On June 25, 2005 the Praxair site along Chouteau Avenue in the city’s Lafayette Square neighborhood caught fire. The site served as storage for gas tanks, which began to explode, sending debris onto the rooftops of surrounding homes and businesses. In all, as many as 8,000 gas cylinders exploded, and the fire took a full five hours to get under control. Interstate 64, just more than 1/3mi to the north, was closed. The Cardinals game was delayed.
The 4-acre site has sat vacant since. The adjacent Lafayette Walk townhome development stalled after 31 of 37 planned units were completed in 2008. That project was announced in 2004 and suffered from bad timing as units began to sell in late 2007. In recent years, development has picked up in the neighborhood with Mississippi Place on the east side of the park, infill along Park Avenue, and new single-family homes centered on Dolman Street.
Now Pulte Homes has a plan to build 64 townhomes on the Praxair site bounded by Chouteau, Missouri Avenue, MacKay Place and a separate parcel fronting Hickory Street to the south. The developer is planning to meet next week with neighborhood residents living adjacent to the site. A larger Lafayette Square community meeting is planned to follow before the end of the year. No images or site plans have been made available.
The site is within the Lafayette Square local historic district, which stipulates requirements for a new construction project such as is being proposed. The aforementioned recent developments in the neighborhood have all been required to adhere to the historic district guidelines. Read: Lafayette Square Local Historic District Code and Lafayette Square Local Historic District Ordinance.
The Lafayette Square Neighborhood – Urban Plan adopted by the city as the official neighborhood plan in 2001 shows the Praxair site as heavy industrial use. An amendment to change the neighborhood plan to reflect Praxair’s departure was passed in 2014. Read: The Lafayette Square Neighborhood – Urban Plan and Amendment #1 of the Lafayette Square Neighborhood – Urban Plan.
After the 2005 fire, the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee (LSRC) created a Praxair Neighborhood Task Force. Praxair initially sought to resume operations at the Lafayette Square site, but neighborhood and city opposition denied that effort. Praxair now operates out of Cahokia, IL and still owns the Lafayette Square site.
Lafayette Walk townhomes adjacent to Praxair site.
Existing Praxair site:
Images from The Lafayette Square Neighborhood – Urban Plan and Amendment #1: