$1.7M Fitness Club Planned at WUSTL’s West Campus, Former Famous-Barr

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Fusion Fitness hopes to occupy significant ground level retail space in Washington University’s West Campus building. Originally built as a Famous-Barr department store, the nearly 300,000sf building largely houses WUSTL employees, as well as part of the school’s library archives. The attached parking garage has 1,333 spaces, with the fitness center requiring 51 per code. Improbably, the building remains virtually unaltered since its construction.

The fitness club would include classrooms for varieties of yoga, bootcamp/boxing, spinning, and more. Also planned is a child care room, massage rooms, a small retail space and a 950sf “Health Bar/Restaurant” in partnership with Simon Lusky of Revel Kitchen in nearby Brentwood. Proposed hours are 5:00 am to 9:00 am Monday-Friday, and 7:00 am to 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Other than long-time tenant The Wine & Cheese Place, retail space in the building has seen regular turnover and various uses. Ivey-Selkirk Auctioneers‎ occupied a large portion of the first floor before closing in 2014. St. Louis Artists’ Guild and Galleries moved it’s home to the corner of Forsyth and Jackson from Clayton’s Oak Knoll Park.

Luckily the new tenant will not be making any big exterior alterations, and WUSTL has been a good owner of the property. However, there are no protections against alteration or demolition of the building. Along with others in Clayton, now may be a good time to seek protection for some of that city’s significant architecture.

The Clayton building boom is centered across the street with Centene’s massive corporate headquarters project. That project will require the demolition of Wellbridge fitness club, which will then be housed in the new tower at the southeast corner of Forsyth Boulevard and Hanley Road.

To the west of West Campus is the Solire micro-apartment proposal. Immediately to the north is the vacant Maryland School, owned by the Clayton school system. WUSTL owns the former Bally Fitness building on the West Campus surface parking lot, as well as the one-story commercial building fronting Forsyth to the east. The university’s properties are currently not listed for sale, but it’s not difficult to imagine the holdings being attractive for redevelopment.

From the Clayton History Society:

Famous-Barr was the first department store to make the move from downtown to the suburbs, opening the first branch in Clayton on October 8, 1948. Samuel Marx of Chicago, the uncle of Morton “Buster” May, designed the ultra-modern $2.75 million dollar store. Facing competition from the nearby Galleria location and declining sales, Famous-Barr closed its Clayton store in 1991. The building stood shuttered for a few years. Washington University acquired the building and lot through a combination sale and charitable donation.

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  • kjohnson04

    You know a building that would have been cool for Clayton to keep? The Old Dolgin’s. I don’t remember exactly how it looked (Dolgin’s disappeared before I turned five), but it had gave Clayton a charm that it just doesn’t have anymore. Keeping the the old Famous-Barr is crucial. The plan is nice, but will the massive parking lot be necessary?

  • Nick

    Alex, any idea what style of architecture this building represents?

    • Kyle O’Connor

      The Famous Barr building is included in this pretty interesting, if dry, lecture on modernist architecture in the St. Louis area.

  • pd10

    Having not grown up in STL, and having seen some beautiful 19th century architecture downtown — can someone please explain the fascination with this building?

    I gotta be honest… it’s an awful looking building…

    • PD

      Im with you here. I grew up a couple blocks from it and remember it as famous bar as a kid. But with that said i think its about as ugly as can be. To me its just looks uninviting and the windows upstairs are horrible. Having been in the washU office recently(a huge cube farm) its so depressing and they see no outdoors or sun at all in there.

    • Nick Johnson

      Your comment reminds me of the odd fascination some people had with keeping the old mid-century modern office building in the CWE, which was torn down and replaced years later with the building that houses Whole Foods. That building is proof that not all mid-century buildings are excellent and worth keeping. I can say, at least the old Famous Barr building is architecturally unique.

    • Adam

      gonna have to disagree. this is a unique, attractive, minimalist building that interacts really well with the street. i’ll agree that the lack of windows on the upper floors makes it less than ideal as an office or residential building, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless as is, or that more windows couldn’t be added in a manner that respects its style.

      • Adam

        it would also make a great base for a tower addition.