, with one focus being its use as an event and performance space.

Green Street acquired the adjacent four-acre 500 Prospect Avenue site last month. It’s expected that the two properties will be redeveloped together. Custom Stone Interiors and St Louis Wood Works currently occupy the one-story warehouse building on Prospect dating from 1949.

The Armory has served numerous purposes since its completion in 1937, only becoming vacant in recent years. The building features a large arena with seating, handball courts, a 25 meter four-lane pool, underground parking, locker rooms, offices and other spaces. The Armory is quite similar to, and has seen similar uses as Armory buildings in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and elsewhere.

The Armory_interiorimage

While used for track and field, baseball practice, indoor soccer, and other activities, the post-military life of the building is best known for hosting The Grateful Dead in 1968, and being home to the hardwood indoor tennis courts where a young Arthur Ashe would hone his game.

Amazingly, five tracks from The Grateful Dead’s two shows were recorded and have been preserved. You can listen to the following here: Morning Dew, It Hurts Me Too, Dark Star, Saint Stephen, and Turn on Your Love Light. At least one image exists of Ashe at the Armory (1976):

The Armory_MartinsTake_arthur-richard-jaun

Ashe, originally from Richmond, VA, moved to St. Louis for his senior year of school, sold on the idea that the city was a more friendly place for a black tennis player to compete. He attended Sumner High School and practiced on the Armory’s indoor courts.

The Minneapolis Armory (1936) hosted political conventions, concerts, and other civic events, and was home court for the Minneapolis Lakers off and on from 1947-1960. In 1982 Prince filmed the video for his song “1999” in the Armory. The building has most recently been used as a parking garage, but was purchased by a developer in 2015 to be converted into a concert and event venue.

MN Armory1MN Armory2MN Armory4{the Minneapolis Armory exterior, as a parking facility, and rendering of proposed event venue}

In San Francisco, The Armory (1914) served as that city’s main sports venue for much of the first half of the 20th Century. Mostly vacant since the early 1970s, the building was reportedly used as a stage set to shoot a few interior scenes for The Empire Strikes Back. It can accommodate as many as 4,000 for concerts and other events. Purchased by in 2006, it is now used as the film studio and office for the producer of BDSM pornography.

SF Armory3 SF Armory_inside{the San Francisco Armory}

Like other Armory buildings, the St. Louis Armory was built for the military, serving as the home of the 138th Infantry. That group has a history going back as far as 1832, with iterations of the 138th participating in every major American conflict, including the Civil War. Having called the Armory home until at least the late 1950s, the 138th was officially deactivated in 2005.

The building, probably best described as being in the PWA Moderne style, was Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Project No. 8609. When built, the Armory fronted Market Street, the busy east-west artery of a bustling St. Louis. In 1955, excavation for the Daniel Boone Expressway began, transforming Market into a highway, and eventually a double-deck Interstate.

STL Armory_Market{Market Street, looking west across Grand – a corner of the Armory can be seen at the far left}

Armory_40-64{the Armory and Highway 40/64 today}

500 Prospect Avenue_The Armory{the four-acre adjacent site at 500 Prospect Avenue}

While no longer intuitively accessible, the location remains quite prominent. On the other side of the elevated Highway 40/I-64 sits the vacant Federal Mogul site. Cortex, the 200-acre innovation hub and technology district leading growth in the city’s Central West End, and developer The Lawrence Group recently unveiled a $232M mixed-use vision for the site. Across Vandeventer is IKEA, then to the west, Cortex and the expansive BJC/WUSM medical campus.

North on Grand Boulevard, Saint Louis University is constructing two new residential halls, with other projects to follow. Just to the south, details are beginning to emerge for the $550M SSM/SLU academic medical center.

Green Street is known for repositioning sometimes unremarkable buildings, finding new productive uses. Projects in St. Louis include Chouteau Crossing, home to Dynalabs and Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 36, Jefferson Commons retail center, and the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in The Grove.

Current projects for Green Street include the 54-acre River City Business Park at the far south end of the city, on the former Carondelet Coke facility, and the significant renovation of 2351 Market Street. Chouteau’s Grove, the company’s first mixed-use project, at Chouteau Avenue and Sarah St., has yet to break ground.

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  • STLEnginerd

    So buried in the Urban land institutes document detailing some ways to improve a Grand metro link station they propose three potential “big ideas”. Two of them, Chouteau’s greenway and high speed rail station are a little pie in the sky, but number three, platform development looked pretty doable.

    In the site plan concept I noticed a tag over the Armory building hat said “ARMORY CINEMA”. I wonder where they got that. is that GreenStreets plan for the building…?

    • Alex Ihnen

      The ULI work is a couple years old now so I’m sure the “Armory Cinema” was just something to slap on the building. But yes, the third big idea seems more feasible than the others.

  • Joe Killebrew

    Wouldn’t the Armory be a better fit for the aquarium that LHM recently announced?

  • rgbose

    Be cool if the midrise building on top of a garage they’re considering had an entrance onto Grand.

  • brickhugger

    I think it would make a great family entertainment center,, with a mini racetrack and all the rest. I’ve also heard the suggestion that it should be the home venue for one or more of the performing groups in Grand Center (think Circus Flora). I don’t know how feasible either would be, but I like both ideas, even if one of them isn’t mine! : )

  • JZ71

    One, the Louisville version: . . Two, probably a better reuse scenario would be something along the lines of The Source, in Denver: . . and

  • Marian Miller

    It is a remarkable building…used to have a business that occupied that building. That was almost 40 years ago. It had plenty of toxic stuff, especially lead. I think that is the really it has set so long.

  • Scott

    The old Fort Washington Armory in New York City has been very successfully transformed into an indoor track – a facility which is somewhat narrow in its use, but 100% lacking in a metro area home to as many collegiate and high school athletic programs as we have.

  • onecity

    That would be a pretty damn perfect roller derby venue.

  • STLEnginerd

    Dream scenario. Fair St. Louis (veiled prophet) move their operation from the building at Spring and Duncan into the Old Armory. Float production tours becomes a popular tourist activity similar to MadiGras World in New Orleans. Then their current location is incorporated into Lawrence groups current plans for FederalMogul.

    Also rebuilding Spring Viaduct is a good idea.

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  • Paul Hohmann

    This is great to hear! Too bad the City demolished the portion of the Spring Avenue viaduct that crossed between the decks of hwy 40/64. A reconnection (both auto and pedestrian) there would give better connection to a what is now a somewhat challenging area to access.

    • Brian

      That Spring viaduct was convenient, but quite rickety. I would take it as a shortcut to SLU, and it really bounced around when a truck on school bus was on it.

      • Brian Lewis

        Now’s our chance to get it right!

    • stlnative

      The viaduct will most likely be rebuilt. Maybe as a show piece between SLU, the Federal Mogul site, and this one. Think hot shot engineering (Calatrava-esk).

  • RJ

    Best of luck on this. On a previous post I brought up the idea to have MODOT remove the double deck freeway and replace it with a below grade 8 lane freeway. IMO it could be squeezed into that small space but they may need some of the Federal Mogul property. This would eliminate the safety concerns of a double deck road if ever there is an earthquake but also open up the visibility to the Armory which is now hidden and buried and allows for better access if Spring was extended over a below grade freeway

    • jhoff1257

      An underground freeway would be nice, but will never happen. MoDot has been retrofitting the double decker sections for earthquakes already and considering their dire financial situation they will probably never have enough money for a tunnel. 64/40 isn’t going anywhere. Also they could extend Spring now if they wanted to. There is enough clearance to put an overpass in there similar to Grand.

      • brickhugger

        If an underground highway is going to be built anywhere it should be I-70 from Walnut to Cass, with a grand (small g) boulevard on top. Otherwise the area north of the dome, ONSL, and Laclede’s Landing will never fully develop.

      • RJ

        I agree MODOT as usual is strapped for cash but eventually the stretch of I-64 from Boyle to Compton is the last to be redesigned/ rebuilt. Below grade doesn’t mean a tunnel the road is below grade/street level but not covered. I believe it is mandatory that MODOT has to retrofit those double deck structures but eventually will remove them, its a question of where and when they can.

  • Ben Harvey

    I always had a pipe dream for that building similar to the old Maple Leaf Arena in Toronto, where they turned it into a really cool grocery store. Never near enough density though and a highway cuts right in front.

  • Shelby Ketchum

    Ive been wondering how long until someone started work on the armory it really is an amazing building, and it be great to check one more abandoned building off the 64-40 corridor!!!! It also amazes me how bad city planning and highway placement can make a massive building like the armory almost vanish, in the past when I’ve talked about the armory with people i have to pull pics up on my phone bc most people never notice it!

    • Jonathan Shank

      I drive by it every day and had no clue that is where it was located.

  • brickhugger

    to illustrate:

    • Paul Hohmann

      Until just a few years ago there was a pedestrian bridge in that very location, but I assume it was demolished due to deteriorating condition and lack of use. It should be re-built!

      • brickhugger

        Egads; no I’m thinking what the Science Center has. That looks more dangerous than the glass bridges in China! 🙂

  • brickhugger

    If MODOT will go for it, they should connect the Armory with an enclosed skywalk between the two decks of I/64 to the new development that will be built on the other side. There’s more than enough room for an 8 foot enclosed walkway to hang from the underside of the top deck and tractor trailers to pass underneath.

  • Don

    While I would love to see this mysterious old building from St Louis past preserved, do we really need another concert / event venue? I’m skeptical as to the viability of such a business plan to maintain a space of this size.

    • Tim E

      Agree, that and believe their has been some musical chairs on developer around midtown lately. I thought it was rumored that Lawrence was going to take this on as part of an expanded Federal Mogul site development. In addition, Understand that Koman is now part of Green Street’s Grove mixed use development. At same time, between Koman, Green Streets and Lawrence they do seem to get some of their plans to go beyond a rendering or two.
      My favorite idea for the Armory is to introduce some indoor ice rinks for the city with the hope of securing it as future Blues practice facility and or snag a junior minor league team or even a future SLU team, etc. Got some great ready made above the ice viewing areas. But Blues made it clear what they want to do. As for the rest, have no idea if the space would support a couple of full size rinks & if it is even feasible without a major buy in, dollars from the city itself.

  • Ohhhh… I hope this works out. 🙂