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Perfect Location For Centene’s New Ferguson Claims Center

Earlier this week one local company stepped up to invest in Ferguson:

Centene Corp. has selected Ferguson, the site of unrest for more than three weeks following the police shooting of Michael Brown, as the location for a new claims processing facility, with plans to bring up to 200 jobs to the city. The unrest following Brown’s death prompted Centene to select the city for the expansion. (stltoday)

This is potentially great news! I say potentially because most major call centers fit perfectly in an exurban office park; generic building sounded by massive surface parking lots, all fenced in. Ferguson needs these jobs, but it needs them in an engaged environment. Where? What would it look like? The where is quite simple: Emerson owns the perfect site on the SW corner of W. Florissant & Ferguson Ave., 9001 W. Florissant Ave.

This corner is 7+ acres
This corner is 7+ acres
Looking north from an adjacent Ameren substation
Looking north from an adjacent Ameren substation, the Ferguson Market is in the background
Looking north from in front of the Ameren substation
Looking north from in front of the Ameren substation
Looking south from Ferguson Ave
Looking south from Ferguson Ave
Map of the site consisting of two parcels, both owned by Emerson
Map of the site consisting of two parcels, both owned by Emerson, right of the purple line is Jennings

I’m not sure why Emerson bought this property, likely to raze the structure that was on the site as of 1971. Having a neighbor like Centene could be beneficial to Emerson, more workers means more lunch places. Hopefully Emerson would be willing to sell to Centene, or partner on a project to develop the site. And build what?

What they shouldn't build is a building surrounded by parking
What they shouldn’t build is a building in the center surrounded by parking
Instead, the building should be pushed out to the corner so pedestrians can easily reach the entrances.
Instead, the building should be pushed out to the corner so pedestrians can easily reach the entrance(s).

Ideally the building would be at least two floors, with the first floor for retail. I’d like to see a St. Louis Bread Co (aka Panera*) or Chronicle Coffee on the corner. This would provide additional jobs and more places for these 200 employees and those who work in the area to get breakfast, lunch & dinner. Nearby locally-owned places like Ferguson Burger Bar & More would also benefit. Parking can be located behind the building. If Centene doesn’t need this much space the site could be planned for more than one building facing W. Florissant.  * Disclosure: I have a handful of Panera stock

If Ameren built a new substation at the back corner, an auto entrance could be created at the traffic signal at Solway Ave.

A project at this corner could be a great way to implement East West Gateway’s Great Street master plan for W. Florissant!

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown’s Grocery Store Turns Five Today

August 11, 2014 Downtown, Featured, Retail Comments Off on Downtown’s Grocery Store Turns Five Today

Culinaria, the grocery store downtown, is five years old today. Downtown’s previous grocery store, City Grocers, was open almost five years before Culinaria opened.

Schnucks family members cutting the ribbon on August 11, 2009
Schnucks family members cutting the ribbon on August 11, 2009

A decade of grocery shopping has made a huge difference in downtown! City Grocers paved the way for Culinaria.

— Steve Patterson

 

Unfinished Business

There’s a building on West Florissant Ave, across from the entrance to Calvary Cemetary, that has intrigued me for years. A former gas station with a large unfinished 2-story addition, city records show the original was built in 1971 but no indication when the addition was started.

5250 W. Florissant back in late April
5250 W. Florissant back in late April 2014, click image for map link
A few days ago
A few days ago

It’s always looked vacant to me, but the other day I noticed someone entering or exiting the building as I passed by on the #74 MetroBus. The building is owned by a husband & wife, both lawyers, they’re also part of the ownership of the package liquor store inside. The property was previously part of the 1st ward, but became part of the 3rd ward after the last redistricting. I looked at aerial images on HistoricAerials.com, the addition existed in 1998 — 16 years ago. I don’t recall a time before the addition, I moved to St. Louis in 1990. I can’t believe how long this has been like this, how much could it cost to put some vinyl siding over the plywood sheathing? — Steve Patterson

 

New Solar Carport At The Centennial Malt House Located At 2017 Chouteau

The building at 2017 Chouteau, known as the Centennial Malt House, was built in 1876 as part of the  Joseph Schnaider Brewery complex.

Merged with the St. Louis Brewing Association in 1889, Schnaider’s brewery was shut down within a decade. The Chouteau Avenue Crystal Ice & Storage Plant occupied several buildings; other property including the garden was razed for the enormous International Shoe factory. Eventually, the malt house was relegated to use by a truck parts company. Things looked pretty grim when Wendy and Paul Hamilton, owners of the nearby 1111 Mississippi restaurant, purchased the property in April 2005. Faced with a tight timetable, Paul and his restaurant staff spent many extra hours working alongside an army of contractors led by Spiegelglass Construction Co. Office space under construction on the first floor is already leased; the rooftop bar and bistro Vin de Set should open this June. National City Bank plus federal and state historic tax credits financed the $4 million mixed-use project designed by Tom Cohen. (Landmarks Association 2006 Most Enhanced Award)

To make renovation financially viable the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Since the Hamilton’s opened Vin de Set they’ve added PW Pizza, Moulin Events, Grand Petite Market, and the Malt House Cellar. They opened Eleven Eleven Mississippi nearby in 2003.

In April 2012
The Centennial Malt House at 2017 Chouteau before the carport was built, April 2012 photo

When I was there a few months ago for the 6th Ward Participatory Budget Project Expo I had no idea a solar carport was planned, it was a pleasant surprise upon arriving for dinner on Saturday.

View of the carport in the center of the small parking lot
View of the carport in the center of the small parking lot
Looking down from Vin de Set's rooftop
Looking down from Vin de Set’s rooftop
Looking toward downtown you can see Ameren's headquarters, the solar carport is at the bottom
Looking toward downtown you can see Ameren’s headquarters, the solar carport is at the bottom

From a year ago:

Hamilton and his wife, Wendy, are investing $98,000 to have solar energy panels installed near the Centennial Malt House at 2017 Chouteau Ave., built in 1876, which houses Vin de Set, PW Pizza and Moulin Events. The 25-kilowatt, photo-voltaic system is expected to be complete by September.
As part of the project, the Hamiltons are installing a solar carport canopy on the east portion of the restaurant’s parking lot. The panels will be adjacent to Ameren Missouri’s headquarters at 1901 Chouteau, and Hamilton said Ameren will purchase excess power generated by the canopy. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Like most projects, it took longer to complete than originally planned. I like how, over the 9 years since they bought the building, they’ve added little by little to utilize the large building.  Missouri’s Historic Tax Credit Program saved an otherwise unsalvageable building, creating many jobs and tax-generating businesses.  The Solar Investment Tax Credit, Ameren rebates, etc made this project possible.  Two tax credits working as intended!

— Steve Patterson

 

Accessing Yorkshire Village Shopping Center

In March I took MetroBus out to the suburban Yorkshire Village shopping center to meet my then-fiancé, now husband, for lunch. I hadn’t been in this area since I sold my car and the Sappington Farmers Market closed, both in 2012. Although the parking lot had been improved with planted islands in the last decade, I didn’t think a pedestrian access route existed. I’d looked at an aerial and at Google’s Street View, but I know for sure after a personal visit.

Google's Street View in March 2014 showed a spot where I could access the parking lot from the bus stop, no designated route. Click image for map link
Google’s Street View in March 2014 showed a narrow spot behind the bus shelter where I could access the parking lot, no designated route though. As of today the aerial is updated to show demolition of the old corner, the Street View remains the one I saw in March. Click image for map link

Based on a friend’s recommendation, we planned to meet at a newish place called Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, located on the far west end of the shopping center. When I arrived on March 21st what I encountered was very different than what I had expected, the entire corner of the old shopping center was gone, with a new building going up.

View from the bus stop
View from the bus stop, my only option was to head to Laclede Station to try to enter that way.
The construction zone separated the two wings, preventing me from reaching my destination that way. I ended up rolling along the Watson Rd shoulder until reaching an auto drive.
The construction zone separated the two wings, preventing me from reaching my destination that way. I ended up rolling along the Watson Rd shoulder until reaching an auto drive.
The new building is a CVS. Disclosure: we'd bought a small number of shares a month earlier when they announced they'd stop selling cigarettes.
The new building is a CVS. Disclosure: we’d bought a small number of shares of CVS a month earlier when they announced they’d stop selling cigarettes.
After lunch I got as close as I could to the construction, wondering if they'll provide an access route to the bus stop, connect the new separate buildings.
After lunch I got as close as I could to the construction, wondering if they’ll provide an access route to the bus stop, connect the now separate buildings.
When I passed by the new entry while on the shoulder I didn't see any evidence of a public sidewalk or access route to the shopping center
When I passed by the new entry while on the shoulder I didn’t see any evidence of a planned public sidewalk or access route to the shopping center
Across Watson waiting for a return bus you can see the overview.
Across Watson waiting for a return bus you can see the overview, and a pedestrian walking on the shoulder as I had to do.

It’s the suburbs and during construction everyone will be inconvenienced. My husband returned to Fuzzy’s a couple of times since our initial visit, after he said construction was completed we decided to meet again on Friday July 11, 2014. What would I encounter?

Looking west there was no public sidewalk along Watson
Looking west there was no public sidewalk along Watson
I was so pleased to see a proper access route, in concrete to contrast with the asphalt paving!
Looking inward I was so pleased to see a proper access route, in concrete to contrast with the asphalt paving! The planter helps to protect the route from vehicles.  Bravo!!
I quickly checked and found a great connection to the north building across the drive through lane
I quickly checked and found a great connection to the north building across the drive through lane
So I head west alongside the new CVS. so far so good.
So I head west alongside the new CVS. so far so good.
And a connection to the west...but what's that I see?
And a connection to the west…but what’s that I see?
A new curb!?!
A new curb!?! Not sure who’s fault this is: engineer/architect, contractor, or owner, but someone screwed up an otherwise adequate access route.
I had to roll behind 13 parking spaces to reach a ramp, one car nearly backed into me.
I had to roll behind 13 parking spaces to reach a ramp, one car nearly backed into me.
Looking back from in front of the shops you can see the new concrete, this could've easily sloped to provide access.
Looking back from in front of the shops you can see the new concrete, this could’ve easily sloped to provide access. Again, nobody caught the mistake.

Had it been done right initially the cost would’ve been zero, no different than what they spent.  Did the drawings show it correctly but the contractor missed it? Why didn’t Webster Groves’ inspectors catch it? I can’t answer these questions but I’ll be emailing a link to this post to Matthew Stack at Koch Development Co and Webster Groves, the various parties can figure out who’s responsible for the costs to bust out the new concrete and redoing it correctly.

Koch Development originally built Yorkshire Village shopping center in 1951.

— Steve Patterson

 

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