Demo Alert: Washington University To Raze 4352-4376 Forest Park Ave

4358 Forest Park Avenue

The Grim Reaper has been spotted lurking on the 4300 block of Forest Park Avenue in the Central West End neighborhood. Demolition permits have been issued for 4352 (4 apts), 4358 (18 apts), and 4362 (single fam), 4366 (6 apts), 4372 (2 apts), and 4376 (2 apts) Forest Park Avenue. They also have plumbing permits, probably for tap destroys, which go hand in hand with a demolition permit. Five of the six were built between 1904 and 1914, and 4358 was built in 1929.

4352-54 Forest Park Avenue
4362 Forest Park Avenue
4366 Forest Park Avenue
4372-74 and 4376 Forest Park Avenue

The buildings owned by Washington University in St. Louis are in the Cortex redevelopment area. Under the Missouri Chapter 353 statute the redevelopment corporation has rights that supersede some of the city’s typical roles like giving tax abatements and preservation review. In other words despite these buildings being in a preservation review district, there is no review by the Cultural Resources Office (CRO) nor review, should CRO deny a demolition and the owner appealed, by the Preservation Board.

The six buildings on the south side of 4300 Forest Park Ave

In 2018 WUSTL acquired 4352 Forest Park Avenue-

Washington University already owns several apartment properties along Forest Park Avenue that are used to provide affordable rental housing for medical students. “This property [4352 Forest Park Ave] will continue to be used for the same purpose under university management,” said Sue Killenberg McGinn, a spokeswoman for Washington University.

St. Louis Business Journal – July 14, 2018 – Washington University buys apartment property near Cortex
4300 Forest Park Avenue looking east

Asked to comment on the demolition permits-

The current plan is to remove the vacant structures and utilize the lot for temporary construction site needs. There are no formal long-term plans at this time.

Judy Martin Finch – Director Media Relations Office of Medical Public Affairs at WUSTL

It’s disappointing (astonishing really) to hear there is no imminent plan for a replacement. The writing has been on the wall for nearly a decade. The Cortex Master Plan [PDF] from 2012 showed these buildings being replaced.

Coretx Master Plan 2012

The potential future land use map suggests office/research 195,000 square feet, 650 employees. Higher land productivity here would be a plus, but loss of diversity of uses and forms is a minus. For now the area will just lose diversity.

There is a big apartment building planned to the southeast of these properties. With the 4300 buildings razed, this would be one of two residential buildings south of Forest Park Avenue within Cortex. The other is Forest Park lofts at Sarah.

4343 Duncan Avenue Apartments
This mixed use project of 239,855 sf which includes 262 apartments, four retail bays along Boyle Ave, and a 515 stall precast parking garage with an amenity space and roof top pool.

The demolitions sure seem to be in conflict with the Cortex Master Plan.

The CORTEX District is being planned as a knowledge community, a lively setting for work, play and living. It will encompass far more than laboratories and offices for research. In contrast to past models of research parks as an isolated suburban enclaves, a knowledge community is designed to become an urban neighborhood full of 24/7 activity. Housing, retail, hotels, open spaces and public amenities are all part of the development to attract young entrepreneurs and small companies in addition to seasoned scientists, corporate executives and local residents.

Cortex Knowledge Community Master Plan, p.5

The loss is regrettable as these are some of the last bits of early 20th century St. Louis and fine-grained development between Forest Park Avenue and the highway. One would have hoped that one of the many surface parking lots nearby would have been used for temporary construction site needs. Contact Washington University to express your thoughts on the matter. They aren’t gone yet, but could be very soon.

Strong Towns – Fine-Grained vs. Coarse-Grained Urbanism

Parking in the area. Purple – Structured, Red – surface, Yellow – underground/within a building, Blue 0 once parking under/planned development – by Mitchell Jorstad
View looking northwest from 4300 block Clayton
The Wabash signal tower was razed during the Cortex Metrolink Station construction because it blocked sight lines. Another bit of fine-grained development that could have been turned into something charming to support the goals of the Cortex District.
Maybe the tracks could have turned north a little further to the west? Avoid razing the building and save money on rebuilding the crossing at Sarah? Or build the station around the existing straight tracks and avoid the time-wasting curves?

Nextstl – Demo Alert: Wabash Signal Tower