Jesuit Archive Facility Planned for 3920 West Pine in City’s Central West End

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3920 West Pine_rendering

Site of more than one residential infill proposal that failed to get out of the ground, the one-story warehouse at 3920 West Pine Boulevard in the city’s Central West End neighborhood may be replaced with a new institutional building. Planned is a $10M facility to house the Jesuit Archives for the Central United States, according to information posted on the Park Central Development Corporation site.

The property was acquired by the U.S. Central and Southern Province, Society of Jesus this past month. Its current office is located at 4511 West Pine, where Jesuit ministries addressing the Delmar Divide, international religious violence, and environmental justice, are administered. The Central and Southern Province covers states from Colorado to Florida and includes Belize and Puerto Rico (map below).

The proposed new construction would be a two-story, 29,000sf building to house archives, and include meeting rooms, study areas, and office space. The existing building, dating to 1920, was first occupied by the W.B. Knight Machinery Company and then Jarold Manufacturing. It has been vacant and on the market for several years.

3920 West Pine_site plan

3920 West Pine_elevations

As the residential development boom has hit the far eastern end of the neighborhood adjacent to Saint Louis University, more than one plan for apartments has come and gone for 3920. One vision would have risen four stories and appeared to be a fairly traditional apartment building, while another would have been seven stories with a facade of concrete and wood (images at bottom of post).

Other nearby apartment projects likely impacted the viability of those plans. The 206-unit West Pine Lofts were completed on the same block, the 164-unit The Standard is just around the corner, and the 77-unit Piazza apartments across the street was completed earlier this year. There’s also apartment conversions at 4100 Lindell, 4242 Lindell, and the Gerhart Block building.

The plan for the Jesuit archives will need a variance to the neighborhood’s still new form base code, which calls for a building at this location to rise at least three stories. It also appears that it will no conform to the “80% of the Build-to-Line” requirement, a measure meant to preclude big gaps in the street wall formed by building facades. Construction could begin as early as next month, with completion next fall.

3920 West Pine_rendering looking west3920 West Pine_rendering looking east3920 West Pine_floor plans

3920 West Pine - St. Louis, MO{the existing one-story building at 3920 West Pine}

Two prior proposals for infill apartments at 3920 West Pine:

3920 West Pine_housing concept 23920 West Pine concenpt

Map of Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province:


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  • brickhugger

    I could support this proposal if the design were better, but this is hideous. It doesn’t have to be all red brick, but it does have to look a lot better than this.The fact that we don’t own it doesn’t mean we can’t expect better design (which does not imply they must build a “palace”). You’d think after the Standard apartments fiasco (among others), that they would know better.

    • Framer

      Yeah, I don’t hate it. I think with some aesthetic tweaking it could be alright.

  • STLcityarch

    This is another nextstl report that does not state the architect nor credit a design team nor the author for the images used in the reporting.
    I’m not sure why this is frequently the case.
    I appreciate the excellent efforts of this site’s team in raising awareness of urban issues, but the lack of mention or credit to the teams generating the work being discussed is strangely missing from the conversation.
    Alex, what is the thinking here?

  • rbeedee

    I think the proposal is ok (if they ditch the West Pine curb cut), but this is a site where we can do better than ok. I think it’s worth waiting 5 more years for a proposal that conforms to the form-based code, adds more density, and maybe a little panache too.

    • Imran

      please consider e-mailing Brooks Goedeker
      [email protected]

    • Tim E

      Can certainly understand the point, but the problem I have with stating that its worth waiting five years is none of us bought the property, none of is on the hook for maintaining the property, paying the taxes so on and their no guarantee that their five more will pay off if the owner if ever wanted to listen to us….I would argue for better while saying build baby build. Cities excel with structures and all the good, bad and ugly that come with it. Land banking not so much IMO
      The one gripe I would have is how this comes together. Does it become another non-taxable property under SLU? If so, why not build within existing SLU footprint as noted on the postings? Is the Aldermen supporting a project that would decrease the tax rolls which only puts another small burden on the rest of the aldermen’s constituents?

      • rgbose

        The property is already tax exempt. Regardless we are all on the hook for providing services and infrastructure to the property, so the city should be interested in the most productivity it can get. Below some minimum that we should be doing the math on it would be contributing to our insolvency. Which might be fine it the community decides it’s worth it here and is fine with making it up for elsewhere.

      • rbeedee

        When the property was bought, they knew or should have known the requirements of the form-based code. If the proposal was in line with the code, I might still be unimpressed with the proposal, but there would not really be an avenue for me to weigh in. Because they are asking to deviate from the plan for neighborhood, I think it is appropriate to evaluate the proposal holistically and from a long-term view, even though I don’t own it, and decide if what they are proposing is good enough to justify breaking the rules. I don’t think it is. Like I said, it’s not terrible, and I won’t shed any tears if it gets built, but I think variances should be limited to exceptional projects, and this isn’t it.

        More broadly, though, I think we should all care about how developments are done even on properties we don’t own, even when a variance isn’t sought. Every development takes the collective city toward or away from certain goals, and most developments are a mixed bag of good and bad. When there is an opportunity for decision-makers and those who elect them to weigh in (variances, tax abatement, TIF, etc), they have to weigh the pros and cons of a given development, and ask for more/better in exchange. The fact that they don’t own the parcel is irrelevant to the planning process.

  • Riggle


  • Chris

    This building shouldn’t even be a consideration for this site. It won’t add to the vitality of the street, it doesn’t have any visual interest, it doesn’t follow any of the standards put forth by the former based code, and it doesn’t add any residential or any measurable employment to the area. There’s plenty of space on the SLU campus to build this dead weight of a building. Even the existing warehouse looks more interesting than what they’re proposing. It won’t be long before there’s a viable residential proposal for this site, I say wait it out.

    • Tim Ekren

      The problem with the last sentence is Alex noted two residential proposals that already came and gone from this site. In addition, you got a number of residential projects being floated by Cortex/Wexford, Lawrence group as part of Foundry phase II, and you still got some other prime CWE infill spots not too mention more coming on the east end of the Grove near or along Vande…a lot of good competition out there.
      I’m in agreement that this not the best proposal. But an organization saw an opportunity, made a purchase and the march of infill continues.

  • Imran

    Yet another $&@7$ curb cut. Do they realize what alley access is for. So much for building a walkable city.

    • Adam

      Where’s the new one? It looked to me like they’re just keeping the existing one.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I think you’re right. Perhaps it’s a little wider next to the parking for the building immediately to the west?

        • Birch

          It wasn’t softball vs. rugby so much as a guy from New Zealand explaining why he knows what’s best for a park in St. Louis. Thanks for slamming the door such that he got the last, misguided word, though!

  • John

    I support this development and the required neighborhood variance. It seems to be a good quality building, and there are plenty of other apartment developments in the area. It is refreshing to see a development with a significant purpose and function.

  • This is a nice use for the area- it’s right by SLU, and it will add some academic visitors to the flow of traffic going to the businesses that are appearing on that section of Vandeventer. SLU is also moving the Medieval Center to Cartier Hall, which is across Vandeventer, so it’s a nice synergy for them.

  • Will M

    would have much prefered the tall apartment complex at the bottom of the page, but this isnt such a bad option