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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

 

Rehabbed Corner Storefront Now A Bright Spot In Fox Park Neighborhood

In November 2011 I posted about a Saturday in Fox Park, the city park in the neighborhood of the same name. At that time a storefront building just across California Ave from the park (map) was vacant, boarded up, and for sale. Neighborhood resident and blogger Mark Groth and I discussed that cold morning how nice it would be to have a restaurant across from the park.

The vacant commercial building in the background on November, 2011
The vacant commercial building in the background on November, 2011 as neighbors work in the park
The building at 2800 Shenandoah on January 24, 2012. Source: Geo St. Louis
The building at 2800 Shenandoah on January 24, 2012. Source: Geo St. Louis

I know what you’re thinking, two bloggers dreaming again.  Show me the money, right? The demographics aren’t right, or some other negative viewpoint. To the rest of us, we look at the above and see potential. We may not have the ability to rehab the building but there are rehabbers that share our vision. One such rehabber bought the building and renovated it. Michelle Veremakis, originally from upstate New York, came to St. Louis in 2008 after five years in California.  I asked Veremakis how she decided to buy and restore this building:

It was listed on the MLS. I had looked at it and was a worried that it would be more work than it was worth, considering the condition of the building and the immediate neighborhood. Instead, I put an offer in on a ‘safer’ building in McKinley Heights… But I just couldn’t shake the feeling I got standing inside 2800 Shenandoah. So, I followed my gut, ended the contract on the other building and began negotiations with DeSales.

For many who buy & rehab buildings it is about that “gut” feeling they get. Veremakis rehabs property in the city and county, preferring the “worst of the worst.” She closed on the property in December 2011 and completed the rehab by October 2012.

Long-time Fox Park resident Brooke Roseberry had been thinking about opening a neighborhood restaurant. Brooke and her husband Tony considered the former Tanner B’s space, but in 2013 decided to lease the newly-renovated storefront space at California & Shenandoah. After a delayed build out of the interior, The Purple Martin opened a few months ago.

The same building today
The same building today
At night the interior lights illuminate the life the building now contains. Source: The Purple Martin
At night the interior lights illuminate the life the building now contains. Source: The Purple Martin
Inside looking out. Source: The Purple Martin
Inside looking out. Source: The Purple Martin

My last question to Michelle Veremakis, the owner of the building: When you first looked at the building did you have a vision for what would go into the first floor?

Everything in reference to that building was motivated by vision.  Having purchased one of the most prominent buildings in Fox Park, we felt that we were in the unique position to benefit and inspire the neighborhood; first by revitalizing the neglected building and secondly by choosing a business (and business owners) that had the energy, intention, and vision to create something great.  After completing construction we advertised the space to the public, specifically targeting eating establishments, feeling that food creates community, and that community could bring this corner to greatness.  But money talks, right?  Unfortunately, it does which made deciding to turn away paying commercial tenants because their business type failed to meet our vision, particularly painful.   However, my genetically inherited stubbornness paid off, and V2 properties could not be more proud or excited to have The Purple Martin at 2800 Shenandoah.   Brooke and Tony are exactly what this neighborhood needs and deserves… they share in the vision, but more importantly, they are all heart.

I think Fox Park and St. Louis are lucky to have these two businesswomen! Here’s information on The Purple Martin:

Try the lablabi!

— Steve Patterson

 

Food Trucks Now Welcomed By Downtown Organization

For years the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis opposed food carts/trucks, saying they were unfair competition to brick & mortar restaurants.

Food truckle on Locust for a Partnership for Downtown lunchtime event
Food truckle on Locust for a Partnership for Downtown lunchtime event on Tuesday

I’m glad to see they’re finally on board with mobile food. Here’s the info from Tuesday:

Lunchtime Live!
What: Lunchtime Live! Concert Series

Where: Old Post Office Plaza (8th & Locust)

When: Every Tuesday, May – September (11:30 am – 1:30 pm)

More Information: 314-436-6500 ext. 237 or [email protected]

The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis is scheduled to present Lunchtime Live!, a concert series at the Old Post Office Plaza, occurring every Tuesday, May – September. The Old Post Office Plaza is a unique 30,000 square-foot open space that is surrounded by restaurants, hotels, office and residential buildings, right in the heart of Downtown.

Each week, a different band will perform and an assortment of Food Trucks will be featured. This week (6/10) we invite you to listen to the musical stylings of the Trixie Delighter and enjoy delicious food from Bombay Food Junkies, Guerilla, My Big Fat Greek Truck and Sweet Divine! (source)

Given that no food establishments face their Old Post Office Plaza the options for food are limited. Brick & mortar restaurants aren’t going to prepare food, set up tents, during the lunch rush hour to sell to a smallish crowd.  I think more activities and more food trucks will attract more people, benefitting everyone. I’m glad to see they’ve changed their policy.

— Steve Patterson

 

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