Plans Unveiled for New STLCC-Forest Park Health Sciences Center

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A midcentury landmark will fall to the wrecking ball to make room for new green space along the south side of Forest Park according to plans by St. Louis Community College. North of that site, KAI Design & Build is designing a new $39 million Center for Nursing and Health Sciences.
As reported in The Scene, the print and online newspaper of St. Louis Community College Forest Park, the historic A and B towers will be demolished for green space. (link: http://thescenefp.com/2017/10/06/college-break-ground-health-center/) A site plan by KAI shows a grassy rectangular lot where Kiley’s towers now stand. The Scene quotes Forest Park Provost Larry Johnson as saying, “The footprint of the A and B towers will become green space.” The plan preserves all of the school’s extensive asphalt surface parking lots.
The new building will be a four-story 96,000 square foot facility. Provost Johnson explains, “The new facility will be state-of-the art with resources that will give our students an edge in the job market.” Construction will begin in March 2018. The school will demolish Wesse’s towers in 2019.
While the new facility will front Oakland Avenue, its design makes no visible reference Weese and Kiley’s design. It remains unclear why the A and B towers will be demolished, and why surface parking could not be sacrificed instead of a collaborative work by three great midcentury architects.
Noted Modernist Harry Weese designed the Forest Park campus between 1964 and 1967 with his brother Ben Weese (later one of the Chicago Seven) and Dan Kiley, the Father of Modern Landscape Architecture. (link: https://nextstl.com/2017/04/weese-kileys-mid-century-forest-park-campus-threatened/) Kiley is known locally for his design of the Gateway Arch grounds. Weese and Kiley’s design for Forest Park Community College won the first ever 25-Year Award bestowed by the American Institute of Architects, St. Louis Chapter in 1994 for buildings that have “withstood the test of time.”
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  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    All good things must come to an end..i.e.: (SLU hospital finally). The college has had no upkeep or reconstruction. So now it must be demo’d and modernized. It looks now like a lock down psych ward or prison. Except those places have windows.

  • Bryan Castille

    Landmark or no, those towers are unsightly.

    • Bryan Castille

      Historic buildings should not be preserved solely because they’re historic. This city’s fetish for nostalgia is one of its primary weaknesses.

      • jhoff1257

        I’m not particularly crazy about these buildings myself, and won’t shed a tear when they come down, but this city’s “fetish” for older buildings is also one of it’s strengths. Without it we would have lost Lafayette Square (we very nearly did), Benton Park, Soulard, Washington Avenue, and dozens of other historic neighborhoods and properties. Maybe people would be more open to replacing historic buildings with new construction if St. Louis didn’t f*ck up it’s pervious urban renewals so badly. Mill Creek Valley, the Near North Side, Near South Side, large chunks of Midtown and downtown, I could go on. The point is, this city doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to replacing historic properties. In fact, outside of the Arch, nearly every urban renewal project this city pursued has universally failed. Does St. Louis let it’s desire for preservation get in the way sometimes, absolutely. And we should relax some of our historic regulations to allow for new and modern development city wide. But if St. Louisans didn’t give a shit about historic buildings we’d have nothing really worth seeing here. This city’s strength is it’s historic neighborhoods, without question.

  • Nick

    I’m not very sad to see these “towers” go. 700 foot long by 4 stories tall does equate with my definition of tower. Turn it on its side – that would be a tower.

  • STLEnginerd

    Let not kid our selves they are demoing the current building because they want it gone. The new building is being largely built where the current one in not. This is not a to get one the other has to go situation they could easily build this and increase their footprint over all.

    They have simply chosen not to.

    For the record I am ‘ok’ with demoing it for something really great. In my opinion this falls short.

    Personally I’d favor them moving the whole campus downtown (Chouteau’s Landing) and selling the current building to private developers to help cover the moving costs. The Highlands development demonstrates the is demand for new housing and office space options adjacent to Forest park are one of the most readily tapped developable spaces in the region. I bet they could get a good chunk of money for the current property to a big developer with a real plan for what to do with it. The Foundry expands the development energy of CORTEX East, this would tie it to the Highland’s development to the West. The whole campus is roughly the same age so a replacement program is likely if what they say about maintenance has a real truth to it, and moving the campus would draw some much needed youthful energy to downtown as well. SO I am against this primarily because I think they could present a much bolder and more impactful plan along these lines and it would be an order of magnitude better for the city.

    • jhoff1257

      While I’d certainly like to see them Downtown they’d never get enough for this property to cover moving expenses and offset what would likely be large remediation and construction costs at Chouteau’s Landing. Though them filling the Crunden Martin complex would be awesome…

      • STLEnginerd

        well yeah you can’t get enough to offset it all, but you could offset some of it. Not an expert but what is the fair market value of the current campus on the private market. they are already planning to demo the current AB towers for this facility and spend 39 mil to build the new one, so that is already committed. now figure that given the age of the whole campus they will probably be eyeing near total replacement over the next 10-15 years. Bring those expenditures forward to net present value of dollars and consider that sunk as well. Factor in some efficiency gains related to energy usage, make some assumptions about additional property & income tax revenues associated with development of both the current campus and the South Broadway area, throw in some cardinals game day parking revenue, and beg the rest from some well heeled donors.

        Slam dunk? maybe not but its plausible. If they build this building they will probably be right where they are for another 50 years. There are worse things but Forest park is arguably the best thing about St. Louis in general and making good long term choices to maximize it economic contribution is just smart policy IMHO.

        • jhoff1257

          That’s all fine and dandy, but pretty pie in the sky. You’re not taking into account the fact that STLCC has several other campuses that require capital improvements and investments too.

      • Tpekren

        The other thought that runs through my head is the city bring a modern low flow street car to the transit mix by extending loop trolley tracks through Forest Park to dogtown & FP Community college. Keep the modern streetcar within the city even though it might have to run on loop trolley tracks/wires to get access to at least Delmar Ave at a minimum. as well as pay rent for use of trolley barn as maint. depot.
        ..
        Maybe a two phase modern streetcar proposal the way KC did it with first phase for the low floor streetcars cars (piggyback off KC streetcar builder) & initial line that incorporates extension of tracks/wires south through Forest Park into dogtown and hang a left towards FPSE but at least getting to Community College as a minimum. Second phase with a Delmar east extension with a right turn south into CWE. Essentially a creating a broader fixed transit loop vision that would tie Forest Park & Euclid/BJC metrolink stations with Delmar/Dogtown/FPSE development
        What I don’t know is if the loop trolley can also support a modern low floor streetcars? But I think an investment in streetcar would get a lot more support within the city than paying Community College system to relocate. But the argument for support would have to be about filling those parking lots with continued development that you see next door with the Highland & what you see in the Grove, so on.

        • jhoff1257

          I wouldn’t place any bets on that modern streetcar happening. Any future transit funds should be spent on improved/expanded bus service and the North/South light rail, followed by MetroNorth and MetroSouth. The ridership isn’t going to be there to make the Loop Trolley worth expanding though the park, personally I think the whole thing is pointless. The Loop is already well served by transit.

          As far as KC (where I live, in fact I am one of the 50 or so petitioners that petitioned the state to extend the TDD to the Plaza where I live) that’s a totally different set up. STL already has a solid LRT through our central spine, they don’t.

          As far as improved transit access to the Grove, the new Cortex station is only a couple blocks away (granted crossing the highway kind of sucks). I also think a good idea would be opening up the long proposed commuter line from Gateway to Eureka/Pacific with a reopening of the former stop at Tower Grove Ave.

          • Dahmen Piotraschke

            The north-south proposal tram would be a great solution.

    • tpekren

      I would be all in on a relocation for downtown campus but leadership really thinks big in the wrong ways. My tweak to the plan. I would favor a Laclede’s/north riverfront landing even though the campus over Chouteau for the simple fact that you have metrolink already in place. Thus the community campus system would have at least one major campus with fixed transit.
      ..
      Unfortunately as Jhoff1257 noted it would really be about a capital investment/bonds by the city for any realistic chance of STLCC changing tis city campus. Reselling the property will take a bite out of the cost but the regions land values just won’t support anything close to a new build out

  • Brian Johnson

    This will be beautiful! Now, when will they redevelop the section between Manchester and 44 on the north side of The Hill. From the ACE Scrap yard to Kingshighway needs a face lift 🙂

  • Matt B

    I can see why people would be upset and understand the designs, in their time, were award winning, but I’ve never really been a big fan of the design of the old structures. They’re very brutal and the first time I saw them, thought they looked like a prison. Not really the best image for a learning facility. The new building design is fairly striking and although bears resemblance to a lot of newer office park designs, I think it’ll be a nice new addition.

  • John

    The school needs state-of-the-art functionality from the new structures and there is most likely a long-term financial advantage to demolishing the older modernist structures that have served their purpose. While it’s a shame to lose the old buildings, the school has to focus on their ultimate goal of training students in an ever-changing, competitive health industry.

  • Framer

    I hate to see the old building go, but at least the new one will make a visual impact.

  • Nick

    “It remains unclear why the A and B towers will be demolished, and why surface parking could not be sacrificed instead of a collaborative work by three great midcentury architects.”

    Because then they’d have two problems instead of one….what to do with the obsolete, expensive-to-maintain towers, and where to park! 🙂

    • tpekren

      Have to agree with Nick on the outcome chosen and why it makes sense short term. The mission is education and at some point keeping everything the same will not the work
      .
      I think the bigger picture is how does the campus add more structured parking so more density can be added to the existing campus going forward and or turning over some of that massive amount of surface lots for mixed use, multi residential development. It will be a community college, it will have a heavy base of commuters not very well served by transit but it has way more space than is needed for its location.
      ..

    • mburke73

      The towers are sinking–if you spend any time on the Forest Park campus, you’d see all the uneven floors and other leaky issues in the basement of these two towers. The college has paid hundreds of thousands in repairs to this area of the campus over the years, but it has not stabilized the buildings or stopped the water problems. We forget this campus was built on top of the old Highland amusement park, and the land at this end was not properly compacted 50+ years ago. It is cheaper for the college to tear them down and build a new building than to repair the old one.

      In addition, the dental hygiene clinic is on the fourth floor of the A tower and is not ADA-acessible–it is the only space in the community college district where the public is treated by students.