Friday Live Chat

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live chat

It’s back, the Friday Live Chat. You know what to do – just use the comments section below. We’re open from Noon-1pm today:

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  • jhoff1257

    Any updates on BPV II and One Hundred in the CWE? I assume they’re still moving forward, just haven’t heard anything in a bit.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Similar to others…they’re moving ahead with no firm dates, but no bad news coming out either.

  • John

    Following up on a question from last week about the Millennium Hotel downtown. Any news or rumors about a developer willing to step forward and renovate this prominent, stand-out tower in the St. Louis skyline? Isn’t the building’s 50th anniversary coming up? I miss the revolving restaurant, and the location is amazing. It seems odd that we don’t hear much about this gigantic, vacant building.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Nothing at all. As I think I mentioned last week, some of the developers known for taking on lost causes have passed on it. Perhaps some outside money looks at it and says “why not?” Perhaps BPV II getting off the ground would help?

      • Nick

        What are your thoughts on why it’s a “lost cause”? My only theory is if it can’t be turned into an updated hotel, the units as they exist are too small to convert into nice condos that can compete with other developments downtown.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Right. My only conversation with a developer who looked at the property was that the HVAC needs were too expensive. I suppose this meant gutting and installing a complete system in the towers.

          • jhoff1257

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there also a pretty sizable mold problem in those buildings as well?

  • MRNHS

    In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, what is the latest on the $20M development in Dogtown on Clayton Ave? Seems like it went quiet right after announcement, which was supposed to be followed by a neighborhood meeting.

  • Nick

    (different Nick) I read somewhere that the developer behind the proposed condo development on Westminster Place on a recently blighted block of CWE was denied any tax incentives for the project. If this is true, any word on whether or not they are regrouping to alter the project or will this be the end of it?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Haven’t read of any changes to the plan or tax incentives, but it doesn’t look like the bill has moved much at the Board of Aldermen. I have heard they’re still pursuing 5yrs @ 50% abatement.

      • Nick

        Gotcha. Along these lines, do you have a feel for what percentage of tax abatement proposals put before various aldermen actually make it through committee and are passed? Are there certain wards more prone to turning away proposals? For example, I know the central corridor sees far more of its share of tax incentives, but are there are lot of projects in the area that are being turned down along the way? Or is it, if you’re a developer with a decent plan you’re pretty much guaranteed incentives?

        • Alex Ihnen

          Pretty much guaranteed. Some aldermen will tell you they negotiated the absolutely best deal possible, that they played real hardball with the developer. I don’t buy it.

          As a side note, I find the TIF/CID/abatement debate really lacking. OF COURSE these things are located in the Central Corridor – that’s our region’s central business district, two major universities, the region’s top cultural attractions, and so on…that’s where development is going to occur, where developers will hope to build. AND – I have yet to see a proposal for tax abatement in north city, for instance, be denied. You have to have development/developers in order to have incentives.

  • Nick

    Not sure if I missed it in the story, but how long are the Locust Street Lofts supposed to take to renovate? Also, any news regarding the tudor building there?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Best guess = 12 months from start of work, which is a few months away. Sounds like the Tudor building is planned for demo and replacement, but no further info there.

      • MRNHS

        Along those same lines, I see that apartments and lobby/janitor’s closet is planned for street level. Understand that retail is a difficult sell right now, but how easy is it to convert this to retail later on (if demand returns)?

        • Alex Ihnen

          Probably easy, but yes, downtown retail isn’t strong.

  • Frank Absher

    What’s the latest word on the surprise “modular” homes controversy in TGE? Glad there’s an alderman or two willing to fight, but it irks me that developers seem deaf and blind to neighborhood sensibilities and esthetics.
    Is it expecting too much in hoping a developer would do more than the bare minimum to please the residents who live nearby?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Well, I’ll take something of the other side. If a community or neighborhood wants a say, they can work to create a local historic district that then allows design to be dictated.

      I find this is a difficult issue in St. Louis City where we unarguably have amazing, in tact, historic, beautiful brick neighborhoods. In fact, we probably have too many – meaning there isn’t enough demand.

      It could absolutely make sense to have architectural review with heavy community input. What I see are growing pains as the city and residents adjust to new development for the first time in decades in many places.

      The local historic districts are imperfect in many ways as well, as strict adherence to materials and other elements don’t always help to produce a quality design.

      • Tim E

        I will add another thought to that. At what point do you have too much input? I’m pretty sure the existing homes were built with limited code and zoning and certainly not community reviews. For most part, existing homes were built for the demand and preference of the market.
        ..
        Another way I like to think about it. My last two homes, current out west and my house Shrewsbury are in neighborhoods with character and uniqueness. Character isn’t because you have conformity its because people where allowed to build to some of their own desires instead of others. Conformity was my cookie cutter townhouse in a Chicago suburb a few years bak. Most of the original homes in St. Louis itself were built without rules and districts. Its just so happen that brick was building material of choice and labor to put up that brick was cheap.
        ..
        So a better question might be. How can cost effectiveness of pre fab construction with right materials provide affordable new construction & meet market expectations in the city?

        • Frank Absher

          When I look at the new construction of residences in Lafayette Square I see evidence of sensitivity in developers to meet the high expectations of the residents.
          I don’t think that is too much to ask in other neighborhoods.

          • Alex Ihnen

            In Lafayette Square developers are forced to adhere to quite strict guidelines as laid out by the local historic district. I’m not convinced that these guidelines have produced the best infill, but they have kept Lafayette Square more/less architecturally homogeneous. IMO, the argument for this in Lafayette Square, or Soulard, or other places, is much more clear that across broad swaths of very beautiful, but very very abundant parts of South STL. For the record, I too cringe at some of the infill we see in the city, I’m just not sure how much it should be regulated. I’d like to see more form based regulations – lot size, height, curb cuts, etc.

          • Frank Absher

            I guess my question is what (realistically) can be done to avoid that after-the-fact cringe, not to mention its effect on surrounding property values?

          • Alex Ihnen

            Residents can attempt to create a local historic district that would regulate design and materials. I understand your reference to property values, but a home like the one on Michigan is being built because property values are (probably) at an all-time high. It’s not clear that new home is going to have a negative effect on prices.

          • Tim E

            I guess I don’t understand the concern with property values when this infill is supposedly going to be priced at $200,000 which is above any existing homes valued under that? Another way too put it, how does selling a new house valued more then the existing homes going to negatively effect or impact property values? So not sure what you mean
            ..
            I would also argue if exterior treatment is done right and pre-fab is good construction that most interested buyers would not know that it was pre fab in first place. That being said, I think the developer will find it better to build to a wider spec/size even though the over size trucking requirement might add some cost.

          • Tim E

            Plus all markets are local like politics. Lafayette Square price point is going to be higher then most other neighborhoods in the city. So the idea that market will support a higher price here because it did there is not realistic IMO.