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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

 

Parking Garage Repairs Halted, Emergency Structural Condemnation Issued

In December I told you about a downtown parking garage closed since July 2014, see: Parking Garage Undergoing Time-Consuming Multi-Million Dollar Restoration; Businesses Closed, Jobs Lost. Since December the big crew of workers dwindled to a just a couple and then last week nobody — the work stopped and the gate was locked.

Pape John's was located at Tucker & Pine until July when it closed for repairs to this parking garage.
The garage at Tucker & Pine in December 2014
Condemnation notices went up last week, I noticed them on Friday 4/10.
Condemnation notices went up last week, I noticed them on Friday 4/10.

My assumption is the repairs were becoming a blank check project the owners finally halted. Now what? I’m concerned the out of state owner will just walk away.  Ideally I’d like to see a new building constructed on this corner, if the St. Louis Streetcar project gets funded a new building would be feasible. I’m sure some would like to see this garage repaired or replaced with a new garage. I suppose that would be marginally acceptable.

What wouldn’t be acceptable, however, is a surface parking lot, this intersection needs the massing.

— Steve Patterson

 

Cutting Corners Costs Time & Money: 1424 Washington Ave

Four months ago today I noticed work going on at 1424 Washington Ave., so I began documenting exterior changes, mistakes, fixes, etc. as I’d pass by. Check it out…

December 9th I posted this to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: "Work going on inside 1424 Washington Ave this afternoon"
December 9th: I posted this to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: “Work going on inside 1424 Washington Ave this afternoon” An ADA-ramp with handrails is visible. Click image to view on Facebook
January 2nd: Again posted to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: "Curious how those renovating 1424 Washington will handle ADA access" Note the door threshold is flush with the top of the ramp.
January 2nd: Again posted to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: “Curious how those renovating 1424 Washington will handle ADA access” Most handrails now gone, concrete busted, the door threshold is flush with the top of the ramp. Click image to view on Facebook
January 15th: Sidewalk being busted out in front of new doorway
January 15th: Sidewalk being busted out in front of new doorway
January 20th: Door on left now a few inches above the old ramp so they raised the interior floor level
January 20th: Door on left now a few inches above the old ramp so they raised the interior floor level
January 21st: sidewalk removed in front of new door is bigger than yesterday, old ramp being busted out
January 21st: sidewalk removed in front of new door is bigger than yesterday, old ramp being busted out
January 22nd; Old ramp and sidewalk between doors now removed
January 22nd; Old ramp and sidewalk between doors now removed
January 23rd: Posted to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: "Fresh concrete at 1424 Washington Ave doesn't appear ADA-compliant, too steep." I mentioned to the contractor it wasn't ADA-compoliant, he said the owner knew that but didn't care. Click image to view on Facebook.
January 23rd: Posted to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: “Fresh concrete at 1424 Washington Ave doesn’t appear ADA-compliant, too steep.” I mentioned to the contractor it wasn’t ADA-compoliant, he said the owner knew that but didn’t care. I sent an email to a few city officials with this photo! Click image to view on Facebook.
January 28th: Posted to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: "Another attempt at ADA compliance at 1424 Washington Ave, what's left doesn't look kosher" Click image to view on Facebook
January 28th: Posted to Twitter & Facebook with the caption: “Another attempt at ADA compliance at 1424 Washington Ave, what’s left doesn’t look kosher” Click image to view on Facebook
30
January 30th: I suspected this end will get redone
mar 16th
March 16th: and it did but so did the rest as a step now appears as the sidewalk falls
mar 16th
March 16th: the view from the other end showing a step that wasn’t there on January 30th. Will this get an end railing to prevent someone from stepping off the high end?
April 4th: still no railing on the end, the smaller step should've returned around the end.
April 4th: still no railing on the end, the smaller step should’ve returned around the end.

A lot of concrete & money was wasted, if only they’d done it right the very first time!  A quality development by the Three Stooges McGowan Brothers.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Think Before Converting Small Units Into Larger Units

ABOVE: My 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan
In March 1991 I moved from the CWE to a 3-room flat in Old North at 1422 Sullivan

The other day I saw an article that caught my attention: Preserving micro units in Norman, Oklahoma: A small infill builder tests a new housing type in a neighborhood next to a university, generating a win for housing diversity.  My first three years as an undergrad at the University of Oklahoma I lived at home and drove 17 miles each way to campus daily. Residential dorms & fraternities weren’t of any interest to me, nor were either affordable.

During my last two years I lived in two different 4-unit buildings. Both were older buildings, the first in poor condition The rents were affordable, they were spacious, and I could live alone.  I was evicted from the first after complaining to the city after the slumlord painted our windows shut. Both have since been razed — the first for a campus parking lot. At the time new apartment complexes were being built on the edge of town — these would require multiple roommates and driving to campus.

In August 1990 I moved to St. Louis, quickly taking an efficiency apartment on Lindell. Six months later I moved to a 3-room flat in Old North, my rent going from $330/mo to $75/mo.My landlady had moved into the building as a child and lived there until her kids convinced her to go to a nursing home. One day I came home from work and the front shutters were removed and workers were painting the 19th century brick dark brown. I moved one block North to a slightly larger 3-room flat, a 2nd floor unit entered from an exterior rear stair.  Both flats were in 4-unit buildings.

These smaller housing units in 4-unit buildings can be good options, especially for the 20-something crowd. Back to the article, a developer intended to convert a 4-unit building into two 3-bedroom units:

I asked Keith about the cost and return comparison for the fourplex versus duplex approaches. He told me that if he had renovated the building into a duplex, like he had planned before talking to me, that he was expecting to get $600/month per bedroom and each unit would have been 3 bedrooms for a total of $3,600 in revenue per month for the two units. He was happy to tell me that he is now renting each of the one-bedroom units for $1,000 each for $4,000 in total monthly revenue. That is an 11% increase in monthly revenue! In this one project Keith has blown the top off of this market and is getting $1,000 per bedroom for these small, well-designed micro units located in a walkable context. We see much of the same happening with other Missing Middle Housing types in walkable neighborhoods across the country.

In order to compare apples to apples, I then asked him about renovation costs of converting to a duplex versus simply renovating the fourplex. Keith said the renovations cost about 20% more, due to having 2 additional kitchens, bathrooms, and HVAC systems, in addition to installing sprinklers that the building code requires on buildings with 3 or more units. It will take Keith several years to make up this cost difference, which makes me even prouder of him for taking this risk. (Better Cities & Towns)

The demand had existed for these type of units but nobody knew it or offered a nice product, everyone just did what everyone else was doing — saying the market only supports larger multi-bedroom units. Despite what many may think, the free market isn’t always up to speed on demand, trends, etc. — it often takes fresh thinking to show the free market other options besides the status quo.

What does this have to do with St. Louis?

Glad you asked! Developers shouldn’t assume our 4/6/8-unit buildings are better off converted into larger units.  The total building revenue might be higher as smaller units while allowing people to not have to get a roommate(s). I’ll be able to hear the author next month at CNU23 — more on this in the coming weeks.

Right now my alma mater is currently dealing with other problems.

— Steve Patterson

 

Former Harbor Light Emergency Shelter Now 58 Apartments

It’s Friday so I like to end the week with some good news. This morning the Salvation Army will cut the ribbon on their 3010 Washington Apartments project:

For more than a century, the property at 3010 Washington Boulevard has been synonymous with transforming lives of those in the greatest need in St. Louis.
Today, The Salvation Army will provide a pathway of hope, deterring homelessness for individuals with special needs in the St. Louis area with the development of 3010 Apartments.

Joining the Veterans’ Residence as a part of the Midtown project, 3010 Apartments houses 58 one-bedroom units universally designed for individuals with a variety of special needs. Each apartment features a full bathroom, kitchen and living/dining area.

The facility itself also includes amenities such as a computer lab, laundry and 24-hour security. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places and located near culture hub Grand Center, the 3010 Apartments will provide residents with a safe space to incorporate and build lifelong skills.

It’s nice to see a previously-shaddy emergency shelter becoming renovated apartments for the homeless.

October 2011 photo of the former Salvation Army's Harbor Light shelter, today is the grand opening of 58 apartments in the building
October 2011 photo of the former Salvation Army’s Harbor Light shelter, today is the grand opening of 58 apartments in the building

A home, now matter how small, is better than a temporary cot without security or privacy. I’m looking forward to touring this facility today.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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