Will City Foundry, the $340M project set to re-imagine a long-vacant manufacturing site in the center of St. Louis City cannibalize local retail? Will it bring unique-to-the-region storefronts? This was the central question asked as the project sought, and ultimately received significant subsidies from the city.
According to leasing documents reviewed by nextSTL, it appears that Reformation, Patagonia, Zara, Need Supply, and others have signed on to the project (more on each below). Reached for comment, City Foundry developer Lawrence Group offered, “We are not commenting on any discussions regarding City Foundry tenants at this time, other than that we are not relocating any existing retail businesses that currently operate within the City of St. Louis. We will be making an announcement of our tenant lineup in due course.”
The first phase is planned as up to 125,000sf of office space as many as 45 independent retailers across 133,000sf. The handful of retailers listed here are expected to fill small to medium sized retail spaces.
A 30,000sf single tenant retail space is the project’s largest and appears earmarked for a Fresh Market grocer, according to commercial leasing information available online. However, Fresh Market exited the St. Louis market last year, closing its Creve Coeur store. Speculation is that the tenant could be Fresh Thyme Market, which now has three St. Louis area stores, with its Kirkwood location opening late last year.
Developer Lawrence Group requested $19.4M in tax increment financing (TIF). TIF allows a developer to recoup net new tax revenue to pay for specific components of a development, such as infrastructure. The original tax abatement request of 25 years was reduced to 15 years at the request of aldermen. The first phase is a $134M transformation of the vacant building into a hub of retail and restaurants. Later phases of City Foundry are planned to include new construction residential and office.
The big concern was that the development sought to lure local businesses to the site, leaving holes elsewhere in the city and providing no net gain. Burgeoning commercial districts such as Cherokee Street and Macklind Avenue were cited as being at risk. At the time, the developer told the Board of Aldermen’s Housing Urban Development and Zoning Committee, “We’re not going to be able to get this thing financed with local retailers.” The implication being that rents would be too high to attract small local businesses. With the list of retail tenants apparently signed on, this appears to be true so far.
Though not confirmed, nextSTL suspects that an initial list of tenants could be shared as early as tomorrow at a St. Louis Realtors Urban Affairs event. An invitation to that event reads in part, “Please join St. Louis REALTORS and Steve Smith, co-founder and CEO of The Lawrence Group, as we uncover more information in the $340 million City Foundry St. Louis redevelopment…” In November of last year, Lawrence Group CEO Steve Smith told the Post-Dispatch that he hoped to announce the “lead tenant lineup” in “about six weeks”.
Created in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, the company designs and manufactures the majority of its products in its factory located in downtown Los Angeles. Other products are produced by responsible manufacturing partners here in the U.S. or abroad using sustainable methods and materials, according to the company’s website.
Back in 2014, we learned that Patagonia and others were eyeing retail in re-made street level space at the Chase Park Plaza. Though receiving approval from the city’s Preservation Review Board, that plan has gone nowhere. The nearest Patagonia retail store is in Chicago. The next closest? Atlanta.
The company is #53 on Forbes “World’s Most Valuable Brands” list with a value of $10.7B and annual sales of $15.9B. Zara added 77 stores in 2015. Currently, the nearest store to St. Louis is in Chicago. Zara opened its first store in the coastal town of A Coruña in the northwest of Spain in 1975. The company now has more than 2,100 stores in 88 countries.
Founded in Richmond, Virginia in 1996, the company initially focused on selling vintage Levi’s, later expanding its inventory to include a variety of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. Need Supply launched its online presence in 2008 and opened stores in Shibuya and Kumamoto, Japan in late 2015. Reportedly, storefronts in New York and Los Angeles are in the works as well.
When retail behemoth IKEA opened west of Vandeventer Avenue across from the City Foundry site, many expected it to set off a retail boom in the area. Now open a year and a half, the St. Louis IKEA is reportedly hitting its expected $100M in annual sales. The City Foundry site itself was once explored for demolition and replacement with a strip mall development called Midtown Station. With retail leases apparently gaining traction, the city may be seeing its first significant new retail hub in years.
*Patagonia has reached out to nextSTL and offered the following statement, “Patagonia does not have plans to open a retail store at the City Foundry development in St. Louis.”
*Zara has also reached out to nextSTL with the following statement, “Please kindly be advised that we are not planning to open Zara in St. Louis.”
We will continue to update this story as more is known.