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What To Do With 1.2 Million Square Feet In The Railway Exchange Building (UPDATED)

Downtown’s Railway Exchange Building, completed in 1913, occupies an entire city block. From the 2009 National Register nomination:

The Railway Exchange Building was recognized as an architectural and engineering wonder even before it was constructed. But the building’s rich history was built more on the shoulders of the companies it was designed to house than the structural supports and ornamental flare it boasted in its design. The building has been a commercial asset to the St. Louis downtown since its construction, housing what became the city’s largest department store. In addition, many local businesses operated on the upper floors of the building, and the building’s official moniker derived from the abundance of railroad company tenants occupying the building when it opened.

The Railway Exchange Building was designed in 1912 by Mauran, Russell and Crowell as a home for the newly merged Famous-Barr Company. By the time Famous and Barr were merged, each had established themselves as a prominent department store in St. Louis. William Barr & Company opened as a drygoods store in 1850. Located on Fourth Street between St. Charles and Vine, the drygoods company grew rapidly, and by 1876 boasted over 300 employees and 32 departments with a separate manager for each division. In 1880 William Barr moved into the Julia Building, a four-story construction that occupied half the block at 6th an Olive Streets. As the city’s first department store, Barr’s took advantage of the mail-order trade as well as the in-house sales. The company remained in this building until it was replaced in 1913 by the Railway Exchange Building.

May Department Stores was bought out by Federated Department Stores in August 2005, a year later Famous-Barr became a Macy’s (Wikipedia). In 2011 Macy’s consolidated into the lower 3 floors, from 8, but still couldn’t make it. Macy’s closed in 2013 (Post-Dispatch).

Railway Exchange building in 2011, before the consolidated Macy's closed.
Railway Exchange building in 2011, before the consolidated Macy’s closed.

Tuesday morning I attended the public presentation by ULI St. Louis’ Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) on their recommendations to the developer that owns the structure. Unfortunately, their presentation isn’t yet online. Here are some highlights from memory:

  • With 1,000 parking spaces in the block to the South they didn’t recommend including any parking within the building.
  • Reskin/update the parking garage, remove the ramp off 7th
  • Consider a plaza for the surface lot at 6th & Olive.
  • The building would get sectioned into various zones for development into many functions. Different developers could then work on their portion, without any single developer having to take on the entire project at once.
  • The total square footage would be reduced some by opening up floors at various spots — such as creating 2-story volumes in some residential units.
  • Remove the roof and create an outdoor walk around the perimeter of the 21st (top) floor.
  • Residential units on the floors just below. Various sizes could be offered.
  • Two hotels on floors below the residential, one a boutique hotel like 21C and one an extended stay.  With new startups downtown they indicate there is demand for such hotels. Each hotel could have large volume spaces.
  • Recreational space, like a gym or basketball court.
  • Street-level retail like Urban Target, CVS/Walgreens, a fresh produce market, etc.

The building would still likely be over a million square feet after the reductions in floor area. With four primary facades you could have separate entrances for each function.

I still don’t like the existing garage, it’s old & ugly. The flow inside is awful. The garage needs to be replaced with a new garage if parking is excluded from the building. I’d love an Urban Target, a 24/7 CVS or Walgreens, and a Trader Joe’s. The developer already has interest in a couple of the pieces, but not enough to move forward just yet. The TAP felt if broken up into pieces it could be marketed nationally to interest developers from outside our region.

UPDATE: 5/14/15 # 7:40PM — the ULI presentation wasn’t available online yesterday as I finished the post, but thanks to a reader this morning who posted the link.

— Steve Patterson

 

Buildings I’d Like To See Rehabbed

In the nearly 25 years I’ve lived in St. Louis I’ve seen way too many buildings razed, but I’ve also witnessed quite a few be reoccupied.  Some we rehabbed before my arrival:

  • Powell Hall, 1968: I was only a year old when the St. Louis Symphony bucked the 1960s trend of building a sterile new downtown symphony hall, opting instead to move into a then 43-year old movie theater building that had seen better days. This year the building turns 90.
  • St. Louis Union Station, 1985: The 1890s main building closed to passengers before train service stopped under the large shed in 1978 — shifting service to what became known as “Amshack.” In 1985 Union Station reopened as a “festival marketplace” with hotel, shops, restaurants, etc under the shed.

Even since the 2008 recession renovation work has continued, albeit at a slower pace than the years right before. Some buildings I’ve previously blogged about have since been rehabbed — others saw the potential I did. Thus, I see value in sharing my list of buildings that I’d like to see reoccupied:

This is a collection of buildings
This is a collection of buildings where three streets intersect: N. Florissant, Carter, & Grove. All are owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA)
This rather ordinary building on Dr. Martin Luther King, just East of Goodfellow, has pleasing proportions, materials, details. It's in poor condition but I'd hate to see it razed. 
This rather ordinary building on Dr. Martin Luther King, just East of Goodfellow, has pleasing proportions, materials, details. It’s in poor condition but I’d hate to see it razed.
The former JC Penny store built in 1949 on MLK in the Wellston Loop in the modern style with an urban form, rather than style of its red brick neighbors that are 20-40 years older.
The former JC Penny store built in 1949 on MLK in the Wellston Loop in the modern style with an urban form, rather than style of its red brick neighbors that are 20-40 years older.
4831 Fountain, November 2009
4831 Fountain is a stunner, November 2009
In 2009 it looked like the Clemens Mansion on Cass would become senior housing, but some of the state funding didn't happen
In 2009 it looked like the Clemens Mansion on Cass would become senior housing, but some of the state funding didn’t happen

 

ABOVE: The Lemp Brewery complex was built over a period of years and thus includes numerous buildings.  Click the image for the Wikipedia entry
The Lemp Brewery complex was built over a period of years and thus includes numerous buildings.
Warehouses in the along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis woulds be razed if a new NFL stadium plan moves forward
Warehouses in the along Ashley between 2nd and Lewis woulds be razed if a new NFL stadium plan moves forward
The 18th Street facade of the Butler Bros Warehouse
The 18th Street facade of the Butler Bros Warehouse
1711 Locust was a power station for the original streetcar system, it is vacant and in disrepair.
1711 Locust was a power station for the original streetcar system, it is vacant and in disrepair.
1701 Locust is a handsome 4-story building built in 1926. It has had several owners in the last decade. It is vacant.
1701 Locust is a handsome 4-story building built in 1926. It has had several owners in the last decade. It is vacant.
The Jefferson Arms remains vacant although numerous developers have attempted to put together a deal to rehab the property.
The Jefferson Arms remains vacant although numerous developers have attempted to put together a deal to rehab the property.
The Railway Exchange building housed a downtown department store until recently. Their have been various concepts for preoccupancy, but nothing has begun.
The Railway Exchange building housed a downtown department store until recently. Their have been various concepts for preoccupancy, but nothing has begun.
Originally built as a YWCA, this building on Locust has been the home to the New Life Evangelistic Center since 1976. Some say it should be razed, but that's a short-sided view.
Originally built as a YWCA, this building on Locust has been the home to the New Life Evangelistic Center since 1976. Some say it should be razed, but that’s a short-sided view.

There you go, my list of buildings I hope to see rehabbed and reoccupied.  I don’t have any capital or the physical ability to do it myself — but those are requirements to simply express my desired outcome. I’ll start working on a Part 2 with more buildings.

Any you’d like to see rehabbed?

— Steve Patterson

 

Surplus School Buildings Open For Tours

Part of the problem of losing hundreds of thousands of residents over a half century is a surplus of buildings. One property owner — The St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) — still has buildings they need to unload. Over the years some former schools have found new owners and new uses. For example, Franklin School:

March 2006
In March 2006 the school looked rough
October 2007
By October 2007 Franklin School reopened as affordable senior apartments

To facilitate getting other surplus school buildings rehabbed the SLPS has started offering tours of 27 of the buildings they have for sale, from their website:

The Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS) Building Revitalization Collaborative was established in 2015 to promote the redevelopment of District-owned properties no longer in use as schools. 

In the spring and summer of 2015, SLPS will be scheduling a series of public open houses at the closed schools and community forums to discuss possible repurposing scenarios for each property. 

By bringing together community stakeholders and a technical advisory committee (TAC) comprised of a variety of experts, SLPS hopes to find creative solutions for these properties that will benefit the District and the St. Louis community as a whole. 

TAC members include architects, building planners, preservationists, real estate developers, and representatives from the fields of finance, education, construction and healthcare.

and…

The SLPS Building Revitalization Collaborative is holding a series of open houses starting in April. All tours start at 5:30 p.m. and run approximately one hour. Please check the website often, as dates and times of tours are subject to change.

If you’d like to plan ahead, please print and fill out the required RELEASE/WAIVER and bring it with you to the tour.

The buildings are not air-conditioned and have no water or electrical service. Debris and standing water may be present in some areas. Wear appropriate footwear.

The dates for the first 8 have passed, but 19 more remain:

  1. April 8, 2015: Baden
  2. April 9, 2015: Walnut Park
  3. April 13, 2015: Shepard
  4. April 15, 2015: Cleveland
  5. April 16, 2015: Stowe
  6. April 20, 2015: Ford Branch
  7. April 22, 2015: DeAndreis/Bunche
  8. April 23, 2015: Ashland Branch
  9. April 29, 2015: Turner
  10. April 30, 2015: Cook
  11. May 4, 2015: Clark
  12. May 6, 2015: Webster
  13. May 7, 2015: Jackson
  14. May 11, 2015: Mark Twain
  15. May 12, 2015: Scullin
  16. May 14, 2015: Lyon
  17. May 18, 2015: Lafayette
  18. May 19, 2015: Gundlach
  19. May 26, 2015: Cupples
  20. May 29, 2015: Williams
  21. June 1, 2015: Sherman
  22. June 3, 2015: Marshall
  23. June 4, 2015: Eliot
  24. June 8, 2015: Gratiot
  25. June 10, 2015: Wilkinson
  26. June 11, 2015: Euclid
  27. June 15, 2015: Banneker

Check out their website for more details, including a map.

— Steve Patterson

 

Majority of Readers Favor Replacing Jackson With A Woman on Future $20 Bills

The Sunday Poll was about who should be on future $20 bills — Andrew Jackson or one of four women from our history.  It was easy to predict the single answer with the most votes would be Andrew Jackson.

Q: Who should be on future $20 bills?

  1. Andrew Jackson — former President 11 [29.73%]
  2. Rosa Parks — civil rights activist 8 [21.62%]
  3. Harriet Tubman — abolitionist, underground railroad 7 [18.92%]
  4. TIE 4 [10.81%]
    1. Wilma Mankiller — 1st female Native American Tribe chief
    2. Eleanor Roosevelt — former first lady
  5. Unsure/No Answer 3 [8.11%]

But we can look at these numbers another way:

  1. Change 23 [62.16%]
  2. Don’t change  11 [29.73%]
  3. Unsure/No Answer 3 [8.11%]

A majority picked an answer that involves changing the $20 from Andrew Jackson to a woman. Be sure to vote for which of the four finalists you’d like to see on a $20 by 2020 — vote here.

— Steve Patterson

 

What Will Become of the Historic Former Arsenal Site Once the National Geospatial-Intellegence Agency Relocates?

The battle over where the National Geospatial-Intellegence Agency (NGA) will relocate intensified recently when Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner stepped late in the game with a bid across the Mississippi River:

St. Clair County has agreed to donate land near Scott Air Force Base and MidAmerica Airport to the combined defense and intelligence agency, which provides mapping support for the U.S. military  and employs 3,000 people locally.

The agency is also considering two sites in St. Louis County and one in north St. Louis as it looks to move from its current location near the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Missouri. (KMOX)

Here’s more about the NGA:

NGA is headquartered in Springfield, Va. and has two major locations in St. Louis and Arnold, Mo. Hundreds of NGA employees serve on support teams at U.S. military, diplomatic and allied locations around the world. (NGA

I’ve questioned the wisdom of the city site from a design viewpoint, see St. Louis’ Low Standards Turns A Once-Proud City Into A Suburban Office Park. Keeping these jobs in the city makes sense financially, though employees who also live in the city will still pay earnings tax.

This post, however, isn’t about the new site — it’s about the current site and what will become of it once the NGA relocates.

3200 S. 2nd
NGA, located at 2nd & Arsenal St, as seen from Lyon Park. The grounds include historic 19th century structures and some very large newer structures
I arrived on the #30 MetroBus
I arrived on the #30 MetroBus, the #40 goes by on Broadway
The site is well protected.
The site is well protected, the cannonballs on top of the stone posts pay tribute to the days when this was a federal arsenal  — hence Arsenal St.
A
An employee leaving the site to catch the next bus.

City records don’t list any information about any of the buildings on the site — makes sense since it’s a spy agency located on Air Force property. Thankfully the St. Louis Air Force Station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in January 1975.

Within the confines of this acreage are ten buildings with erection dates from 1830 to 1906. These buildings are of Federal architecture, and are arranged in such a manner that gives an excellent example of the building prac tices and a remnant layout of a major arsenal of the early 19th Century.

Of particular interest are buildings #4 and #5, which are two of the oldest and best preserved buildings on base. Both are constructed of limestone walls over stone foundations, and their site and architectural integrity has not been altered since they were built in the l830’s. These buildings are built in the Federal style of architecture, which characterizes the majority of the other buildings except buildings 20 and 22 which are of modified Federal architecture. A further exception to this style is evident in building #25, which was constructed in 1906, and is believed to be of modified French Colonial architecture. It should also be noted that building #1 has lost its architectural integrity through extensive modification, but it was of modified Federal architecture before remodeling.

Site alterations have occurred to buildings #12 and #13. Each were originally built as three separate buildings in the form of a “Cross”, but during the early 1920’s, the middle building was removed, rebuilt, and connected in a straight line with the other two buildings. The integrity of the end sections of each building was maintained. Also, building #1 had considerable architectural alteration in January 1963. The building origin ally had three floors, but the second and third floors were rer.ovedj and the first floor was rebuilt. Site integrity was preserved. (St. Louis Air Force Station nomination)

One large multi-story building on the site was built after 1975. What will become of this property once the NGA vacates?

— Steve Patterson

 

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