King Realty Advisors-Simpson Closser Contemporary Proposal for Wedge Site in The Grove

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Last month we wrote about the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP) on the wedge lot bounded by Manchester Avenue, Sarah Street, and Chouteau Avenue. Given the size and shape of the lot, it would be a challenge for any developer to fulfill all requirements. Now we have a look at one creative effort to do just that. This proposal by King Realty Advisors-Simpson Closser, titled Groove @ The Grove, may just check off all the boxes. It is one of at least three responses to the RFP.

The city made it clear that it was looking for a number of specifics for the site: at least 15,000sf of retail space, access to a total of at least 77 parking spaces (to replace the existing 37 and add 40 for anticipated retail), and loading access from Chouteau only. The RFP stated that an “emphasis will be placed on proposals that seek to foster…eclectic architecture design”. Proposals were due September 2. The city’s minimum sale price for the lot is set at $120,000.

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The design envisions 14,800sf of retail space on the first level with 7,600sf, and potentially an additional 4,350sf on the second level. Levels three through five would consist of parking decks with 25, 25, and 27 parking spaces (77 total). Garage access is shown at the west end of the parcel on Manchester, where drivers enter the current parking lot.

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As noted before, the “Urban Design and Redevelopment Requirements” of the RFP are promising and the community should be able to require good design given the popularity of The Grove. Any proposal should be “a mixed-use, main street character that enhances and densifies the walkable commercial corridor” and it’s clearly stated that proposals “should treat all three adjacent public rights-of-way, including Manchester, Sarah, and Chouteau with equal importance and equivalent sensitivity”.

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This is a significant challenge, and while a garage entry, service entrances, and loading have to be placed somewhere, this proposal appears to minimize their negative impact. The monumental scale presented at Manchester and Sarah would certainly be a landmark, though the short building face along Sarah Street itself could be underwhelming depending on the artistic treatment and presence of outdoor dining.

In 2014, Green Street proposed development of the wedge site as part of its Chouteau’s Grove plan. The current 37-space parking lot (shown in orange) would have been replaced with a three-story mixed use building. Retail space was planned to occupy 15,603sf on the first level, with six two-bedroom and 22 one-bedroom apartments above. No on-site parking was planned as parking would have been accommodated across Chouteau in a 150-space garage.

We’ll continue to share additional RFP responses as they become available. With several responses to the site and the clearly modern design of this proposal, we’re hoping The Grove may be at the point where it is obvious good design can be required of any developer.

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  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    is it not off Vandaventer …and behind the new Commerce Bank..?? Or is this more south and toward Sarah?..but what about the property across from Q T and White Castle?..Is the Bride way treatment center still across from White Castle?

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  • John

    No, this design isn’t right for St. Louis. I favor the proposed Spencer design over this one. Nice try, but it is too gimmicky and not timeless like the other design. We need to start with high-end, long-term outlook; not quick-fix, flash-in-the-pan aesthetics that will need to be redone in 10 or 20 years. Sorry, but no.

  • STLrainbow

    Would love to see a pic of what building(s) was there before demo. Anyone?

    • I can’t find anything. the building was torn down on 02/09/1994 (per city records), which is almost pre-Internet, so if there’s any photos they’re in a physical archive. The record says it was a three-story brick building. Apparently it was a grass lot until 2005, that’s when the LRA pulled a permit for a parking lot.

      • STLrainbow

        thanks for the info.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Imagine it was a pretty typical building for the area – 1958 aerial:
      _

  • Oof. That is bad. Like really comically, bad!

    I can only blame the designers so much though — the real fault lies in the standard parking requriements built into this and other project specs. Of course a five-story building will be underwhelming when 70% of it must be mandated to the purpose of stowing vehicles!

    • Adam

      the rendering is pretty terrible. i can’t tell WTF the wrap around the parking decks is supposed to be. plastic? tempered glass? if it ends up looking anything like what’s been presented, we’re in for a giant featureless slab of color. yay.

    • tbatts666

      Do minimum parking requirements make this Parking Fortress a requirement? Or is it the developers choice?

  • So, what does it look like from Chouteau Avenue?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Added image above.

  • citylover

    I really like it. Retail will be absorbed by growing population. Modern design is a nice switch-up from historic preservation. Seems very quirky. Sure it could be taller in design, but I am happy with this

  • Daron

    Personally, I think all renderings should abide put signs on places that read “Retail” “Retail” It’s quite clear.

  • ugh. way too contemporary. it’ll look dated and hideous in five years.

    • Daron

      Easier for people to place in time in future decades. Don’t knock it. It’s fun to be able to sneer or admire past fads.

  • Alex Ihnen

    Tough crowd, but good comments so far.

  • DCWind

    The RFP suggested up to 12 levels. At this location, with access to midtown, downtown and the CWE, I would love to see several floors of residential on top of retail & parking, which would take advantage of the corresponding views to the north (midtown), east (downtown) and west (CWE/Clayton). This would also provide some on-site activity to better accommodate the services necessary for the building’s mixed-use RFP suggestions, as well as serve The Grove in general. I know it depends on a developer’s willingness/ability to propose a project of this magnitude, as well as the city’s ability to hold out for something better and not immediate, but in my opinion, a true mid-rise, mixed-use building here could work very well.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Hopefully we’ll see taller options. The problem then becomes accommodation required parking – would probably have to be made available across Chouteau – which could work fine.

      • DCWind

        Agreed. I actually like the idea of tucking a multi-level parking garage back on Chouteau (from the plan presented by Green Street in 2014). Maybe just move the retail to front Chouteau and that would open up many opportunities for something in the 8-12 floor range at that wedge site, minus the majority of the parking (other than those spaces required for residential). Something taller would also be visible from certain stretches of both 64/40 and 44, giving The Grove a bit of interstate visibility that it currently doesn’t have. While this isn’t absolutely necesssary, it is an intriguing idea since so much of that swath of development between 64/40 and 44 is low-rise and relatively unidentified.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Before “The Grove” signs over Manchester were introduced, I kept wishing that a sign like those would be hoisted atop the 7-story building at Vandeventer/Manchester.

      • tbatts666

        Any process to just get the parking requirement exempted?

        • rgbose

          You get a variance.

    • JCougar

      I’m fine with the height the way it is. Anything taller would be out of place in this neighborhood. I think 2-5 stories is perfect for development along this corridor.

      • DCWind

        12 floors would certainly be taller than the rest of the area, perhaps too tall anywhere else in the area, but I would counter that something at this location should be taller since this is considered the gateway to The Grove. In that regard, taller would be necessary to accommodate all components of the RFP (replacing the existing parking spaces, as well as those necessary by code of any programmatic additions, such as more retail, office or residential). That being said, I would like to see something between 8 and 12 floors, ideally.

      • tbatts666

        There is a 7 story building “The Chouteau Building” like across the St.

  • pat

    Its a giant parking shoe box on top of some bright colors. Its a project that caters to people who don’t live in the neighborhood. It says drive in, spend your money, then leave. It is not a design to bring more people in the neighborhood and keep them there.

    • so you only want local shops for local people?

      • pat

        I’m saying I want a development that brings people in for all hours of the day. People who will not just eat or shop there but also sleep, walk, jog, bike,

        • citylover

          I disagree. Not everything is going to be the all-exclusive, mixed use project. This isn’t a “streets of St. Charles” project that is drive-see-go. This is enveloped around a growing residential presence in the Grove. Residents will use the retail. For non-neighborhood residents, this will be another experience that makes the Grove “groovy.”

          • pat

            True. Everything does not need to be mixed use. But these projects all seem to cater to one thing….cars. I think the city needs more people, not more cars. This will be a parking lot on stilts, and it’ll sit empty Sunday through Thursday. Not an efficient use of city space IMO.

          • Alex Ihnen

            IMO – the only thing parking does (especially in a location like this) is determine which other retail/land uses prevail. Supply enough parking and you will get businesses and development that relies on abundant parking.

            Or as Fred Kent said:
            _

          • tbatts666

            right on.

          • how do you think people are going to get to the Grove? fly? We don’t have subways, and there’s no rail expansion even proposed for that area. Even in cities with good-for-America transit systems, there are garages everywhere. The only exception is New York, and that’s because the subway goes everywhere. Until we get trains that go everywhere we want to go, STL will be car dependent, and if you want neighborhoods to grow, you need to find sane ways to accommodate cars while also providing a good pedestrian experience. A retail-wrapped garage is an excellent way to go that.

          • Alex Ihnen

            There is currently a MetroLink light rail station 3-4 blocks from the west end of The Grove, and the new Boyle MetroLink light rail station will be 3-4 blocks from the east end of the neighborhood.

          • Which is nice, if people are coming to/from the east and west, and they’re the sort of people who able and willing to walk 10 minute at all times of day. but it’s not sufficient to reduce parking needs in the area. let’s face it: building all the proposed metrolink lines (which isn’t going to happen in our lifetimes, but let’s go crazy) would get us to about where Boston is in terms of mass transit. 63% of Bostonians still own cars. Reducing parking before there’s transit in place is putting the cart before the horse.

          • Adam

            and somehow Boston manages to thrive with considerably higher density and many many fewer surface lots. maybe their parking-garage-to-population ratio is similar to ours but it certainly doesn’t seem that way when walking around there.

          • tbatts666

            Parking is already oversupplied and mismanaged. We don’t need to collectively throw more money down the free parking toilet.

          • Riggle

            Take a bus

          • pat

            Is it currently difficult to park in the Grove? I never have a problem doing so even when there are large events going on. Clearly I’m not a fan of the garage idea. But until it becomes so crowded in the Grove that you can’t park anywhere, they should keep building apartments.

          • STLExplorer

            I usually take the bus there and Uber home.

          • tbatts666

            mutha fuckin bike.

            I guess people are frustrated because enormous public expenditure is being used. When the real problem is parking mismanagement. There is a high cost to free (and underpriced, and subsidized) parking.

            But I guess that is a way bigger systemic issue.

          • Riggle

            They are building a metrolink station, you can already walk from CWE station to the Grove, or take THE BUS!!! Ever heard of it?

    • tbatts666

      right on in many ways it’s disrespectful. Commuters should atleast pay their fair share and be expected to pay market price to store their cars in public space.

  • rgbose

    Somehow our ancestors were able to deal with non-rectangular lots.

  • rgbose

    Meh, less parking, more residential.

  • tbatts666

    Having a parking garage entrance on Manchester is a mistake.it should be on Sarah or Chouteau if at all.

    • JCougar

      Yeah, that would be nice. Parking garage entrances interfere with pedestrian activity. You gotta have one somewhere, but don’t put it on Manchester where most of the pedestrians are.

  • tbatts666

    While I appreciate the resistance to surface parking lots, does the Grove really need a massive parking fortress?

    I only see a lack of parking there during festivals, otherwise it’s mostly empty. I question the use of public money on somethig so specific and frivollous.

    I hate modernism with its cartoonish shapes, but I’m happy these proposals mostly seem to be pretty walk friendly with porous first floors and all that.

    Excited to see some infill where it’s needed!

    • Alex Ihnen

      Parking is an issue, as it were, on weekend nights. We don’t know if or how much public money may be involved here, though one would guess tax abatement would be on the table.

      • tbatts666

        If only we could create a parking benefit district for the Grove . Marked rate parking, proceeds of which could stay local. <3 <3 <3

        Is it really an issue? How long have people here been searching for a spot on the weekend? Makes little sense to me to invest so much dollars for something not needed most of the time. Methinks better parking management could solve problem smarter?
        Really I'm just happy it looks fairly walkable though.

        Thanks for the informative new Alex!