What Should Be: Delmar and Skinker

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The Ferris wheel idea is dead. So what should be at Delmar and Skinker? Another auto-oriented fast-food joint a la Taco John’s? A parking lot? A park? A traditional building?

{H3 Studio}

The Skinker DeBaliviere Neighborhood Plan calls for a mixed-use building much like that adorns the rest of the Delmar Loop. The proposed form-based code in the TOD Plan for the Delmar Loop and Forest Park DeBaliviere Metrolink Stations placed the parcel in the Boulevard Type 2 category, with heights of 3-12 stories and 40 to 130 feet. The FBC would set no parking minimum.

{The lot is about as big as 4400 Manchester}

The parcel is currently zoned F. Neighborhood Commercial with height limit of 3 stories or 50 feet. Parking minimums are:
Office Uses:
< 7,500 SQ FT: No Off-Street Parking Requirement > 7,500 SQ FT: One (1) Space Per 1,250 SQ FT in excess of the 7,500 SQ FT
Primary Retail Uses:
< 3,000 SQ FT: No Off-Street Parking Requirement > 3,000 SQ FT: One (1) Space Per 700 SQ FT in excess of the 3,000 SQ FT
Residential Uses:
One (1) Space Per Dwelling Unit
Secondary Retail Uses:
< 7,500 SQ FT: No Off-Street Parking Requirement > 7,500 SQ FT: One (1) Space Per 1,250 SQ FT in excess of the 7,500 SQ FT

Apartment Blockers – Parking rules raise your rent

Meeting current height and parking regulations, I could fit 25 apartments, 5000 sf of retail space, and 31 parking spots. An elevator and ground-floor apartments are included because the neighborhood plan identifies senior-compatible housing as a need in short supply.

Some parking would be within the building.

If we can get over our parking fetish and not take the government-mandated requirements as sacred, we can go taller, making the land more productive, thus increasing further the tax base without increasing tax rates to help make the city solvent. And more people living in the neighborhood means more to patronize local businesses without bringing a car. Four stories- 36 apartments, 0.78 parking spots per dwelling unit. Five stories 47 apartments, 0.53 parking spots per dwelling unit. I wouldn’t go above five so as to not dwarf the New Cote Brilliante Church next door.

{From Greater Central Avenue Albuquerque}
Assuming one person per bedroom, the three-floor configuration is at 69 people per acre, four-floor 100 per acre, five-floor 131 per acre. In order for the city’s population to be 600,000, its land must average 15 people per acre.

{Delmar and Union. This in on a parcel smaller than Delmar and Skinker}

That’s my vision, what do you think should be at Delmar and Skinker?

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  • Chicagoan

    So, is the plan for NextStL to slowly die off as a result of a lack of content?

    Surely, there’s got to be more development & preservation news in the time since this article was written.

    Is there somewhere else I should go if I want to read about your beautiful city?

    • rgbose

      Alex who wrote 90% of the content has left St. Louis. Content doesn’t just happen. I plan to have pics of the completed Everly up soon.

      • guest

        Jason Deem mentioned on reddit that he’s trying to iron out various administrative details and bring in more contributors. It seems to me the hardest part of filling Alex’s shoes is that he was able to get ‘breaking’ stories on various development projects. I would assume he did that by being in contact with the developers themselves. Richard, do you think there’s hope for the site to find someone who could fill that function?

        • rgbose

          Hard to guess. No one is whispering in my ear! Anyone in the know is welcome to set forward.

  • kjohnson04

    Richard, that makes sense. I don’t really understand our open hostility to density in the city. We propose some interesting ideas and the ruin them by adding parking minimums that guarantee a sea of asphalt surrounding a much smaller building.

  • baopuANDu

    I come here late to the game, perhaps, but, I wonder, is this property actually up for sale and what is the asking price?

    • rgbose

      Not as far as I know. The For Lease sign is still up.

  • Luftmentsch

    Build a crazy, lovely, fun public space. Chess & checkers tables, benches, space for street performers, a small playground, fountain, a kiosk selling hotdogs and non-alcoholic drinks, bocce ball, and definitely a police substation, so officer friendly can stay in the mix.

    What’s the point of another massively subsidized apartment building at a super-busy intersection? There’s lots of space farther east on Delmar, if developers are actually interested.

    • rgbose

      That’s a great idea for the empty AT&T parking lot.

      Massively subsidized is the McKee grocery and gas station.

      Because unless we build more “city” the city will become more insolvent.

  • tpekren

    So do I understand correctly that this is corner of old Church’s chicken? If so RB can confirm that Wash U development arm has indeed bought the property or have it under contract? The rumor floating on urbanstl but if so, talk about a very plausible outcome sooner than later.
    Also, I believe city agreed to use eminent domain powers for the developer to secure the Circle K gas station kitty corner on another development. Might be confused on that one as well but believe that is what I last read for the northeast corner of Delmar and Skinker

    • rgbose

      I’ve heard nothing to indicate WashU bought the property. I figured they would have done that right after the Church’s Chicken closed if the owner was willing to sell.

      Yes, Pace was granted eminent domain power to get Circle K to the table, if not to eventually follow through with it, to get them to give up their lease.

  • AMCity

    Is there actually a demand for what we consider “traditional” retail or living spaces? Seems like there is a tremendous amount of vacancies in other areas of the city..and I am not sold that this is the best use of the space.

    If we want to bring new residents to this area we need to provide NEW amenities/attractions and perhaps this means thinking more strategic about what demographic we want to entice and what is valued to other generations when building a community and embrace new urbanism.

    Millennials and even some Xennials (the newest generation per social scientists) have a completely different set of “American” values and are choosing to live their life in a different way.

    They crave better ways to “meal shop” rather then large grocery store runs, establishments that are green and put our environment first, a FUN escape from their mediocre 9-5 because they have NEVER seen the economy thrive post housing crisis in their adult life. They seek establishments and activities that are inclusive, pet friendly, collaborative, aesthetically pleasing, engaging besides JUST eating, drinking and shopping.

    We need to create something that is a destination, that boosts the quality of “city-living” amenities. I think a different approach will pull in a new demographic and help sustain other investments, including future real-estate purchases.

    Some Ideas that first come to mind:

    – Cater to the self employed or the creatives and make a shared co-working space (similar to Nebula in Cherokee – nebulastl.com)

    – Provide City garden plots for rent – I hear lots of chatter about people wanting to garden and plant their own produce but do not have a yard to do so.

    – A smart solution to meal shop and meal prep similar to open air marketplace vs large grocery store; there is a large portion of the above named generations that do not have kids…they don’t buy groceries for a family of 5 ONCE a week..People want to easliy shop for the meal they are cooking THAT night.. even a Trader Joe’s would be better than more generic lofts!

    – A DIY shared workbench- people want to do DIY projects and don’t have the space or the tools… provide a solution for that. A library system for supplies, and/or offer tutorials (there are some places like that but on a larger scale could be really interesting)

    – An event space that is solely for “pop-ups” – rotating what actually pops-up each month to keep things fresh and exciting. This would be for new businesses that can’t afford a brick and motor building yet, a marketing stunt that a larger company wants to pull (think themes or PR push for companies and brands like Purina, InBev etc.) perhaps, an eatery that out-grew their food truck and wants to test out something else..
    – If it’s retail it needs to be DESTINATION retail…something you can not find elsewhere..

    I am not claiming to have all the answers but I think we need to think about what people value about city living and what is missing? How can this neighborhood standout? How are people living their lives differently and how can we accommodate the non-traditionalists with this space?

    • rgbose

      The ground floor space could certainly be coworking space.
      SD has a two community gardens.
      United Provisions is a block away and there’s a farmer’s market at 6655 Delmar https://www.facebook.com/MidtownFmsMkt/
      The ground space could be a DIY space.
      A pop-up place is a great idea for the parking lots nearby. An indoor version was tried in the former Goodworks space.
      The Loop already stands out.
      What I’d like in the area is a hardware store, though I think Delmar and Goodfellow would be a good place for that.
      The goals of my vision are:
      Highly productive land use to increase the tax base
      More people living nearby.
      When I say traditional, I mean how cities were built before they were built around cars.

  • JZ71

    From an architect – you need more stairs – a single stair tower is not adequate, does not meet code and is not safe . . . as far as parking, it’s more of a marketability / getting financed issue than an arbitrary government (or idealistic “we don’t need any”) number. Most developers know how many spaces they need to make their numbers work, for the tenants they’re hoping to attract, and any savings in construction costs just means more profits, not lower rents – rents are driven by competition (supply and demand)!

    • rgbose

      Easy enough to add another staircase.

  • brickhugger

    Garage (seriously) running the length of the lot, about 6-8 stories, BUT with retail on the ground floor, masonry walls (like Euclid/Lindell or Wash U garage on Forest Park), and 1-2 stories of office/residential on top. And I agree about not narrowing sidewalk; it should be at least 10 feet wide if not wider.

    also, if the apartment building on the NW corner could lease spaces in the new garage at a reasonable rate (one of the reasons for having a larger garage), then their lot on the NE corner could be developed as well.
    EDIT; sorry folks; I misread the address (ADD is to blame) as Delmar and Euclid. ‘never mind’ 🙂

    • rgbose

      An appropriate place for “needed” structured parking is behind the Pageant. We need more people here, not more cars here.

    • Adam

      Yeah I gotta agree with bose. There’s plenty of room for structured parking on the north side of Delmar, at the east end of the Loop, behind some existing buildings like the Pageant, and at the west end of the loop behind Cicero’s (RIP). At this critical corner we don’t want a parking garage, even with retail. Parking garages–even with retail–tend to kill street life. And, again, we need more people actually living within walking distance of the Loop to patronize Loop establishments.

  • STLEnginerd

    The scale is about right but since you asked…

    I think your site plan narrows the sidewalk too much. I think the sidewalk needs to be roughly the same width as it is further east on Delmar. Cantilevering the structure so that it over hangs sidewalk and adds square footage to the upper level is a possibility but i doubt i would like the way it would look. IMHO the sidewalk in front of the ATT building is too narrow as well and should not be a model for new construction in the vicinity.

    Apartments on the ground floor are not essential and i would probably recommend utilizing that space to support the retail or parking.

    I don’t really like the dead wall facing delmar. IMHO Delmar is far more retail friendly than Skinker so if there had to be a dead wall i would point it that way. It could provide a nice face for a mural or advertising as well with good visibaility to the traffic heading east on delmar. Personally i prefer sub level parking but it is a tight squeeze.

    One option that COULD be considered is incorporating the mixed use building next door into a site plan. Preserve the facade but demolish/reconfigure the building to allow for underground parking. If that was what made it economical. This building reconfigured could easily house the apartment amenities referenced in the site plan. (ground floor retail, gym/clubhouse on the second floor, and rooftop pool/patio)

    I think no matter what not much will happen here until the success of Everly has been determined. If it rents fast then this lot could follow quickly. If it doesn’t then there will be a lot of hand wringing to determine whether the market will support another mixed use building. Personally i think the Everly will be successful and accelerate development in the loop.

    • rgbose

      It wasn’t my intention to eat any of the sidewalk. I updated the image.

      This property would already be developed but for the property owner.

      Sure you could drop the ground floor apts if there was demand for more retail. My sense of the area is that it needs more people than more retail space at the moment.

      • STLEnginerd

        The revised image is a little clearer, thanks…

        True the loop is over flowing with retail. But the SE corner of the intersection of Skinker and Delmar has to be one most visible properties in the entire loop. So it makes more sense to me to have retail here and if another retail stall in the loop get converted to a less retail oriented use then so be it.

        Another thing to think about is why shouldn’t the upper levels of a mixed use building here be housing service businesses like a dentist, or doctors offices. Those kinds are services aren’t that well represented in the loop and older buildings are harder to retrofit for specialties like these, where as a new build could have it planned in.

        Just more food for thought i guess. Honestly i will be OK with it as long as it is at least 3 stories, a corner retail stall, and doesn’t include green space or surface parking between the building and the street.

        • rgbose

          Dentist, etc upstairs would be great too. Neighbors would go more crazy about “needed” parking though.

  • Pam Mashman Venn

    Thank you for your analysis. This allows for more realistic consideration of the space and requirements.

    Why are so many apartments and lofts very small? We moved here from metro ny suburb area 2 years ago and would have loved a loft space that was 2,000 square feet with an interesting feel! But nothing like that really exists around here except downtown.

    Question, the parking lot across the street to the west, which seems to be NEVER USED part of some antique telecom building or such…would it be possible to negotiate permanent use of that surface real-estate for parking?

    Anyway, i dont know what to do with the corner. Glad it will not be a ferris wheel!

    what about a nursery/garden center? Dry cleaner? Good quality convenience store?

    Quality, nicely executed Senior housing is in growing demand, and something with a circular drive entrance for pickup and drop off, may minimize the amount of parking needed.

    Whatever it is, it will be difficult to pull out against traffic…

    • rgbose

      From what I heard AT&T won’t give up their barely-used lot across the street because of security concerns. Strange that fact that you can look into the building from the sidewalk is not a security concern.

      I scaled the apts in my drawing to those in the new building on Central Ave in Clayton.

      The biggest apts in the new buildings in the CWE aren’t 2000 sf. 3 BD 1543 sf in the Orion is $4100+ per month!

      You cuoild probably buy a 6-fam and combine two units to get close to 2000 sf

      • tpekren

        I wonder if ATT concern is really about a piece of infrastructure within the building, switch board, gadget that gets expensive to relocate because of associated wire, infrastructure tied into it unless someone hands them a big check to relocate.

        • brickhugger

          Western union was forced to give up their building with 1000’s of cables to make way for the Gateway Mall; so can AT&T, especially since they are moving out of their 40 story tower downtown.

          • tpekren

            I don’t think it is a question of forcing a move but paying/reimbursing the move. I’m sure that Gateway Mall cost at end of day including significant utility cost and relocations for which Western Union got reimbursed. Heck, metrolink cross county extension included a significant cost added/increase for utilities when a portion was put underground new Wash U and then it was abruptly stated as overruns.
            Even the eminent domain power on the gas station across the street will require a payment to Circle K for reasonable value of property

    • PD

      From a friend that works for ATT said they simple refuse to pay to move the thousands of wires that all lead to that building. It was/is the main switching post for all the land lines for miles.

  • Thomas

    This is good news that the ferris wheel is out! I think putting the parking underground, making the ground floor into privately or chained owned shops i.e., dry cleaning service, food, restaurant, possible workout facility, and then make the second and third story into loft apartments will drive new development into the area.

  • Nick

    Unless massively subsidized, I doubt you’re going to find many developers looking to put apartments there, given the 14-story Everly across the street. I don’t think anyone’s dying to put in any more retail there either. It could probably succeed as a different fast-food joint, but I agree that would suck given it’s the Loop. My prediction is that lot will sit as an empty parking lot for many more years.

    • Adam

      But the Everly is targeting students. The 2- and 3- bedroom units are advertised as having individual bathrooms, individual leases per bedroom, and lockable bedroom doors. A smaller building with a more domesticated target audience could be successful.

      • Nick

        True the Everly is targeted towards students; however, that’s a large block of students, in the hundreds, who will not choose to live elsewhere in the surrounding neighborhood. Many of those neighborhoods have housing that’s mixed between student and non-student residents, such as in Debaliviere or the streets directly north of Delmar on the Loop. So the construction of the Everly still affects capacity of non-student housing in the area.

        • rgbose

          Can we consider that there’s so much demand that occupancy rates won’t fall? I guess time will tell.

          • Nick

            That would be great, but I can’t imagine that being the case. It would require about 400-500 additional people to move to the Loop area that wouldn’t have done so otherwise.

          • rgbose

            The predicted 200 jobs in the Pace development might help.

          • Nick

            Of which maybe 5-10% will move to the neighborhood as opposed to commuting from elsewhere? That would be 10-20 people.

            Look, I’m all for the neighborhood being built out, but a dose of realism may be warranted at times.

          • rgbose

            How do you know that?
            How do you know how many people want to live in the neighborhood?
            Are rents rising? Occupancy rates holding high? Do you have any data?

          • Nick

            You want me to produce data supporting the conclusion that increasing the number of apartments in a neighborhood will cause downward pressure on rent?


          • rgbose

            I have a degree in economics already, thanks!

          • Nick

            Then what’s the problem? The last Census shows decreasing population trends in both the Skinker Debaliviere neighborhoods and U City. Without increases in population, adding housing stock will likely cause rents to fall. What’s so controversial about that to you?

          • rgbose

            The 2010 Census has little bearing on apartment demand elasticity in 2017. Try again.

          • Nick

            You’re just throwing out random terms now and hoping something sticks. I never said anything at all about elasticities. We’re talking about shifts in the demand and supply curves, not changes in the slope.

            Maybe this one’s more your speed:


          • rgbose

            If the supply curve shifts due to a new building and demand is inelastic the price won’t change much. Maybe take your own advice.

          • Nick

            You have that backwards. If demand is elastic, price won’t change much to shifts in supply.

          • rgbose

            Touche. You still haven’t provided any evidence supporting the claim that 25-40 apartments added to the market a year or two from now won’t be rented.

          • tpekren

            Something that would be difficult to quantify but I would assume a consideration for this area in current market studies is Centene expansion/jobs consolidation to the west and continued BJC/Cortex job growth to the east. The Loop area/Delmar East/Skinker area is ideally suited in the middle with an expanding Wash U campus anchor/developer to the south.

          • Nick

            I never said that 40 additional units couldn’t be rented. I said it might be tough to convince developers to build there given it probably isn’t very profitable given the amount of risk in such a project. My evidence for this is the lack of any major plans to develop the site for residences. If it were such a great site for residential, why aren’t developers falling over themselves to purchase the site (like they do when, say, a site in the Cortex district is sold).

          • rgbose

            My understanding is that the owner refuses to sell.

        • Adam

          But is there much unused capacity in the surrounding neighborhoods? Skinker-DeBalivier and the chunk of U. City between Delmar and Olive in the Loop are pretty full. And there’s apparently demand for new homes and apartments in S-D. Maybe I’m mistaken, but so far it seems that every new residential development in the city is met with “there’s not enough demand”, yet they fill up. Is there a recent development that’s struggling? I can’t think of one.

      • tpekren

        Agree with Adam, what I think gets difficult at this location and loop/Delmar East in general vs CWE on Euclid is subsidizing underground parking. I think you are really looking at some ground level parking incorporated into the development.