Centene Corporate Auditorium, Parking Garage Design Revisions Presented

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Design for the largest project downtown Clayton has ever seen continues to evolve. While the most anticipated elements of Subdistrict 2B are set for future phases, the parking garage fronting Forsyth Boulevard will come first.

Once planned as a garage with an architecturally interesting facade, such as the metal scales of the existing Centene garage a block east, then as a faux residential facade, the most recent renderings depict something that looks basically like a parking garage. The design has more architectural heft than pasting on architectural elements or art and may meld well with the adjacent auditorium. The south side of the garage is planned to be covered by future residential development.

The auditorium location switched from east to west of Carondelet Plaza months ago, and the new images show the original concept of a transparent facade revealing the core auditorium structure continues. Even as towers rise around it, the HOK-designed structure would clearly be a new landmark for Clayton.

Overall, the new design provides welcome variation along the length of Forsyth compared to previous designs. The garage will rise eight levels above ground, and delve five levels below grade. The auditorium is planned to have 900-1,000 seats.

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  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    I don’t care about Clayton politics. No one I know or myself can afford any of the rentals. The city of 15,000 residents is a flourishing capitalist experiment ., and creating a better skyline than downtown STL. It is a daytime only active city.

    • Chris Meyers

      Better than the downtown skyline? Yea, that’s a big negative. Downtown STL has one of the best skylines in the country. Clayton? Not so much.

  • stlchiefs

    How many times can they change the design after already receiving approval? This seems like a total slight of hand when all the public comments and meetings have come and gone, from which Centene made adjustments to appease some of those and then they’ve now rolled back some of the exact changes they made to appease people. I think a big change is the prettied up parking garage -> facade parking garage -> prettied up parking garage. The agreement to blend the garages a bit was a big win for people that didn’t want to see massing of garages along Forsyth. Welcome back to the massing of garages.

    And what now takes the spot of the Auditorium in Phase 3?

  • STL Forever

    “Wow” the public and city of Clayton officials with flashy design concepts, get Clayton approval, then change design to less flashy (probably cheaper) concept.

    I am suspicious of Centene. This is at least the third round of concepts. Do it right the first time. Not sure about saving space for future apartments. Are you sure they will be built in a timely manner? I’m not.

    I am all for growth of a local company, but this process of design concepts, approval, and then more changes…cause for pause.

    • stlchiefs

      Could not agree more. Is Clayton going to call them on this or will they continue to sit back and just be content that someone is building on vacant land? It’s interesting how Clayton will stick it to some developers with good plans (see proposed development across Forsyth that was a few parking spots short of city requirements) and then let others pretty much do as they will.

  • tztag

    First thing I thought was that Clayton may regret issuing permits for that garage without the adjoining residential. We could be looking at a blank concrete wall for 20 years…

  • I see that one of these pictures shows a string quartet on stage in the new auditorium. Should the City be concerned that the Symphony Orchestra may choose to move part of its season to Clayton?

    • STLEnginerd

      I’m sure the city IS concerned when venues are opened outside the city limits that directly compete with existing venues in the city. The one thing the city has managed to maintain dominance of is cultural institutions.

      Whether the symphony may move is hard to say, if for instance, Centene (or its CEO) wanted to draw them there they could easily put up enough money to do it.

      That said new venues are going to open. The city has to adapt.

      It is strange how far outside its core competency Centene is straying. Apartments, Performance Venues etc. Seems like a distraction from what really makes the money.

      • Tom of the Missouri

        My guess is that it is just a money making business deal with Bob Clark to make some more money. Mr. Nierdorf, Centene Chairman and Mr. Clark, a construction magnet and developer of the largest two next door buildings, are just making some extra money by soaking the Clayton and American taxpayers. Mr Nierdof does this with expanded medicaid (which Centene manages as its main business) via Obama care and lobbied for by all the giant healthcare corporations like BJC, Humana, Ascension, etc. BJC, if anyone has noticed, is of course also enjoying some of those same medicaid fruits so well managed by Centenne so that it too , like Centene, is now capable of building its own endless set of Ivory towers. Why they need them is a mystery to me since most medical breakthroughs in history happened in wartime in easy and cheap to erect tents or quonset huts, where actual lifesaving was the goal, as opposed to building gold plated institutions and investments for healthcare involved moguls. Last I checked the 40 plus year wars on cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes is showing little fruit despite all the degrees, ivory towers and billions spent on genome sequencing centers and drugs. All those diseases I think are getting worse, but likely have obvious and simple nutritional solutions which are almost completely ignored by all these elite country draining money wasters They make Eisenhower’s military industrial complex warning seem like small potatoes. Centenes’ building extravaganza is just one small symptom of that problem and complex, and it doesn’t even have a good side effect like like Eisenhower’s complex which was defending the country. It’s main side effect, at least in the short run, is soaking the future taxpayers of America and Clayton. In the long run it will of course leave our children a bankrupt country and some Clayton apartments and misplaced parking garages those same children will not be able to afford.

        P.S. As to the parking garages, I think they all should have been placed south and east of Carondolet along the Forest Park Parkway curve adjacent to and east of the existing ugly Ritz garage. No one would have minded seeing yet another garage next to the one ugly one already there and away from the most valuable potential retail land. I know it would have been too much a burden for all of Mr. Nierdorf’s employees to walk an extra few feet to work each day, but it would have left the other land to building a more interesting and inviting Clayton, which means more foot traffic and shops as opposed to yet another huge blank concrete wall, or even a decorated wall like the one on Forsyth. If some of his employees were especially vulnerable snowflakes, he could have simply built them a tunnel or enclosed above walk way, as BJC does down in the city for its thousands of obese and diabetic snowflake employees so they don’t have to mix with the city riffraff or be confronted by any struggling street vendors on their way to their brand spanking new Ivory towers. Putting the garage there would also increase the likelihood that any of those far eastward buildings that he promises to build in some uncertain future actually happen. So far all buildings proposed there have never got off the ground. He even moved his once proposed auditorium for that site to a closer west location. I think now that any of Mr. Nierdorf’s proposals for that far eastern edge by the metro link station is a mirage to encourage us all to desert crawl to the approval of his potential second ill placed parking garage which will result in an actual desert on Forsyth or at least a suburban style office park.

        • STLEnginerd

          Fun rant.

          Actually i think the parking should have gone north of Forsyth on the vacant parcels there. Could pretty much duplicate the one on the opposite side of Hanley. Then do mixed used office for the narrower lots north of Crescent. That would fill out those blocks well. I say this because i am not overly confident Phase 3 will happen and as rendered. It seems likely that there would be some reductions in healthcare under the new administration. I think we will avoid full scale repeal but the Rs will have to do something to have any credibility on the issue. If they build Phase 3 i would be worried they are over expanding and it could bite them.

          Also I like the auditorium in the new location it better fits the street wall profile without a dumb round about.

          • Tom of the Missouri

            Don’t disagree with moving the auditorium but I thought the city should approve the Saur Bros. project north of Forsyth. I think Clayton needs something more than just $2,000 and up Apartments and they were proposing moderate cost ones. I don’t blame them though for ditching the project after all the Hoops the Clayton Planning Commission sometimes asks Developers to jump through. This is especially true after all the quality work the Saur bros have done in Clayton over the years.

          • stlchiefs

            Yep, pretty sure they could have found a way to nab a few of the 6,000 parking spots Centene is building if the residents really needed them as part of that proposed development. Instead, being a few spots shy of city requirements killed it. Who knew every household was required to have 2 cars when you live a block from the Metro and are walking distance to a CBD?

          • Tim E

            I don’t think it will come out that great being attached to a fair size parking garage.

          • STLEnginerd

            meh. scotttrade is attatched to a garage. Garages are necessary to some degree and this one seems fairly benign. The longer one up the hill however i think is a poor use as it is quite long by comparison. Would have been much better across the street and set back a bit to create aan active street wall.

      • Framer

        Waaaaaay back when Centene had announced their plan to move Downtown, Niedorf said he wanted to be part of a larger, mixed-use environment. He was very impressed with such projects in other cities. That’s why they were interested in Ballpark Village.

        All of these extras are just what we would have had Downtown, if Cordish hadn’t shooed Centene away.

        • tpekren

          I think Framer summed it up well on what is all about
          Centene/Niedorf and Cordish/DeWitt fought over the goose that layed the golden egg. Cordish/DeWitt overplayed their hand and Centene/Niedorf wisely walked away. Bob Clark w Clayco saw a great opportunity to make it happen in Clayton CBD. I can’t help but think DeWitt must have had some regrets by now with the deal he signed onto with Cordish.

    • Wabash

      No, there shouldn’t be any concern with the Symphony. But Centene’s CEO Neidorff is a major benefactor of the performing arts, so it’s likely this will consistently host performances. This auditorium will be much closer in size to the Sheldon or the Loretto-Hilton Center in Webster (where St. Louis Opera performs) than Powell.

    • Nick

      Powell Hall holds almost three times the capacity of the planned Centene auditorium….and while the average classical event doesn’t hit capacity, STLSO has been hosting more mainstream concerts that sell out almost immediately (Ben Folds and Nelly for example from this past year). I doubt they’ll move.

    • PD

      While the Symphony might not the St. Louis Ballet is still looking for somewhere other than UMSL to call home. Good point.