Chemical Building Owners Now Thinking Big

The Chemical Building. Photo by Mark Groth

The owners of the historic Chemical Building downtown appear to have shifted gears away from micro-apartments to larger residential units. In earlier discussions last September, they had discussed squeezing as many as 700 of the tiny homes into the 16 story, 177,000 square foot structure. Micro-apartments are under 500 square feet and often only 200 square feet. The developer filed a $23,000,000 application for a building permit yesterday to rezone the site for 207 apparently larger units.

Morgan Communities took control of the building this year. Morgan owns and manages 140 properties with 34,000 rental units nationwide.

The vacant Chemical Building has been a City Landmark since 1976 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The project is expected to make use of state and federal historic tax credits. Built in 1896, Chicago School architect Henry Ives Cobb designed the red terra cotta and brick tower with its distinctive protruding bays. A 1902 addition to the north was designed by Mauran, Russell and Garden. Next door, work continues on a $65 million hotel conversion of Adler and Sullivan’s 705 Olive.

These two projects will add more density to the newly thriving blocks around Old Post Office Plaza. The Arcade, Syndicate and Paul Brown buildings all have seen residential conversion. The Tower at OPOP brought downtown’s first new residential high rise in decades, restaurants line Olive Street, and Schnuck’s Culinaria is open daily until 9 p.m. New residential conversion continues along the 900 block of Locust, and a Magnolia Hotel brought a posh makeover to a previously dowdy property. A few hundred new residents will only strengthen this revitalized downtown neighborhood.

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  • Jakeb

    The Chemical Building is city treasure and a real jewel in downtown. This is wonderful news.

  • Humo

    Bigger space for those units is an excellent idea. Makes it more attractive and roomy. Nobody wants to live in a tight space. 207 apartments is better number in terms of tenant management too. Love the architecture of that red building.

    • Goat314

      I agree, I don’t think micro apartments have any appeal outside of super expensive coastal cities. Why would somebody want a 200 sq ft apartment in St. Louis?

      • Imran

        So do you think the Solire project at Euclid/Delmar will go un-leased.

        • John

          I think the Euclid/Delmar market will do well with the micro apartment product.

          The product change (small to larger apts.) for the Chemical building in downtown St. Louis is most likely based on market research, trends and other factors…not to mention the change in property management. Given the large portfolio of Morgan Communities, they must know the larger product will perform better financially in this particular location.

          I am excited to see this redevelopment, and it will definitely enhance downtown.

      • Jakeb

        It’s easy to forget that the city has a very large student population. SLU and Wash U have a combined enrollment of 30,000 students. The CWE halfway between the two main campuses remains very popular with students and rents in the neighborhood have skyrocketed the last couple years to levels I didn’t think would be possible. Those micro apartments will fill an underserved niche and be very popular.

        But the Chemical Building deserves better, so I’m very pleased to see it get the investment it deserves. With a little vision, those apartments could be spectacular.

      • tpekren

        Unfortunately, I think the other reality is a big part of the economy no matter where you live is service economy with a lot of people working minimum wage who need housing. I assume their is fair number of people who trade square footage in order to have their own space no matter how small that space is

    • Hannah

      Completely anecdotal, but I recently looked at an apartment in Indianapolis (read: smaller city, similar cost of living) and they reported that all micro-apartments (400 sq ft) were reserved site unseen before they even started doing tours. The leasing agent sounded very surprised and expects their next building will have more micro-apartments.

  • citylover

    Awesome. Does anyone know if beauty/tobacco shop on 8th street is connected to chemical or is that part of next door?

    Also, a new eyebrow salon opened under lofts at Opop.

    Curious to know If “innovation plaza” is still in works.

    • STLrainbow

      I believe that retail bay is part of the Chemical but that hasn’t been open for years, right? (I believe the only existing biz is the jeweler on the Olive side.) Hopefully the building can lure some good street retail. Not sure about the plaza plan