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Former City Hospital Power Plant to Include Rock Climbing Gym, Banquet Hall, Rooftop Dining

An interesting new concept will open for business next month:

Is St. Louis ready for one of the tallest bouldering walls in the nation? Or a banquet facility where attendees can watch rock climbers scale a 55-foot wall? Or a corporate party that includes rock climbing? Ready or not, Climb So iLL will be opening in the historic City Hospital Power Plant in mid-March. (St. Louis Business Journal)

You’ll be able to grab lunch at a restaurant while viewing the climbing space.

ABOVE: Former City Hospital power house, September 2011

This is a creative  use of a difficult building:

Listed on the city’s historical registry, the Power Plant supplied power to the St. Louis City Hospital for nearly 50 years. The City Hospital complex is made up of several buildings including the Laundry Building, the Administrative Complex, the City Hospital itself, and the Power Plant.

 The once abandoned City Hospital has been renovated into the Georgian Condominiums, and the Laundry Building is now home to the Palladium Banquet Center. Several other construction projects are underway on the site. Phase two of construction hopes to bring with it a bakery, a micro-brewery, a locally-grown food processing distribution center, and a hotel. (climbsoill.com)

It has been nice seeing the City Hospital site develop over time. The streets and sidewalks have been in place and one by one the development is filling in between.

ABOVE: The interior didn't look like anything last September during a pre-construction tour

This is an example of what I was talking about the other day regarding The Bottle District — the planning was done and the infrastructure (streets & sidewalks) to connect development parcels within the site and to the adjacent neighborhoods. As demand and financing becomes available vacant buildings are renovated and occupied and new construction is built to fill in other areas.

We need more of this — plan the site, put the infrastructure in place and build/renovate over time. The developer of the site isn’t responsible for financing all the future renovations and new construction at the beginning. For more info and artist renderings of the rock climbing gym see climbsoill.com.

– Steve Patterson

 

Mmm, Cupcakes From A Truck

ABOVE: Ladies who lunch buy cupcakes afterwards on Washington Ave

Last fall I spotted these ladies lining up to buy cupcakes from Sarah’s Cake Shop.  Purely for research purposes I got a carrot cupcake, just to test out the experience.  I love street & truck vendors as well as those who operate brick-n-morter locations.  To me, increased activity on the sidewalk means more business for everyone.

– Steve Patterson

 

Crepes in the City reopening under new ownership

November 7, 2009 Downtown, Local Business 17 Comments

Crepes in the City, a popular downtown eatery, closed last month month after only a year in business.  New owners are taking over the space and plan to reopen with the same menu and name.  Changes will be minor.  For example, more comfortable seating, I’m told.

Each weekend the line was always out the door but Tuesday-Friday business wasn’t enough to make it work.  The new owners hope to do things differently enough so the place turns a profit.  No date yet on when the business will reopen.

Downtown businesses have it tough.  Some in the middle of the central business district tend to cater to the weekday lunch crowd but are closed evenings and weekends.  Get West of Tucker (12th) and you lose the business lunch crowd but the weekend loft dweller crowd becomes important.  Either way they must figure out how to pay the rent.  Staying open longer hours to attract more customers sometimes costs them more in employee salaries and utilities.

I’d heard the Pasta House Pronto at the Old Post Office closed as well but it is still listed on the Pasta House website.  Espresso Mod on 9th Street closed last week.  They blamed the heavily subsidized Culinaria grocery store for their drop in business.

Restaurants or retail, some places endure and some go away replaced with something new.  One thing is certain, I’ll take my changing restaurant options over a series of chain places along the interstate any day of the week.

– Steve Patterson

 

Grand and Chippewa a few years later

My first post about the McDonald’s at Grand & Chippewa was on February 1, 2005, nearly 5 years ago.    I was alerting everyone about the plan to build a new McDonald’s drive-thru across Grand at Winnebego (map link).

Former McDonald's in 2005

In 2006 the battle began.  The vacant site on Grand where the McDonald’s was proposed had been a Sears site decades ago. It stood vacant.  Neighbors of new nearby homes (and many others) objected to the drive-thru which did not conform to the original blighting plan for the redevelopment.

protest at site of proposed McDonalds on April 15, 2006
protest at site of proposed McDonald's on April 15, 2006

Many meetings were attended, protests were made.  The Summer of 2006 was a busy time fighting for an urban South Grand.

By September 2006 McDonald’s had won the approvals they needed to build their new location.  In November 2006 I declared the drive-thru project dead, delays took their toll and the local franchise owner closed the old McDonald’s rather than rebuilding on the new or old site.

Not long afterward the now defunct Pyramid Construction began building senior apartments once planned for the old McDonald’s site on the former Sears site.

On January 30, 2008 I posted about a title loan operation wanting to open up shop in the long boarded up McDonalds’s building.  I attended the hearing on the title loan outfit on Thursday January 31, 2008.  I didn’t get a chance to blog about the meeting, the following afternoon I had a stroke.  It was 3 months before I returned home.

During the Spring 2009 campaigns I heard a comment from someone the only thing I contributed to the 25th Ward (just South) was the boarded McDonald’s.  Thanks, I appreciated that.  Since then someone bought the unfinished senior building and finished the project.   And just recently the boarded McDonald’s got a fresh start:

Pho Mama (Mama Pho) Vietnamese Restaurant, a new restaurant in the Dutchtown West Neighborhood Association (DWNA) area is set to open on Monday, November 2, 2009! Pho Mamma is located at the corner of S. Grand and Chippewa. Their phone is 314-802-8348 and they will be open 7 days a week from 9am to 10pm.  (Source)

The old building is not the most urban but it also isn’t new.  Often small local start-up businesses cannot afford the rents on new construction. The site may eventually become more urban.  I stopped by the area yesterday to photograph both places.

Pho Mama, 3737 S. Grand
Pho Mama, 3737 S. Grand

Far more tasteful in appearance than the McDonald’s.

Senior housing instead of a new McDonalds drive-thru
Senior housing instead of a new McDonald's drive-thru

Today the former vacant site contains senior housing with street-level retail spaces facing Grand.   I’d say S. Grand is better off without a new McDonald’s drive-thru.  It would have been a tiny building on a large site with too much parking and a duel drive-thru lane.  If only we can get the traffic calmed in this part of Grand as well as a zoning overlay to require new construction to conform to the established urban standard.

Many people were involved in putting a stop to the auto-centric McDonald’s.  We should all be proud of the outcome, I know I am.  We should also go patronize Pho Mama.

– Steve Patterson

 

Successful Northside Job Growth

The first phase of the Northside redevelopment project as proposed by Paul McKee is to focus on the “job centers” and mixed use areas. Numbers are being thrown around as to imply thousands of jobs will be created by this project. I wonder what measure will be used to declare the project a success with respect to jobs by those proposing the plan.

The project will require a lot of construction jobs, which is a fact. These are people that would not have been needed otherwise. The time frame of twenty years implies the jobs will be needed for an extended duration compared to most construction projects. Despite that scope and time frame, do construction jobs truly help grow the area? Even with such a long time frame the jobs are only temporary. It is unreasonable to assume that someone could graduate, make a career of the project, and retire when it is done. Based on retirement accounts requirements they would still have another twenty years of work.  Shouldn’t the expectation for jobs created be that the jobs are permanent? Yes,t his economy has shown that no job is truly permanent, But no matter the time frame  construction jobs are by nature temporary. The 40/64 concrete river project demonstrates that. When 40 is complete construction will continue in the region, but will all those workers stay in St Louis? I doubt it. Some of them will return when the new Mississippi bridge starts up in full. There will probably be projects after that, but I don’t want the fate of the region’s job growth to depend on never ending highway work.  Local restaurants can’t move around the region at will to follow the construction.  They need permanent customers to keep open.

Looking at the McKee track record for development makes me wary, too. He touts his Winghaven and NorthPark projects as examples of what he and his associates can accomplish. The two projects boast two of the regions larger employers in Express Scripts and MasterCard. Unfortunately both these employers were already in the region before they moved into their new offices.  More specifically, they were in the same city. Sorry, Maryland Heights, I hope you didn’t need those taxes. True, Express Scripts was threatening to leave the area and NorthPark help keep them here, along with some tax incentives. Also, MasterCard had outgrown its offices in Maryland Heights and needed new digs. But in the end, McKee merely helped keep jobs from leaving. Preventing negative growth is not the same thing as creating new growth. Who does McKee plan on luring into the north city for this new project? I doubt Edward Jones is going to give up all their brand new buildings along 270.  Do you think InBev is tired of the historic brewery yet?

Additionally, there is the dilemma of existing projects already in work to compete with. Winghaven still has space available for development. NorthPark is basically a field with nice streets. Express Scripts isn’t even in the development, instead choosing to be south of I-70 next to UMSL. The old Ford Plant has been wiped out of existence and Hazelwood is dieing to get some tax base back on that land. The current economy has opened up business space in areas like Earth City and Westport. The occupancy rate downtown offices are not that great. And these are just some examples of places in the region vying for new jobs. What if the Northside development center gets all the new jobs in the coming years and every where else in the metro area remains stagnant?

Finally, the current economic conditions do not bode well for new jobs. Every region of the country is going to fight to keep what they have. Other cities are constantly offering huge incentives to attract growth. Just look at what it took to keep Express Scripts. What exactly does Paul McKee have to offer to convince a company to move to St Louis when it is hard to keep the ones already here? St Louis will be wrangling with every other city in the country for each new job. Not to imply it is a contest St Louis cannot win, but it won’t be as easy as some people are implying. The Lou is not the only place that will be offering new buildings and tax incentives in the coming years. That still leaves the possibility of start-ups as the source of new jobs. Might the next Google or Facebook start up in north St Louis? A future global company setting up roots in the new development could be the pinnacle of the project. Unfortunately, as many failed businessmen will tell you, there are more failures than success with new companies.

How will you measure the success of the project with respect to jobs:

  • For just having jobs associated with it?
  • Having low end retail jobs new to the city?
  • Pulling jobs into the city from around the metro area?
  • Preventing jobs from leaving the metro area?
  • Getting new jobs at the cost of other developments in the metro area?
  • Being the founding location of a future Fortune 500 company?

Permanent new to the region jobs, while not sucking up all growth in the metro area, will be my measure of success.

– Kevin McGuire

 

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