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Rumor: Sam’s Club at Kingshighway & Chippewa

October 24, 2005 Big Box, South City 26 Comments

Over at 52nd City Thomas Crone reports he was told the old Avalon Theatre is going to be razed soon. While I like the Avalon, the scary part of Thomas’ story is talk of clearing part of the Southeast corner of Kingshighway and Chippewa for a Sam’s Club.

The last thing St. Louis needs is more sprawl.

– Steve


Currently there are "26 comments" on this Article:

  1. Matt says:

    While it wouldn’t blow my mind if it happened, I’ll believe it when I see it. One of the owners of the business I work at knows the owner of the Avalon, and he said that the owner turned down an offer from Quik Trip for $900,000, because he thought it was worth $1.3 million. I’m sure he wants even more now, even though the ground is contaminated from a tank that is under the stage area. I doubt he has any actual knowledge of real estate happenings, he is just hoping for a cash out.

  2. Jim says:

    It’s a shame that there aren’t any of the cozy city theaters anymore. Why can’t they figure a small theater into any new development plans in the city?

    …And why can’t they redevelop Hampton Village to look more like a village?

    …And what happened to those plans for a St. Louis Hills community center?

  3. jason says:

    That intersection is pretty much a lost cause other than the buildings on the northwest corner which house quick loan shops and cellphone stores. The old Famous Barr site is now a wasteland of outlots and big box retail and the opposite corner has an Applebees (woo hoo). Jack in the crack even supposedly remodeled their store on the south west corner, but lo and behold when it opened again it looked exactly the same as the old store. There were many promises made and broken when petsmart and officemax went in. The best is that now we have another walgreens!! Like we need another one of those when you can go 5 blocks in any direction and get to another one. This one isn’t even open 24 hours. Kingshighway has always been the bane of South City. I happen to live on the wrong side of the street where property values have not seen the same improvement as those just 2 blocks west. Most of this is due to the neglect that Kingshighway has been given. Where is the zoning in our city that regulates flashing signs and building exteriors- sidewalks and streetscapes, and finally – who the hell picks up trash?? Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of neighborhood association in that area? Where is the alderman? where is the mayor? Go ahead and put a Sam’s there. I am sure there will be no tax revenue generated because the city bent over and gave them a tax break to get some retail. Why the hell dont they put it in the waste of a shopping center that is just down the street with burlington Coat factory and Office depot?

    I do think the Avalon should be renovated or even razed, but not for something 5 times the size! Put some apartments there or some mixed use retail/ restaurant building. There is a new trend that St. Louis is just starting to see that pares movie theaters with dining so you eat while you watch a movie. BTW- if you want a good restaurant in the area go to Lilly’s they have great food, are courteous, and reasonably priced!

    Okay- so I did mention Sam’s right? Sorry for the rant.

  4. Scott says:

    The destruction of this corner has been a tragedy. This is really sad.

  5. rick says:

    Avalon’s suffered from a bad owner for a long time. But it’s not the only property in the immediate area in need of serious attention.

    Walk around the block to Lawn Avenue, directly across the alley from the Avalon, and there’s no rumor; it’s out and out neglect.

    The block was on the TV news last week: a roof sliding off the top of a four-family.

    Two doors over, at Lawn and Chippewa, stands a long time Federer-owned property (recently changed hands) with condemned signs fastened to it, the building cordoned off with yellow warning tape.

    The problems on Lawn Avenue have been known for years. With high repair costs, and low to moderate rents, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these buildings demolished.

    Maybe the neighborhood should seek a national register historic district nomination to help make rehab more feasible?

  6. Brian says:

    Avalon is on the southwest corner, just south of Jack’n’Crack. The southeast corner eyed by Sam’s includes the Shop’n’Save behind Applebee’s and Steak’n’Shake.

    Since Shop’n’Save opened in Gravois Plaza, it wouldn’t surprise me if Shop’n’Save would sell its Southtown store, though the surrounding area of apartments is South City’s densest residential area, supporting multiple grocery stores and of course multiple Walgreen’s.

    As much as I dislike big boxes, if they must locate in the City, they definitely should be steered towards existing “grayfields,” or largely vacant strip retail centers. Of course, ironically, I think such retail concepts will continue to fail in the long-term, but until mixed use development is successfully attracted to such sites, at least the sales taxes stay in the City.

  7. Brian says:

    Important clarification: If the City is going to use TIF or other incentives to attract Sam’s or similar mundane retail, then the City really should issue an RFP for competitive development proposals.

    With an RFP, we then might truly know if private developers would be interested in redeveloping our City’s grayfields into dense mixed use redevelopments. If we just offer giveaways to the big box chains or standard retail developers (THF, DDR, Sansone, etc.) then it might very well be a missed opportunity to have attracted better, more urban development. MLP and Pace have developed Kirkwood Station and Boulevard St. Louis, so clearly we’re not talking about new concepts to the St. Louis development community.

  8. Brian says:

    Update: Turns out that both Avalon and Shop’n’Save are safe from the Sam’s rumor. From Crone’s blog: “According to a very informal and unofficial “interview,” the fella, still peering out over a small jut in the roof, said that a Sam’s Club was going to be built across the street, on the site of the old Kriegshauser Mortuary and the Mary Magdalen sports field, along with a couple of other plots, including a gas station.”

    [REPLY – I wouldn’t assume anything at this point. The Shop-N-Save is old unlike the Steak & Shake, Applebees and Southwest Bank. My money would be on the SnS going away along with the small strip to the East that used to contain the Walgreens. – SLP]

    So great, we’ll put even more strip retail between two failing centers– the Shop’n’Save-anchored plaza to the north and the Burlington Coat Factory-anchored plaza to the south. Add the new PetsMart-anchored plaza, and South City looks like it’s trying to be Chesterfield Valley. Of course, these (non)places have official names like Christy Plaza or Southtown Centre, but in sprawling mundane Anyplace, USA, these retail plazas simply become known to locals as whatever their current anchor is.

    If I were the City, I’d blight and issue an RFP for the superblocks between Chippewa and Delor to the east of Kingshighway, while maybe excluding some outlots like Applebee’s and Southwest Bank. Unlike Maplewood’s land-grab on Hanley, such a huge City site doesn’t take any homes, and mixed use proposals with new interior streets should obviously be encouraged.

    [REPLY – Wow, that is a big but underutilized area. The Office Depot/Burlington center is such a waste of land. This is an example where the street grid to the East needs to be continued all the way to Kingshighway with a strong North-South retail street down the middle. You could line it with Old Navy and other retailers not found in the city. Maybe even a Trader Joe’s? Please, just no Sam’s! – SLP]

  9. Matt says:

    You don’t have any idea how many times I have actually drawn up plans for that area with a continued street grid, new urban retail, new apartments, condos, houses. New restaurants, new offices. Basically a brand new urban district done right to connect the east and west sides of kingshighway. That area is such an oppurtunitty, but I know if I can’t get, say $100 million in the next couple of years, the city and suburban developers are going to screw it up again in some way. Remeber, Mayor Slay and Alderman are suckers for these big bang projects.

  10. B.J. says:

    Love the Sams idea, only hope they take the whole block from Chippewa to Delor and do a comprehensive development combining retail and housing. I have always felt this was the biggest waste of valuable space in the city and could drive a rebirth of the neighborhood if done correctly. Re-establishing the street grid is a must, perhaps a new Post Office could also occupy the site.

    [REPLY – Unless Wal-Mart is willing to do an “urban” Sam’s it is completely contrary to the things you and others have said is a good idea – street grid and mixed uses. – SLP]

  11. Jason says:

    This area is ripe for TIF- and retail is the way to go. Correct me if I am wrong, but most often TIF is used to blight residential areas or take over underdeveloped or misused properties in order to develop a site and generate tax revenue. In this case we are talking about a grocery store, department store, and miscellaneous other retail outlets that already contribute sales tax revenue as well as property tax. If they do TIF they cannot touch the money already generated by the property, but are hedging on an increase in tax revenue generation to pay for the site.

  12. Becker says:

    There have been more plans for that theatre that I can even try to remember. I’ll believe it when I see the wrecking ball in action.

    Additional: The northeast corner of that intersection was up for grabs for over a decade. The people at Walmart aren’t stupid. If they wanted a store at that intersection there would have been one already.

    Additional Additional : I happen to know that HR Block has put a LOT of stock into that location on Kingshighway. Don’t look for them to move without a LOT of incentive.

  13. Joe Frank says:

    “Re-establish” the street grid? The area between Ridgewood, Chippewa, Kinghighway and Delor never had an urban grid to begin with! It was a brick factory and clay mining area (Christy Fire Clay Company, among other names) for years and years, until the current mix of commercial uses developed, starting probably in the 1940s and accelerating greatly when the Southtown Famous-Barr opened in 1951. Along with Northland and Clayton, Southtown was one of the first “suburban” Famous stores.

    There was a railroad spur leading from the Oak Hill tracks due south, paralleling Kingshighway almost to Delor. You can still see evidence of it in the funny little space between Shop N Save and the former Walgreens center to the east.

    So, basically this area went from a semi-rural mining/manufacturing site, directly to an auto-based suburban commercial area, in the 1950s. There was never an urban street pattern there.

    While some of the nearby architecture is attractive, there’s no question that Kingshighway is in the suburbs. Look how many car dealers there still are, just a little north. And there used to be even more. There was never a streetcar line running the entire length of Kingshighway. For quite a while, the Southampton neighborhood was kind of an isolated small-town; partly because the brick works separated it from the Bevo neighborhood to the east.

  14. Brian says:

    Joe is right about this area always being a superblock with previous industrial use (I had said NEW interior streets). In fact, many of the City’s suburban-looking retail areas (in addition to Christy Plaza’s claymine history) come from previous superblock uses.

    Gravois Plaza was once a convent. St. Louis Marketplace was once Scullin Steel. Southtown Home Depot was once industrial too. And oddly, many a Walgreen’s were once bowling alleys.

    So, although many bland retail developments haven’t been at the sacrifice of urban fabric like Loughborough Commons, it still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think outside the (big) box for redevelopment opportunities.

  15. rick says:

    The area is contiguous to three neighborhoods (Southampton, Kingshighway Hills, and Tower Grove South), and contained within Chippewa Park (or Bevo Mill).

    Frank Jones of Jones Appliance (next to the Avalon) has been an long-time outspoken community leader for things along South Kingshighway. He columns still appear in the “South City Shopper”. Frank would probably know about any large redevelopment plans.

    The other place to try would be the Magdalen Community Improvement Corporation (MCIC), Executive Director Greg Gambaro.

    MCIC, with financial assistance from the City of St. Louis, was responsible for the placement of trash receptacles along S. Kingshighway.

  16. rick says:

    One more thing…what about including an eminent domain clause in a TIF ordinance to redevelop this area? Does it meet the blight test?

  17. Brian says:

    Time to resurrect the Southtown Coalition?

    Last time, it was the aldermen and neighborhood associations reacting to DDR/K-Mart in a long process of public hearings and appeals.

    Maybe this time, everyone, including the mayor’s office and SLDC, can hopefully be on the same page PRIOR to any usual big-box proposals reaching 1200 Market or 1015 Locust.

    The folks downtown will often blame neighborhood activists for making our City appear less developer-friendly. But the truth is– developers want to know what concepts have public support before approaching the City with their plans (already determining themselves what they feel is marketable).

    Unfortunately, the City’s new “strategic land use plan” doesn’t provide any real insight into site design. If anything, the limited use of “Specialty Mixed Use” districts in the plan falsely conveys the sense that mixed uses shouldn’t be considered in the Southtown area. Indeed, the City’s new land use plan refers to the Southtown area as a “Regional Commerce Area,” along with other major strip centers like St. Louis Marketplace.

    So, if the City development agencies are conveying support for traditional (ironic yes, that such term now means suburban) retail development, while neighborhood groups have clearly shared in the past (with Southtown) that they support better site design that is pedestrian-oriented, we’re really just setting ourselves up for another battle. There obviously has to be a better way, so that developers know upfront what the public will support.

    [REPLY – I’m picking this comment to reply to because it is the last one at the moment. I just rode around the area for a while on my scooter and took over 60 pictures.

    First, the West side of Kingshigway is outstanding with the previously noted exception of the Jack In The Box. Narrowing the street a bit to allow four travel lanes and on-street parking on either side would help.

    I agree with your points above about the neighborhood and city working together to plan the area prior to a developer saying it is too late to change.

    I actually like a number of buildings in the area we are discussing including residences along Delor – no reason to take them. I also like the old – well not sure what it was – behind the Office Depot. Anyone know the old building I’m talking about with the clay tile roof? I like the YWCA and the Magdalen Center and bowling alley. – SLP]

  18. I think that the old building behind Office Depot was a train station at the end of the rail spur Joe mentions.

    I would love to see the grid introduced in this area — there’s a lot of potential for exciting mixed use that would help strengthen the business district still left on the west side of Kingshighway. (By the way, I’ll second the endorsement of Lily’s restaurant & give a nod to the great locksmith behind Lily’s.) Forget New Town and Brentwood Boulevard! The city has a chance to develop a totally new, dense mixed-use project here.

    [REPLY – I have seen the evidence of the train line that Joe spoke of. The building seems too fancy to be some sort of train terminal and I didn’t think we had any passenger service in the area. There must be some story behind how it is sited.

    I went to Lily’s for lunch after is was mentioned. Great as always. – SLP]

  19. Matt says:

    I live in the Bevo neighborhood and remember in my younger days being escorted to the now defunct Venture store on South Kingshighway.

    I would love nothing more than to see these failed or failing superblocks transformed into something respectful of the city’s often fading urbanity.

    The introduction of a fully-functional street grid to this area complete with mixed use developments could really add to the diversity and life of the urban neighborhood to the east.

    It makes me wonder if there is any way we, who have posted on this blog site today, could come together to try to effect change in the development of and around this area. We have seen too many streets in St. Louis fall prey to second-rate suburban knock-offs to watch Sam’s Club or anything like it create more barriers to realizing the urbanity of the Chippewa-Kingshighway area. We could meet to discuss what changes need to be made, draw up some plans and then see if we attract the attention of the City, the media, and potential developers.

    [REPLY – Funny you mention this Matt. I’m planning to do a new post in a day or two which will issue a ‘Request for Proposal’ for this area. I’ll set out criteria for the designs. I would hope that you and others would create some interesting site plans. I will then post the site plans for all to see. Call it a virtual charrette. – SLP]

  20. jim says:

    Dont kid yourselves. The new office max will be closed once the lease is up. The regional manager is a college friend.

    The Bosnians are moving out of Bevo en masse. Check Mehlville’s stats.

    Kingshighway used to be the dividing line but no longer–Southhampton is already experiencing decay.

    Its going to take a bold developer to be sold on any sort of Kingshighway/Chippewa plan for any sort of mixed use in the near future. Look for the blight continue West from Kingshighway to Hampton.

  21. rick says:

    Kingshighway the dividing line of what?

    If blight is extending in Southampton, then why are property values increasing?

  22. Matt says:

    ^That’s what I was wondering. Values are increasing in SouthHampton and East of Kingshighway in the Bevo area.

  23. Joe Frank says:

    In spite of my earlier comments, I would be eager to see what sort of creative ideas folks might have for redeveloping this area into a more urban grid.

    I’m kinda skeptical that anything will realistically happen there anytime soon; but, who knows?

    However, part of me would rather see that kind of energy spent on rehabbing the buildings that already are historic and urban in design in the surrounding neighborhoods like Southampton, Northampton and Bevo Mill.

    As for Southtown Centre – I hope it succeeds long-term. I would think the OfficeMax would be doing a lot better than that Office Depot further south – the OfficeMax location has MUCH higher visibility.

    PetsMart is actually a pretty significant draw, at least for me. But can somebody tell me why the center still does not have cart corrals on its parking lot? Seems like a pretty basic shopping center management task to me.

  24. LMS says:

    The Southtown center is truly a poor and uninspiring design which clearly contributes to it’s ongoing vacancy problem. Whats with a design that calls for placing the back of building along Chippewa? That’s very inviting. I suspect someone is losing allot of sleep at night as visions of empty stores dance in his head. The whole project was done on the cheap. Who was involved in approving these designs?

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