Missouri Foundation for Health Plans New Home at Columbia Iron Works in The Grove

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The Missouri Foundation for Health, with current offices on 18th Street at Union Station in St. Louis, is planning at $12.5M remake of the long-vacant Columbia Iron Works site on the south side of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood. Design work is being led by HOK and KAI Design Build.

MFH is seeking the demolition of several residential properties on Tower Grove and Hunt Avenues, though the prominent 2.5-story, 7,600sf building at the southeast corner of Tower Grove and Vista Avenues would remain and be rehabbed and utilized by MFH. Demolition would make way for “green space as well as parking”. In addition, MFH is requesting Hunt Avenue be converted to a two-way street.

Project details and images from Park Central Development Corp:

4254 Vista: Request for Demolition, Curb Cut, Conversion of Hunt into Two Way Street
Site Addresses: 4254 Vista, 1400-4 Tower Grove, 1408-10 Tower Grove, 4221 Hunt, 4223 Hunt, 4225 Hunt, and 4433 Hunt
Request: Demolition, Curb Cut, Conversion of Hunt into Two Way Street
Company Name: HOK / KAI Design Build

Project Information

History of site
The site is a consolidation of fifteen parcels of varying use histories (industrial, residential & ground floor mercantile) located around the Columbia Iron Works building. The site has been vacant for a number of years. The Columbia Iron Works has been added onto at various times throughout its history with the earliest portion constructed around 1920.

Proposed Project
The project entails a complete renovation of the existing Columbia Iron Works building, including improvements to the surrounding site to support the mission of Missouri Foundation for Health. The Columbia Iron Works building will serve as the executive office for the Foundation with 30,120 sq ft. In addition, the multi-family/ground floor mercantile building at 1400-02 Tower Grove Ave has 7,600 sq ft. The specific use is to be determined, but it will be additional support space for the Foundation.

The design will respect the history of the existing building, as well as the Foundation’s desire to occupy this site in perpetuity. The materials used will support that concept utilizing clay masonry, steel, glass, and other similar materials in the renovation. There will be on-site parking and will include community space on both the interior and exterior. The overall square footage 4254 Vista: Request for Demolition, Curb Cut, Conversion of Hunt into Two Way Street of the project including exterior space and parking is approximately 114,480 sq ft. The structures at 4245, 4227 4223, and 4219 Hunt as well as the building at 1408-1410 Tower Grove are to be demolished to accommodate green space as well as parking.

The target parking quantity is approximately 150 surface parking spaces which will be screened with landscape planting from Tower Grove Avenue, Vista Avenue, and Hunt Street.

Current Zoning
“J” Industrial

Project Costs
Acquisition: $ 1,900,000
Pre-Development Soft-Costs: $ 200,000
Construction Costs: $10,400,000 (includes environmental remediation)
Total: Approximately $12,500,000
Project Timeline:
Site Control: May, 2017
Construction Start: October, 2017
Construction Complete: August, 2018
Occupancy: September, 2018

* Update with Park Central Development Committee vote:

  • Denial of demolition for 1408-1410 Tower Grove Avenue
  • Denial of curb cut for “flexible community area”
  • Approval of demolition for 4245, 4227 4223, and 4219 Hunt Avenue
  • Approval of converting Hunt Avenue to two-way street, pending traffic study
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  • rgbose

    Richard Callow‏Verified account @publiceyestl 3m3 minutes ago
    #PresBd denies demo permit for 1408-10 Tower Grove.

    • Adam


  • kjohnson04

    I’d veto the project on two counts; there is sufficient parking in the neighborhood as is, and doesn’t need or warrant anymore being added; and one of the two buildings slated for demolition is occupied and the other in need of rehab, rather than demolition. We’ve saved buildings in worse condition.

  • Joe Lengyel

    The building doesn’t fit into the planned use of the premises. It’s not really more complicated than that. They are salvaging the other bigger buildings that are part of the plan. If we stay focused on the big picture, its a win win. I am a business/property owner in the neighborhood for over a decade and I’m pleased to see this block getting attention. This entity is spending a significant amount of money on this project and I don’t see anything wrong with the plan, especially since all the properties on the subject block have sat forlorn for years.

    The south side of Manchester in the Grove will undergo serious change in the next 18 months for the better. Not all existing structures are going to be saved, nor should they be. Investors and developers are stepping up to do good things. Anyone on this thread could have stepped up a long, long time ago to save the subject building if desired. I’m grateful to Park Central and the Board for their time commitment over the years to improve the FPSE neighborhood.

    • Alex Ihnen

      It would appear the residential building they hoped to demo is currently occupied – not vacant and forlorn. It’s certainly just my opinion, but it seems well past time to simply take any project that is a net positive and just say say, “well, there’s some bad ideas here, but overall it’s good”. And please stop with the if-you-like-the-building-so-much-you-should-have-stepped-up-and-bought-it stuff. We’re way past that. If you don’t think anyone other than someone who can buy a building should have a say in such things, then let’s get rid of Park Central, the neighborhood associations, committees, etc.

      Anyway, the latest update is that the Park Central development committee voted unanimously against the demolition of the residential building on Tower Grove. I’d be shocked if MFH walks away from the project because someone wanted to make the neighborhood a healthier, more attractive, sustainable place to live by preserving housing options.

      • Joe Lengyel

        Thank you for updating the status of the project. The useful information and perspective is why I visit this site and pay attention to this forum. I am a fan of the process through which projects are vetted and have no objection to the decision or the sentiment to save the building, or demolish the buildings on Hunt for that matter. I like the plan, period, even though I don’t have emotion tied to the one building. Hopefully, as you state, this won’t cause MFH to abandon the project. I would view that as an opportunity wasted. That’s not to say that some other project two years from now might not be a better solution. It is simply an opinion that there’s plenty for me to like about the proposed use. It seems a stretch to view that as taking any project.

        I don’t think the Grove south of Manchester is yet at the point where it can name all the terms and conditions of each proposed project, but it is heading in the right direction thank goodness. Few would argue against that. Yet, I know there are residents in the neighborhood who are none to pleased with changes over the last 5 years. Still, I think most would concur that on balance the change has been good, even though some projects don’t please everyone. For example, if the building is occupied then there must be an owner/seller who may not be so pleased if their building is carved out of the project.

        I agree that having forums and processes is important when vetting these proposals. Such mechanisms have helped retain classic neighborhoods like Soulard, Benton Park, and Lafayette Square to name just a few. There is a difference between diplomatic, constructive dialog and participation in the vetting process, and some of the opinions expressed on web sites. That’s the point I was trying to make. Participate directly.

  • Ihanaf

    Park Central is recommending approval of demo of the 4 family building on Tower Grove. Meeting at 5.30pm. Can anyone else speak up?
    4512 Manchester Ave., Suite 100
    5.30 pm

  • Nick

    Personally I think the loss of the building on Tower Grove, while unfortunate, is worth the rehab of the Columbia building along with the building on the corner of TG and Vista. I mean, this is an entire block where literally every structure on it is boarded up, and most of the parking lot square footage is already an empty lot. Way more gained than lost here.

    • Alex Ihnen

      IMO, FPSE is way beyond needed to approve projects that simply offer a net gain. The neighborhood is in demand, to say the least. It’s never had more leverage to push for better design and better development. Housing is so incredibly important in this city and neighborhood. Here you have such a simple win to keep four residential units in a great building on a great street in a great location. It should be unacceptable to tear this building down.

      • Nick

        If FPSE can convince MFH to spare the residential building and continue with the other rehabs as planned, agreed that would be a major victory. If the neighborhood were to have enough leverage to force them to spare the building, and this coerced MFH to drop the entire project, I think that would be a bad deal.

        • CommandoClimateCat

          Park Central CDC has opposed the request but MFH is appealing to the Preservation Board and apparently the Cultural Resources director, Dan Krasnoff (former director of Park Central) is supporting their appeal. The hearing is THIS Monday (4/24) at 4pm (1520 Market #2000). Please show up to show support for the preservation of historic structures and districts.
          We need all the help we can get!

    • Joe Lengyel

      Agree whole heartedly Nick!

  • Creighton Brinson

    Not sure why a Non-Profit with an annual budget of $40+ million is leaving downtown where there is so much vacant office space already around Union Station. Then they are spending amount close to a quarter of their annual budget to buy, demo, and build a new building that clearing is not a good fit for The Grove in it’s current layout. Seems like grand plans for a non-profit who evaluate and bestows grants themselves.

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  • Tysalpha

    Why do they even need the lots fronting Tower Grove? Let’s see… tearing down one building, “flexible parking” – which could be handled on-street, and the TG/Vista corner building that they’re keeping but don’t have a use for yet. Why not leave those three parcels intact for someone else to buy, and only buy the parcel from the iron works east? Or… if they want a nice frontage to Tower Grove, buy the TG/Vista building and include it in the rehab, but leave the other building and open parcel for someone else to do.

  • SouthCityJR

    I’m assuming MFH is a tax exempt entity meaning they most likely will never pay property tax on this? With all the development in this area, if housing were built there instead this would one day contribute to the tax rolls, even if a developer got 10 year abatement. Veto this!

  • Paul Hohmann

    Demolishing this historic 4-family building so MFH can plant some trees in a “secure employee courtyard” is UNACCEPTABLE!!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d0497af72844f5c4650cbcf9fdd42d460b6e9ed35065eff5c9b31a586c699b14.png

    • YouPeopleStink

      Totally agree, man. Darn them(fist shaking in the air)! Too bad it can’t be moved and relocated to somewhere else to preserve it. Love that architectural era. Nostalgic for that time period.

    • Guest

      How is it that a developer is so incredibly clueless of what good urban development is? How can anyone possibly look at this structure and not see that to reproduce such a structure would be so expensive it couldn’t be done? To make more room for parking and green space…??? St. Louis is indeed cursed by what appears to me as developers whose sole purpose is to see the city fail as a desirable place to live. It doesn’t make sense that any competent developer could possibly be that outrageously ignorant in this day.

    • James Holzer

      Agree. This appears lived in and redeemable. It will be a loss of design history and another missing tooth in our collective sense of place.

  • RyleyinSTL

    I can’t understand why all people don’t see the benefit of the street wall?! This is WHY these parts of the city are special you knobs!

    It’s clear to me that anyone who builds an office with a fenced off ‘secure’ area here isn’t really interested in being in this part of town.


  • Wabash

    Completely condescending, disingenuous and contradictory to not include the striping on an asphalt lot with curb cut and label it a “flexible community zone” when the key clearly states it’s “overflow parking – 22 spaces”. Developers just blatantly BS’ing the community on that one.

    This is a fenced-off commuter office building – requesting needless demo along Tower Grove – in the middle of a charming walkable neighborhood. Definitely a net negative for the neighborhood.

    1.) Rotate the new office building down to the corner of Tower Grove & Hunt
    2.) Keep the historic multifamily on Tower Grove
    3.) Keep your big employee parking lot with all 120 spaces (if you must)
    4.) Get rid of the “overflow parking” you’re trying to pass off as a “flexible community zone”
    5.) End up with a better street wall along Tower Grove, all historic buildings intact, all 120 spaces of employee parking, and a LARGER “secure employee courtyard” along Vista between the historic buildings and the employee parking lot.

  • Riggle

    Leaving downtown offices? Demos for parking and “green space”. I love the return of the 80s to this backwater.

    • OfficePark

      Right on Riggle. It’s like an office park from the 1980s. Suburbia for office buildings. These office buildings need front and back yard.

  • Tim E

    What the heck is flexible community supposed to mean. Sorry, take this as Architects and Designers thinking way too much of the themselves for their own good. Doesn’t help that the owner doesn’t call them out on it.

  • Presbyterian

    The demolition on Tower Grove puts a damper on an otherwise great plan. I hope Park Central and the City insist on protecting the Tower Grove street wall.

  • Adam

    Definitely not okay with “removal” of the building on Tower Grove. It’s architecturally significant and there’s no reason it needs to be removed–especially not for green space or a curb cut.

    • Andy

      I agree with Adam here. There are two things our city are not lacking in and that is parking and green space. I am also against the “Flexible Community Zone” on Tower Grove. It appears to just be a giant paved spot on the corner of a road that should be a point of emphasis for development. I don’t know the shape of the building to be demolished on Vista, but it seems like that could be re-purposed to something better than 12-15 parking spots.

      Since this group is a non-profit and doesn’t have to pay property taxes, they don’t have to worry about the optimal and highest value use of the land but this is something that should be demanded of projects. What makes the Grove a success so far is its walkability and density, but then we let projects like this come in and knock down buildings for more parking. We don’t have to beg projects to come to this area; we should require better.

      • Tim E

        Yep, looking at the street view pictures of and along Tower Grover & talk about the development potential on a neighborhood coming back. keep the building and fill in the empty lots along Tower Grove with the townhouse/rowhouse design being proposed for Lafayette square. Even if it takes a few years of the empty green lots as is. It is still better then the community flex zone by a long shot.