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Transit-oriented development finally coming to St. Louis?

January 21, 2010 Planning & Design, Public Transit, STL Region 11 Comments

St. Louis’ original light rail line, MetroLink, opened in 1993.  I was a young man back then (26).  I was so excited about the future of the city I had called home for only 3 years at that point.

The total system has been expanded several times since then but my hope of new construction clustering around the growing number of stations never appeared.  Some existing buildings around some stations were renovated but for the most part stations are surrounded by Park-n-Ride lots.

One such lot is in an older dense area, adjacent to the Forest Park Station (above, map).  Developer McCormack Baron Salazar wants to develop the surface parking lot into retail, housing and commuter parking.  Last week I attended a meeting hosted by McCormack Baron to introduce the concept to the area residents.

Richard Baron led the meeting.  McCormack Baron Associate Project Manager Cady Scott, a Saint Louis University urban planning graduate, is working on the project and was there to answer questions as was local architect Andy Trivers.

There are no fancy architectural drawings to show because this project is at the very beginning stages.  What I do know is they want street-level retail facing DeBaliviere (approximately 10,000sf), one and two-bedroom apartments above (approx 80 units) and parking for residents and commuters.  Parking was, as you might expect, one of the areas with lots of questions from those at the meeting.  Also not surprising was the opposite viewpoints raised.  Some favored little to zero commuter parking while others wanted more than the current 100+ spaces.  Scott & Baron also indicated resident parking would be segregated from commuter/retail parking.  They seek to have less than one space per unit.  All of the units would have universal design and they expect a number of residents to be car-free.  They are planning for two WeCars (car sharing from Enterprise).

Richard Baron referenced their 6 North project throughout the meeting (my 2005 review here).


Located near Saint Louis University at Laclede & Sarah (map), 6 North features retail and office space facing the street and universal design living units.  The units are rented at both market and subsidized affordable rates. Residents include the disabled and able-bodied.  To use this same model next to a transit station is ideal.

But some neighbors thought it best to wait for the market to rebound to support all market rate for-sale housing.  I disagree.  Besides the fact the site has been vacant for half a century, the disabled need more housing options near transit.  Those receiving housing subsidies are not deadbeat welfare parents with tons of kids.  They might be staff at nearby Washington University or a school teacher.  They must pay rent, just less than the market.  The 6 North project has a waiting list of people seeking a unit.

Now is the best time to develop this site.  It provides housing oriented to transit, needed for those who don’t/can’t drive, and desired by many that can drive but would rather take public transit.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jennifer says:

    We're (Metro) pretty excited about the potential for developing this site, and the potential it has to both serve as a model in the region for TOD, and to encourage development in the corridor connecting Forest Park MetroLink Station to the Delmar Loop. Two important thoughts: One, it has to be “true” TOD, which includes not just mixed-use but, in our opinion, mixed-income development that is strongly oriented to the pedestrian scale; and it has to fit with the character of the neighborhood. And two, it has to enhance the transit system – make it more attractive and convenient for riders, and increase ridership. We're pleased too at the opportunity for making the crossings there safer – that area is a madhouse at rush hour; and more eyes on the street at varying hours will make the neighborhood overall more safe.

    I'm glad you came to the meeting, Steve, and I hope you stay involved in the process.

    • mbrewer says:

      Jennifer, Steve

      I work for Mills Properties and have been involved with the neighborhood for a long bit of time in the way of condo development and apartment renting. My remarks are personal in nature and should not be viewed as reflecting my employer in any way.

      I see no real drawback for the development – in my mind, it is long overdue. I think DeBaliviere is really trying to find its voice in the context of the CWE and The Loop. For now, it's missing the cool factor or the reason to come there. I think a development like this could and would be a good spur for the future of cool in the neighborhood.

      Steve – thank you for the passion you have for the city and the various neighborhoods – it' crazy cool..

  2. CourtneyLS says:

    How was the overall reaction of neighbors? Generally positive?

  3. Cheryl says:

    As an area resident, I so hope this project happens. Not only is the Metrolink station there, but there are two bus lines, the east-west #1 which stops there every 15 minutes, and the north-south #90.

    Recently three new eating establishments opened at the corner there: Velocity Cafe, a wings shop, and a morning donut shop. However Velocity Cafe has already closed down. I was very disappointed to see this failure, especially as how the cafe also housed a bicycle repair shop.

    Does anyone know why Velocity closed? I assume they just could not draw in enough customers. They had tried opening at different hours. That must not have helped.

  4. mbrewer says:

    I am curious if lack of parking had anything to do with it. I know that seems counter to the transient nature of this corner but I'm curious

    • It is about the lack of pedestrians that we don't have more newsstands. The more pedestrians an area gets the more you will see a return. Conversely, the more of these than enliven a sidewalk the more pedestrians you will have.

  5. Eric says:

    Metrolink stations on the Clayton/Shrewsbury extension attracted extensive TOD even before they opened. On the other hand, stations like Wellston have been open for nearly 20 years now and attracted no development. The reason is obvious. Efficient transit makes dense development more economically viable, but in a neighborhood that was undesirable to begin with, the boost of efficient transit just isn't enough.

    DeBaliviere is one of the most well-off neighborhoods in the city and is also the central junction of the rail system. With all these advantages, a TOD project there MIGHT end up succeeding. At most other stations, there is no chance.

  6. Zundo says:

    I think this would be a great first step for St. Louis…assuming it succeeds. The developer better have a thorough understanding about the designs and strategies necessary to create a strong project. I would hope they have done many precedent and market studies. Denver always seems to be a good start for me when it comes to TOD's.

  7. JZ71 says:

    I hope it works here. My big fear is that the real estate market will finally improve at the same time voters turn down more funding for Metro . . . again. TOD without much, or any T is just more D . . .


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