$300M Lighthouse Entertainment, Marina, Retail Development Moves Ahead in St. Louis City

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When we reported on the proposed Lighthouse St. Louis development in 2015, it was with a fair bit of…let’s say skepticism, the kind reserved for development proposals like Harbor San Carlos in St. Charles. And yet, the $300M Lighthouse St. Louis isn’t dead. The site has been cleared, raised, and has been back before the St. Louis City Planning Commission.

The 70-acre site sits immediately north if I-270 along the Mississippi River at the city limits. The project has changed a bit over the last couple years, but raising and grading the site appears done, and it remains a mixed-use destination retail and entertainment center, with a marina and boardwalk.

The latest plan, presented to the city’s Planning Commission, shows the following: IMAX, Dinner Theater, Concert Hall Theatre, Water Park, Visitors Center, Marina, Sporting Goods, Gas Station, and a number of outlots and other commercial space, and yes, a lighthouse.

Lighthouse STL_map

The project was in front of the Planning Commission to request a zoning change from “Single-Family Dwelling District” (and no, that current zoning designation does not make any sense) to “Special Mixed Use Area”. Second, the developer is seeking the establishment of a Special Use District (SUD). The SUD allows for excluding certain uses. Prohibited would be: check- cashing establishments; pawn shops; utility stations or towers; public storage facilities for rent or lease; open storage; and warehouse/distribution. Conditional uses would be: cell phone, beeper, or pager shops; automobile or truck rental requiring outside storage of vehicles. The SUD would also create a 100ft setback along the river.

It’s a little difficult to understand how such a development would succeed financially. The city, and especially North City, is losing population quickly. The metro east lost more residents from 2000-2010 than did the city (-8%). St. Louis County is losing population, and primarily from North County. And the St. Louis region remains over-retailed. Among the litany of examples (see: Jamestown Mall et al.), even Chesterfield is seeing a challenging retail environment (see Chesterfield Mall and outlet centers).


Images from our previous report:

Lighthouse Saint Louis


Lighthouse STL_3Lighthouse Saint Louis 2

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  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    what happened to location, location, location. Commercial real estate is wack.

  • Justin Wolfe

    Who ever thought it is a good idea to put a marina above the chain of rocks hasn’t thought this one through.

  • PD

    It would be great to have a real Marina closer to stl than alton.

  • Tony

    As a North County resident I attended the St. Louis City Planning and Zoning for this site. This small group is NOT asking for a TIF. They took this entrance to our State and City from a flooded overgrown swamp and weed field into a usable site over the 20yrs. Of work. Their plans for this site seemed exciting. A river walk to get up and close to the river and a Boardwalk with Restaurants, all overseeing a Marina. They produced letters of intent from interested businesses who would like to be on the Boardwalk, which they also indicated is completely out of the flood plain. They spoke of safe family oriented location which would be the final destination of the Bike path. So the question is, if they don’t develope this as a Marina and Boardwalk. What do they do with it? Should it be developed? Should they let it grow back to an eye sore? If they are not asking for a TIF, then I’m all for a Riverfront Development. Something new and exciting other than a tattoo parlor, and pawn shop.
    But that’s just my opinion.

  • STLEnginerd

    Yeah I feel like this project is 20 years too late. Obviously catering to bridge traffic would logical and I think a marina in the county would be cool, but I doubt very much the population trends are going to reverse anytime soon.

    What is the financial risk to the city if a TIF property fails. Yes the region is over retailed but the development would only impact the county not the city because of it geographical isolation from the city core. SO a TIF might hurt the county more than help the city, but I think it would help the city more than it not existing as long as there is no liability for failure.

    If I was the county I would lobby against a city TIF. If I was the city I would try to use it as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the county on another issue.

  • John

    While it looks nice in concept form, I agree that this proposed development seems unnecessary. I also question the long-term sustainability. Like the other comments, I unofficially vote no on tax incentives unless the benefits for taxpayers can be fully justified.

  • mc

    No tax incentives. If the city voted down the MLS stadium, there is no way anything else will pass. No way. I hope this gets off the ground without public tax dollars.

    • Nick

      Unfortunately we don’t get to vote on who gets abatements and TIF money…only our Aldermen do.

  • Andy

    As long as we’re not giving them tax dollars, I say good for them. I don’t think it will work but it would be nice to have a marina closer than Alton. I don’t think we have any need for more retail but if they want to take the risk and aren’t being subsidized by tax dollars then I hoe they are successful.

    • Nick

      Absolutely no way a project like this gets off the ground without tax incentives.