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Washington University Replacing Occupied Buildings, Leaving Vacant Buildings/Land Vacant

April 9, 2012 Featured, Planning & Design, Retail 12 Comments
ABOVE: Drawing from a February 2010 Student Life article, click image to view

In February Washington University made a big announcement regarding development in the Delmar Loop:

Washington University plans to remake a central part of the Delmar Loop with an $80 million project consisting of stores and apartments for about 550 students.

The project comprises a four- to six-story building of retail space and apartments on Delmar Boulevard at Eastgate Avenue and three new mid-rise apartment buildings on Enright Avenue nearby. Design work will begin soon, and construction could begin in January 2013 with occupancy in August 2014, university officials said. (STLtoday.com)

Numerous existing buildings will be razed to make room for the new buildings. My first reaction was disapproval, razing occupied structures when vacant land and buildings exist just a short distance to the east. But I wanted to wait to blog about the project until I had a chance to see all the buildings that would be razed and to get a feel for the area. First though I want to talk vacant land and buildings.

East of Skinker

The long closed auto service place located at 6045 Delmar is owned by Quadrangle Management, part of Washington University. The building is the only structure on the block surrounded by Delmar Blvd, Des Peres Ave and Rosedale Ave. This MetroLink station has been open nearly 20 years, I’d hoped this site would be redeveloped years ago.

ABOVE: The closed auto service center was built in 1964. It's adjacent to MetroBus & MetroLink stops. Click image to view in Google Maps.

Redevelopment of this site right next to the light rail line and the meeting point for numerous bus lines would be great for the area. The vacant 1928 Wasbash Wabash Station across Des Peres Ave might be renovated and occupied.

ABOVE: Historic Wasbash Wabash Station is owned by Joe Edwards through an LLC. Click image for more information on this station.

Just to the west of the vacant auto service building is a large parcel of land (6105-23 Delmar) that had been proposed for development in 2006.

ABOVE: Sign for unbuilt "Loop Center" project, April 2006.

The unremarkable structures that existed were razed in 2006 2007 — the land has been vacant since. Neither Washington University or Joe Edwards control this land. Still it just strokes me as wasteful for Washington University to razed occupied buildings when they own an vacant and out of character building right next to a major transit hub. But let’s cross over Skinker and check out what they do plan to replace.

West of Skinker

Let’s take a tour of the site starting with two structures facing Delmar that would be razed then working our way counter-clockwise.

ABOVE: These two apartment buildings from 1928 would be replaced
ABOVE: The vacant lot at Delmar & Eastgate would be developed once again. The building across the street isn't part of the development site
ABOVE: This nice occupied building from 1923 would be razed, 609-611 Eastgate Ave
ABOVE: 6236 Enright Ave was built in 1923 and contains 6 apartments
ABOVE: The remainder of the south side Enright is occupied by University Terrace, apartment/townhouse buildings from 1970
ABOVE: University Terrace building at Enright & Westgate Ave

According to this video the University Terrace apartments on Enright were renovated in 2009. Look like nice housing to me.

Not Part of Project

Continuing our walk around the block we’re at Westgate and Delmar, these buildings are not part of the Washington University project.

ABOVE: The out of place building at Delmar & Westgate was built in 1969, the year before the University Terrace buildings behind it.
ABOVE: This building and parking garage across from the Tivoli will remain. The garage was built in 1998.
ABOVE: East of the garage is a 2-story building from 1920 and the first of a series of 3-story apartment buildings with retail on the first floor, also built in 1920.
ABOVE: More 3-story apartment buildings, with the first floor as storefronts. Built in 1920.
ABOVE: The last 1920 apartment building with retail, the Washington University project will raze the building barely visible on the right.


Disclosure: I have NO relationship with Washington University.





Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. I like most of this plan; it eliminates vacant lots and parking lots, the very place where the troublemakers have been congregating.  That has to be solved or the Loop will continue to have this media-generated PR disaster.

  2. JZ71 says:

    Thanks, as always, for your research and information.  Now, what’s your real point?  That Washington University should be building stuff that fits some grand urban vision instead of building (including demolition) stuff that they think will actually work?  Or will work better than your academic analysis and personal preferences?

    I support what Washington University is doing.  If you want a walkable, vibrant urban area, you need both density (office and/or residential) and thriving ground-floor retail.  They’re bringing significantly-greater density to the heart of the Loop, and they should have little difficulty filling the retail spaces. If they had done the same project several blocks east, as you seem to be pushing, there’s much less certainty that the retail spaces would be filled as quickly or for comparable rents.  The other half of the equation is connecting students to campus (remember, this is student housing).  The main campus is directly south of their current project, making for a short walk or bike ride.  The “closed auto service center” site, further east, is a much longer walk, although Metrolink is “right there”.  The problem is that getting from the Delmar Station to the Skinker or Big Bend Stations on Metrolink requires taking two trains and transferring, many times with a 15+ minute wait between trains!

    Urban life is messy.  Stuff happens randomly, rarely following some great plan.  And in real estate, the three big rules are location, location, location.  You don’t like the “out-of-place building at Delmar & Westgate”.  While I’d like to see more stuff happening on upper floors, I have no problem with what’s happening there at street level now.  I have a much bigger problem with the dead block created by the AT&T building and its empty, fenced parking lots that face Delmar and don’t have any ground-floor retail.  This project will “fix” part of the problem, on the north side, making it easier for retail to expand to the east.  But what really needs to happen, and something that Wash. U. has very little control over, is on the south side of Delmar.  That two-block stretch is a real buzz kill, and until AT&T and its empty parking lot and Church’s Chicken all get replaced with more of what Wash. U. is doing, Delmar east of Skinker will remain the less-desirable part (unless you’re a teenager with a curfew).

    The reality is that AT&T needs to keep their building, but they apparently need very little parking anymore – something about human operators being replaced with this thing called technology.  They need to be “strongly encouraged” to give up both lots for something similar to Wash. U’s project.  Heck, even a CVS on the southwest corner of Skinker and Delmar would be an improvement . . . 😉

    • Wash U should replace a vacant auto service shop before replacing numerous occupied structures, including those built in 1970 and renovated in 2009. These were likely built as a way to revitalize the area, replacing 1920s buildings themselves. .

      • Tpekren says:

        I would have to disagree Steve, think Wash U is putting forth a decent proposal and in time you will see development around the metrolink station.  The reality is Wash U is going to do what it thinks is best for its students as this proposal is about and Commercial interests are going to do what they think will give them the best bottom line.  What I do give Wash U credit for is actually building density, first on its campus (have to admit that they can’t easily buy up and bulldoze their surrounding neighbors as SLU has been able to) and now that the campus is pretty much getting built out, you will see more projects around the loop that fills vacant lots including the one their planning to build on even if it is not your first choice of empty lots. 

  3. Douglas Duckworth says:

    They are tearing down occupied buildings?  Seems a bad idea from an environmental and planning standpoint.  They should go farther east and develop the block between Hodiamont and Hamilton.  Let other developers worry about filling in these gaps.  

  4. Eric says:

    Based on the pictures, it seems that in general buildings *without* ground-level retail will be torn down (and replaced by buildings that have it), while buildings *with* ground-level retail will be untouched. That can only be a good thing, no?

    • Tpekren says:

       The apartment buildings that Wash U want to tear down are behind Loop and face a side street, Good place not to have ground floor retail. 

  5. Eric says:

    By the way it’s Wabash not Wasbash.

  6. Scity63116 says:

    The majority of the buildings that would be torn down are from 1970 and on Enright.  They’re rather dreary inside. 

  7. Moe says:

    I’m not impressed.  What I see is Wash U. worried about future revenue….10, 15 years down the road when their enrollment numbers start to decline and contraction starts.  Retail will provide a nice cushion.  Tearing down buildings….I read no outcry as if this was SLU,  the great Evil Empire. What I read was outcry lite. What happened to the rally call of rehab rehab rehab???
    The pictures ot the streets were nice but the side streets looked vacant to me.  And cold and unwelcoming.  But then I remember these streets from the early 80’s when you WOULD get shot on them.  I also read a lot of MIGHTs….as in might rehab the Walbash building, etc. A lot of mights and again, if this was some other place, those mights would be HUGE negative points.
    And if it was truely all about the retail and maximizing street footage.  Move the darn parking lot off center, add another level, and do something decorative with the ‘windows’ . 

    • The outcry over SLU is due to the fact they are razing a highly iconic & historic building and replacing it with an anti-urban one. All within sight of a major transit point.


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