Contemporary 116-Unit Apartment Building Planned for South Grand YMCA Site

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Proposals to replace the long-vacant South Grand YMCA have been through several iterations and multiple delays. A newly available rendering shows a gray brick 116-unit apartment building fronting South Grand. The previously available plan from two years ago showed a two-story retail and office building. The site was purchased for $1.8M and the new redevelopment plan could total more than $18M. Schematic design images show Atlus Properties as the project developer, with architectural design by HOK.

The YMCA building will be demolished, with the adjacent Pelican Building undergoing an historic renovation for commercial use. The new plan includes 131 parking spaces. Developer MBR Shenandoah LLC is affiliated with MBR Management Corporation, which owns 80 Domino’s Pizza franchises in the region. The Domino’s location on South Grand will move to the Pelican Building once completed.

*image added 4/21/17


From our previous story: Renovated Pelican Building, 116-Apartment Infill Planned for South Grand


*if you want to see the interior of the YMCA building before it’s gone, click here

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

Previous proposal for office & retail, rehab of Pelican Building:

Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO


Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO


Pelican Court, South Grand - St. Louis, MO

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  • Robert Barquero

    Needs lower level retail/restaurant and some sort of glorious parapet or cornice at the top of the building. It lacks “pop”. Love the Pelican rehab, but the main building is dulls-ville.

  • Ted Hall

    Where is Frank Lloyd Wright when you need Him!

  • Ted Hall

    Ugly apartment building! I I’m really shocked that HOK couldn’t come up with something more appropriate to the site!

  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    Housing is needed, no doubt. The problem with apartments directly on Grand is the worst location. Is that not the number 1 rule of real estate. I lived at the Saum apartments on Grand near 44, across from the Compton Heights water tower and park. The area was beautiful. YET, the AWFUL!!!…I was even on the 6th floor, with new windows. The traffic was constant ALL DAY. Sirens from multiple ambulances flying toward SLU. hospital was intense. These new on-Grand complexes would be a horrible investment …even S. Kings highway is noisy and has all day fast traffic. I have a place only 2 blocks up off S. Kings highway and I do not hear any traffic..!!so buyer and renter beware. This is why commercial buildings are proposed and set aside for businesses.

    • thomas h benton

      My experience was different when I lived just off grand – it was more of a constant hum. Not bad at all. I think housing along Grand is great. It will enliven the area. Right now that stretch of Grand is kind of a traffic sewer.

  • miguel2586

    The new renderings look much better. It’ll be nice to have a standout building in the neighborhood-but the first pic looks like something out of Chernobyl. It might be nice to open up the ground floor to small business/restaurant space. Maybe extend the South Grand international corridor a few blocks to the north.

  • Pingback: City's Preservation Board Greenlights Smart Infill, Denies Needless Demo - nextSTL()

  • Imran

    Approved by preservation board.

    • Adam


  • brickhugger

    The first level should be all glass (like the left corner), or a different material/color from the upper floors, and there needs to be some sort of cornice (doesn’t have to be historic) at the roof line. As it stands the design has no definition, and is just blah.

  • Ihanaf
    • Adam

      And while I was disappointed in the choice of materials, it still looks pretty darn good next to its historic neighbors.

  • Adam
    • STLEnginerd

      Hey everyone can have an opinion. Personally I don’t understand the appeal with this aesthetic. To me it is soulless and uninviting. Not saying faux historic is the way to go but i tend to feel architects like modern design because it skips the hassle of diving into the fine details and flourishes you see on historic buildings. Like putting a box on top of a box is innovative somehow. Some modern is good IMHO but most of it falls into the less than inspiring category.

      I wouldn’t protest it though, especially along Grand which has a pretty eclectic mix of architectural styles already. Its not exactly Soulard. Loosing a historic structure is a shame though. Wish it could have been integrated into the design but seems like thats not it the cards and the proposal is solid in terms of form and function.

      • Adam

        It’s all about variety. I wouldn’t want an entire city that looks like the Modern art Museum or the Pulitzer. I also think a city composed of nothing but dark red brick would feel oppressive (and sometimes St. Louis’ historic neighborhoods CAN feel oppressive when the sky is overcast and the trees are bare, for example). I also would have liked for the YMCA to be integrated into new construction, but since it’s set back so far, not a spectacular architectural specimen, and probably difficult to convert to residential (or at least high-density residential) I’ll take the proposed.

        However, I just think it’s funny that people around here are so quick to shout “IT LOOKS LIKE A PRISON!!!” at anything that’s not a Victorian row house.

  • Adam
  • Jeff Gold

    Any idea of the timeline for this potential project?

  • Chicagoan

    With some tinkering, this design could be great, so long as the materials are solid.

  • Scott Pluff

    Well done, comrade! Long live the revolution! Let us celebrate with vodka and borscht!

  • Scott Pluff

    Well done, comrade! Long live the Soviet revolution! Let us celebrate with vodka and borscht!

  • Sarah Holtz Stout

    I think it looks sort of cool. Could use some color, IMO. But could be good!

  • Chris

    Does anyone know what happened to the website? I really liked the concept of that site.

  • Looks like Copenhagen. Love.

  • KOUS

    Glad to see a modern building in the neighborhood. Color might need more thoughts

  • Tom Robertsen

    Oh My God! That’s UGLY! How did that ever pass anyone’s planning commission? Looks like a nightmare out of the Soviet bloc countries

    • Adam

      Because not everyone shares your opinion, which you express as if it were fact.

    • TGEresident

      Yeah that architecture firm HOK, whoever they are, what do they know about design… (extreme sarcasm)

  • Trav

    I think this is great. It’s 5 stories of density. It’s built to the curb. I think the design looks great I’m not really understanding why other people don’t like it. Much preferred to faux historic red brick. I live 5 blocks east of here I agree that this is not a great location for retail and as others have noted I also am concerned that we would get another cell phone store or some nonsense. This will be a great way to clean up the entrance to the neighborhood and add more density.

  • EnerJi

    Why are they building a prison at the South Grand YMCA site? Because that’s exactly what comes to mind when I look at that rendering. The more I study it, the more I find to dislike. The developers need to go back to the drawing board on this one.

  • John

    I like the greenery, but the building is blah overall. Perhaps the interiors will have a wow factor that the exterior does not have. Nice to have the redevelopment investment, though. It is still an improvement over an empty, decaying building.

  • mc

    Very nice and chic design. Looks good!

  • Adam

    I’m guessing everyone who hates this designed loved the previous one because it had a plastic cornice and looked like a Quick Trip.

    • Kevin Farrell

      The first proposal here (by the previous owner/developer) was in fact, for a QT -which the neighborhood rejected.

  • Kathy Glaser

    It looks like a prison.

  • njenney

    That is really ugly. Looks like something from Chernobly.

  • Douglis Beck

    The thing that bugs me (other than not renovating the YMCA building 10 years ago into an arts center) is that the people in the rendering are completely out of scale. Foreground figures should be larger than background, etc… Perspective matters. Seems kinda amateur. Who is the architect for this??? And shouldn’t they instead choose an urban company focused on improvement….

    • PD

      Thats always the case. They remove telephones wires and poles and all kinds of stuff to make it look better.
      I for one think developers should be bared from showing site drawings with plants and trees/vegetation that don’t end up in the final project(like all the green on every balcony here). Tie tiff money with planned green spaces and whatnot. Seriously, every drawing will shows all kinds of gardens and plants and then when the projects done, somehow its just got a bush or two.

  • Anna

    As a 35 year resident of the first block of Shenandoah to the west I have strong feelings about said location. It needs to be redeveloped and in a manner that is stable and contributes to the redevelopment efforts of surrounding blocks. Lack of first floor commercial is not necessarily bad. The condos across the street don’t have commercial and they are fine, especially since there is already commercial available along that strip, and what there is has actually struggled being viable. Worse outcome would be that commercial is added and doesn’t rent to the type of spot we want. Before we know it we’d find ourselves with another cell phone store with fluorescent signs of wow! Kapow! and more in the windows. Truth is that commercial even in more dense area to south ( case in point Massage Envy) struggles to survive, especially if not located within Arsenal to Utah foot print. While the utilitarian design isn’t my favorite it may well appeal to the med school students and techies from CORTEX developers hope to attract.

    • Riggle

      Perhaps MORE retail would help existing retail, creating more of a retail destination, the retail there now is an island.

    • thomas h benton

      There isn’t enough Grand foot traffic farther north, probably in part because that stretch of Grand isn’t very inviting. Most residential buildings are oriented toward side streets and traffic moves fast through there.

  • Colocon

    Fantastic! Much better than the faux historic designs previously proposed.

  • cml

    Is someone trying to win an award for ugliest building in America?

    Is there any opposition to this that I can contribute to in some way?

    • Adam

      Yeah I think there’s a group that wants the Pelican building to collapse completely and for the old YMCA to remain vacant and rotting instead of being replaced by much needed density because the design isn’t quite to their cheap-looking-faux-historic taste. Give ‘me a call.

  • Kelly Sullivan

    High end grocer?? What the hell is that? If you don’t like schnucks or ruler, you should try jays or aldi. Maybe you’d also like a fitness club, another Starbucks and a diamond retailer on the ground level.

    • jhoff1257

      Next time hit reply to the comment you wish to address.

  • Adam

    For crying out loud people, it looks great. Nothing about the rendering says “cinder blocks”. The grain is much too fine to be cinder blocks. It looks like brick of various shades of gray. And, as Alex pointed out, the windows are huge. Can’t wait.

  • SouthCityJR

    Why can’t we get a good grocery store on the ground level? There’s been an influx of higher income folks moving to the tower grove neighborhoods and all we have is a below average Schnucks and Ruler Foods on Grand

  • Tim E

    I think in terms of the opposite when it comes to street level retail…
    With declining brick & mortar sales and ever increasing online sales how can you expect every urban development have or need ground floor retail? Good chance depending on location that it will sit empty or just encourage relocation from nearby businesses. At same time, the development has to account for the possibility of building out space that will not lease & therefore becomes a financing issue and or increased rent

    • Imran

      Well there’s small scale markets, cleaners, coffee shops, neighborhood bars, post offices, library branches, kids day care, bike shops, restaurants, pet grooming , bakeries …. services that cater to the local community, activate the sidewalk and are unlikely to be taken over by online commerce.
      If financing is the limiting factor, the storefronts could house apartment leasing offices, mail rooms, gym or community space to begin with and at least provide for the possibility of retail conversion down the road.

      • Tim E

        Can you see your point but also need an increasing demographic and more importantly population to support small scale markets. This will add a few resident to the immediate area but I don’t think enough to support lot of ground floor retail for scope/size of development. Unfortunately, annual census for city stating a slight decline again in population.

        • Adam

          True but I doubt the neighborhoods around this stretch of Grand are part of that decline. That area is likely one of the few that will have gained population.

          • Tim E

            I guess I can only fall back on Anna’s comment above on her perception that current retail space is struggling to remain full in the area. I still find myself wondering sometimes on how so much retail can currently exist. We are truly a consumer driven society.

  • T-Leb

    I don’t really have a problem with the design. It took a moment to realize where this is and maybe the design isn’t ideal at first glance for the location, but then I thought to myself, get out of your comfort zone and think about how maybe… just maybe, once it’s built will look really good along s grand.
    Some people took issue with the Art museum expansion design, I like it close up, I like the transition from new to old. I feel as though I based my opinion on seeing it up close and not from a picture or blog post. There are some aspects I think could have been better, but that’s not news for any project.

  • rpcp

    I get the lack of love for the aesthetic, but (as Chris Meyers points out) the lack of ground floor retail is the problem.

    It, to me, seems silly to have a separate building that is only two floors to house retail and office. But, I’m no urban planner. Just an urban enthusiast.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I’m not convinced that this is a good location for ground floor retail. But I’m just a blogger.

  • Nina Murphy

    Hideous. Looks like a Soviet bloc building.

    • Anna

      Actually I have seen Soviet bloc buildings and they don’t look like this. This looks more like a SLU campus building, which may be deliberate … or not.

  • Chris Meyers

    No ground floor retail? If they’re going to build it right along Grand, then why not put in some more retail?

  • Chris Meyers


  • Alex Ihnen

    I get that people may not like the design. Anything that attempts contemporary has a high bar set. (As someone just told me, no one objects to the design of Jack-in-the-Box – expectations are so low).

    Anyway, those windows appear to be ~6ft high, and joined with balconies, there’s a whole of light coming into those units.

    • Imran

      I guess they are not small windows but a low window to wall ratio is probably what is bugging me. I am also suspicious of low ceiling heights . As for retail, a cool new restaurant ( the garden on grand ) recently opened across the street and could be an early indicator of what could be supported on this section of Grand.

      • Adam

        Not really seeing the low window-to-wall ratio. The balconies appear to have large glass doors as well. If that’s the case then I’d say the ratio is pretty great.

        • Imran

          Adam, I am not an architect. I’m just trying to figure what in this design is missing the mark. The rendering conveys a sadness which is hard to describe. I feel sorry for the people trapped in the dark rectangles. I wouldn’t wish I lived there if I saw it passing by. Yes design aesthetics are subjective but this one evokes a visceral dislike that I can’t shake.

          • ShawSTLGal

            Recessed balconies are great and give a tenants their own private outdoor space (without hanging out over Grand), the first floor appears to have significant space of window wall to the North that according the site plan is the fitness, lounge, and office area, interesting way to keep the street active. Looks like to the top floor has large terraces. Site plan also notes some covered parking and a pool. Building seems to have a lot going for it. A shame the contemporary design is all that is being commented on. 5 stories of density, nice clean lines, cool material color tones, brick and glass material pallet, ‘activation’ on Grand with the amenity space, Pelican will be new retail this block, No Grand curb cuts…. the contemporary style may not be your taste, but the development checks a lot of boxes.

          • Imran

            I suggest you refer to my initial comment above that acknowledged density and urban form.

          • Adam

            But as you acknowledged, your appraisal that the design is “missing the mark” is a statement of your own tastes, not objective reality. I don’t think it conveys sadness at all. I think it looks clean and modern and will juxtapose well with the more classical designs along Grand.

  • STLResident

    Looks great. Nice to see something contemporary and not more red brick. Good for St. Louis to see some old (Pelican) coexist with new and contemporary on the same block. City could use some a little more contemporary design

    • JCougar

      There’s about 1,000 better potential designs out there that are contemporary and not red brick.

      That design has all of the aesthetic of an Atari game of Frogger displayed on a dim tube TV via 8-bit graphics.

      I guess passersby can entertain themselves by imaging climbing up that façade without getting run over by oblong windows.

      • Adam

        better = subjective. sorry you don’t like it. maybe you’ll like the next one.

        • JCougar

          subjective ≠ meaningless. There’s general agreement about things that subjectively look, feel, taste, smell, and sound good. Even if it’s only about style. Don’t wear socks with sandals. Dog farts smell bad. Bacon tastes awesome. Not everything has to be a rehab or a historical replica. But that building does look like it was designed on an Atari system.

          • Adam

            Well then I guess Atari-designed buildings look good to some people, and you can just continue thinking that you have superior taste to those of us that think it’s an attractive design.

  • JCougar

    Waiting for someone to come out and apologize that they accidentally used renderings for a project that’s actually going up in a mid-sized city in North Korea.

    • Chris Meyers


  • stlnative

    Very utilitarian and brutal. Not much to look at.

    • Stlguy

      Please google utilitarian and burtalist architectural style… this building is clearly neither. If anything it is an attempt at contemporary and as discussed, contemporary can be difficult to pull off, especially in a rendering. Wise to reserve any judgment until after it’s built. Could be very interesting and something unique and interesting to this part of town.

      • stlnative

        Repetitive form, only uses 1 material (excluding glass), its very heavy feeling, a solid vertical facade. Nothing about this feels comfortable or welcoming.

        But what do I know, architectural design is just my profession and I only have a few architecture degrees. Guess I was taught nothing!

        • Stlguy

          Its a 5 story building, exactly how is it supposed to change form without looking forced? I see glass, brick, metal and not sure what the darker color is, but not just one material. The solid vertical facades are text book contemporary design. Maybe it just needs a nice cornice, some rounded archways, and some other bolt on faux details. As to heavy, I could see that.