Design Revisions Continue as Centene Clayton Campus Project Moves to Aldermen

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Design revisions and refinement continue on the Centene Clayton corporate campus project. While there remain significant hurdles to clear before any groundbreaking, the company is working through feedback presented by residents and the city. On September 7 the Clayton Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend requested rezoning be sent to the city’s Board of Aldermen. Residents have voiced concern that the project does not adhere to the Clayton master plan, and that it does fit the character of Clayton.

New renderings detail the evolving effort to address some concerns expressed by city staff and residents. A “pedestrian corridor” through Subdistrict 4 could make the area more accessible to pedestrians utilizing MetroLink, or approaching the area from the east. Two versions for the possible design of the Forsyth-facing retail and parking garages attempt to portray a more varied, residential-like facade. The plaza-car drop off at Carondelet and Hanley is detailed, and another image of the corporate auditorium is presented. Images were included in an update posted on the city’s website.

Our full coverage of the Centene Clayton corporate campus project is below.



From our previous report: Centene Design Refined, Wellbridge Athletic Club Added to Project

Centene_new 2

As planning for the massive Centene project in downtown Clayton continues, it’s beginning to appear that little will change from what was presented in early June. By far the most significant change revealed in documents filed with the City of Clayton is the inclusion of the Wellbridge Athletic Club. Its site along Forsyth Avenue had been the last parcel along that stretch not included in the redevelopment plan.

The Wellbridge property is now shown as part of “Subdistrict 1”, which previously had included only parcels fronting Hanley Road. nextSTL confirmed that Centene has signed an LOI (letter of intent) to acquire the property for an undisclosed price. The fitness club is now planned to occupy up to 40,000 sf in a new Centene building.

More than $50M has been spent on property acquisition for what would be 1.5M sf of office space, as much as 40K sf of retail, 120 luxury apartments, a corporate auditorium, and lodging. It is estimated the total development would exceed $750M. Up to $147M in state and local development incentives are being sought.

While concerns have been voiced about imposing towers, economic incentives, and traffic impacts, the project is becoming more detailed. New images reveal refinements in design across the four phases. The project is certain to have a significant impact on Clayton. What is less certain is if it can have an impact greater than its components, if design can create a better downtown Clayton beyond simply added square feet of offices and corporate amenities. We hope to take a deeper dive on the design in a future post.

The first phase would be a 28-story tower at Hanley Road and Forsyth Boulevard. A skybridge designed as an artistic element would cross Hanley and connect with the existing Centene building. The tower is set back from Forysth and Carondelet Plaza and would include 700 parking spaces.

Centene_new 1Centene_new 1a

Tract two would span an expanse of Forsyth and be comprised of ground floor retail, 120 apartments facing Carondelet Plaza adjacent to the Crescent condominiums, and as many as 2,000 parking spaces in a seven-story structure. The main entrance to the garage would be opposite existing Lee Avenue. The tower on Hanley, and the Forsyth garage could break ground as early as this fall and be completed in 2019.

Centene Subdistrict 2

The image at top is of the third phase tower and auditorium. The tallest of the proposed buildings at 34 stories, it could be completed by 2020. The image below is from Carondelet looking east across Hanley at the first tower planned (phase one), a 28-story tower with a skybridge connected to Centene I.

A third tract lies east of Carondelet Plaza and the Ritz Carlton. The site was once planned as the Trianon Condominiums. The Centene plan calls for a prominent corporate auditorium that could host additional events, and 400K sf of office space topped by five stories and 120 units of corporate lodging. This phase was described as “imminent” and planned for a 2020 completion.

Centene_new 2a

Plans for the fourth tract at 7711 Carondelet had not been previously reported. There, a 500K sf office building with complimentary architectural design to the existing Centene tower would be built, and include ground level retail and approximately 2,000 parking spaces.

Centene Clayton Campus_numbered

Continue reading: Centene Design Refined, Wellbridge Athletic Club Added to Project



[read two years of nextSTL Centene coverage here]

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  • brickhugger

    Wondering if it might be better for both aesthetics and traffic flow to make the main entrance (a full 4-way signalized intersection) at Lee and Forsyth, and close off the Carondelet end with a cul-de-sac. Put more pedestrian scaled features and uses on the Lee and Carondelet facades, with street level retail/office on forsyth, and do something creative with the garage design on forsyth (even if that means adding a few levels to make the parking work). What do people think of that?

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  • John

    The auditorium rendering is stunning, but the rest of the overall concept is lifeless and uninspiring. I support the development and corporate growth, but not at the expense of taxpayers and defiance of the Clayton strategic plan. Keep tinkering, Centene. You can do better.

    • Chicagoan

      I like the auditorium as well, it’s eye-catching and welcoming. Just how open to the public will this be though? That’s something to wonder.

      I don’t mind the towers, especially the one that has that catching wrap around the structured parking. It reminds me of Chicago’s Optima Center (200 E. Illinois St.). The “Sliced Minimalism” style, as Blair Kamin called it, is having a moment.

  • gblink

    The significant change in design that more garages facing Forsyth is added after the new acquisition, it appears to be more dense than the previous renderings.
    Taking a look at the models in the developer last presentation ( it is clear, that Forsyth is lined with heavy structures serving as parking garages, now filling up the space between subdistrict 1 and 2 and literally barricading away Crescent, creating over 1200 feet of garages (in addition to the existing one also facing the street). Retail space, as requested, somewhat more after some refinement, but will it really hide the structures and create attractive spaces?
    The idyllic image on the first drawing (above on top) is hard to imagine to realize from this plan.
    Can the sidewalk be indeed built that wide? Even so, who would want to sit in the shade of a parking structure with the table practically touching the side of a parking car? And how to choose the time frame to read the paper at that table? It is by the road, that will carry increased amount of traffic, at least certain times of the day people expect congestion. Probably even more traffic comes to that road in the future, since the development basically encourages car based transportation for many years to come and there will be more development that may add to it some more.

    Other times, the streets are disturbingly empty for reason that is hard to get. The portrayed vitality is something to seriously work towards until it is achieved. One would like to see, what’s expected to really help to meet those expectations and the phase of initial design must be crucial.

    Furthermore, the current residential area practically included in a fort now, since residents are suddenly becoming isolated by bulky garages built uncomfortably close to their building. This was not the reasonable expectation based on the Master Plan of Clayton. The latest update of the plan from 2010, clearly states that building a livable, vibrant downtown is the goal. It’s not as much the letter of the plan, but the principle and it is historically true. The plan exists form late 50s to balance the needs of the residents and business development. The plan itself emphasizes the difference between downtown and business district and claims to aim for a healthy blend – what the Centene corporate campus plan does not quite seem to achieve. I didn’t hear anyone opposing Centene development – just asked for reasonable size. As is, it really looks like that the development overwhelms the core of the area, where Clayton downtown would also need to exist.

    The worry is, that even with the refinements, the area will not be a downtown with vibrant activities, interactions that naturally happen in “real downtowns”. Chances are, that it is going to be primarily a corporate campus with a pleasant and controlled urban atmosphere. As such, it is surely going to be state of art, also made accessible with more than sufficient parking. If that is what a city strives for, this is the plan. But will people hang out in the area to enjoy the neighborhood, visit it at times other than some special event or the streets will be mostly empty? Aside from a few dweller of the new high end apartments, the residential participation won’t be expected to grow.

    The character of Clayton, that so many resident expected to build towards, may be lost with this core area used as planned now. A lot of residents emphasized this responsibility and that an oversized Centene development may very well serve a transition into a different direction, than envisioned.

    I read Alex articles because he brings analyses of elements of urban design and asks, what may work, what not to achieve certain goals, how behavioral elements could be taken account, etc. It feels to me, and judging from the many comments and concerns of others, this project would have greatly benefited from this type of in depth discussions.
    Below is a model cited form the latest presentation of the developer.

  • Alex P

    Is the “Pedestrian Corridor” an interior space? If so, people very rarely walk through buildings to save time. Even the laziest people are still prone to walk around a building rather than through it. Mostly because of the uncertainty of a door being locked along the way.

    • Tim E

      I think it happens in downtown Minneapolis with their system of above street walkways. Below zero temps during part of the year is probably a good enough incentive to not walk around the building if you can help it

  • Tim E

    You have to get a kick out of how they keep rendering, tweeking the civic auditorium entry but will only highlight the Forsyth street pedestrian entry by adding the drawing with a big circle to show where the door will be along the wall face and a dotted line to the metrolink station