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A Tour of City Foundry St. Louis, the Food Hall, and Fresh Thyme Market

December 21, 2021 Featured, History/Preservation, Midtown, Planning & Design, Real Estate, Retail Comments Off on A Tour of City Foundry St. Louis, the Food Hall, and Fresh Thyme Market
One of my favorite views is seeing the remains of the elevated railroad line.

Today’s post is a look at City Foundry St. Louis, a new retail & office development in an old foundry along Forest Park Ave., between Spring and Vandeveter.

Almost 100 years ago, the Century Electric company purchased the Midtown St. Louis property now known as City Foundry STL. At the time, Midtown was a manufacturing hub for the city, thanks to its proximity to the Wabash Railroad line, which cuts across the City Foundry STL Property.

Century Electric was one of the top 3 manufacturers in the city, manufacturing motors and generators that were sold internationally. In fact, Century’s motors helped spark the development of small household appliances.

While the foundry changed owners over the years, and the products produced there changed, one thing did not: nearly 24-hour-a-day work continued on the site until 2007.

Today, this 15-acre site is being reimagined as City Foundry STL, with first-to-the-area makers and merchants moving to the complex. We can’t wait to for you to be a part of the next chapter of this storied creative complex. (City Foundry St. Louis)

First, a definition:

A foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal into a mold, and removing the mold material after the metal has solidified as it cools. The most common metals processed are aluminum and cast iron. However, other metals, such as bronze, brass, steel, magnesium, and zinc, are also used to produce castings in foundries. In this process, parts of desired shapes and sizes can be formed. (Wikipedia)    [An aside: a segment from a 1997 Simpsons episode comes to mind]

I’ve lived in St. Louis for over 31 years now, but don’t recall the name Century Electric. My memory of the foundry was the smell making automotive brake parts for Federal-Mogul. My post from last month: A Look at City Foundry St. Louis…in August 2013.

The 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps show a few scattered wood frame buildings in this area, not a foundry. City records list four buildings on the site:

  • Manufacturing 1932: 146,015 square feet
  • Warehouse 1937: 66,197sf
  • Warehouse 1953: 38,640sf
  • Manufacturing 1982: 5,760

Let’s take a look, getting into some history along the way.

This 2015 photo looking east shows a new intersection on Vandeveter with a driveway for the then-new IKEA.
Leaving IKEA we see the low building along Vandeventer no longer exists. My assumption is this was the 1982 building.
Looking left we see the intersection of Vandeveter & IKEA Way now includes Foundry Way to the east.
Foundry Way would be named Clark Ave if they continued the name from east of Spring Ave. The open land on either side here is for future phases. Sidewalk only on the south side, for now.
One of my favorite views is seeing the remains of the elevated railroad line.
My 2nd favorite view is toward the left, looking NE. The repetition of old piers the held the railroad tracks is just lovely to my eyes. The bright red wall on the left, not so much.

I wanted to know more about Century Electric so I began scouring the Post-Dispatch archives online via the St. Louis Public Library. Here’s a bit of what I found in a Post-Dispatch article from December 25, 1949, P61:

  • Century Electric organized 1900, incorporated 1901
  • first workshop an old church at 1011 Locust
  • first working motor tested on thanksgiving day 1903 — sold to Rosenthal-Sloan Millinary Co.
  • products shipped to 90 foreign countries
  • first to offer repulsion type motor in small sizes
  • a century motor was in the first successful home refrigerator
  • manufactures everything except the wire
  • foundry address is/was 3711 Market Street — before I-64/Hwy 40 went though.

Let’s resume the tour.

Again, I love the concrete railroad piers. Using them as an element is better & cheaper than removal and dumping in a landfill.
Here it begins to open up. The silver metal building is one of two new buildings designed to hide the new multi-level parking garage that was cut into the land between Forest Park Ave and the historic foundry.  These new buildings are considered “liner buildings”, shallow structures designed to screen and offer a nicer street view. We’ll visit that upper area later.
Now we’re facing east, with the old foundry on the right, new liner buildings hiding the parking on the left.
The food hall is the main public attraction in the old foundry building. More on this food destination below.
Continuing further east, toward Spring Ave. Old foundry still on the right, liner still on the left.
Almost to Spring Ave we get to the 1937 building that houses Fresh Thyme grocery store. You can see the east end of the parking garage.
Looking north/uphill along Spring Ave from near I-64 we can see foundry offices that used to front onto Market Street, the foundry, and the SE corner of the building that’s now Fresh Thyme.

Let’s go out to Forest Park Ave and approach from the west.

This approach is the worst, blank wall, no street trees, gravel instead of landscaping.
Looking back west, toward Vandeventer Ave.
This is the primary pedestrian access from Forest Park Ave., the new garage on the left. Dreary, but at least it’s wide. This brings you in at the upper level, mentioned previously.
Looking west, toward IKEA. Again, the vacant land will be for a future phase.
Looking southeast we get a good look at the old foundry.

One last exterior area to show you, the building on the SW corner of Forest Park & Spring avenues. It began as the new offices of a local grocery chain, so using it for a new grocery store is very fitting. From the Post-Dispatch July 18, 1937:

This 1937 article announces the construction of a new building to be built for the Tom Boy Stores grocery chain. A few years later I saw it written Tom-Boy and then Tomboy before disappearing in the archives.
Looking SW from the opposite corner at Spring & Forest Park avenues. Spring continues down the hill, where we were earlier.
Looking south across Forest Park Ave
In front, the door isn’t the main entry. I love that a building built for the offices of a grocery chain with late 19th century roots is now used as a grocery store.
The main entry is in the west facade, facing the top level of the parking garage. This photo was taken on opening day, 11/10/2021.
Looking back north toward Forest Park we see a protected pedestrian route to the right of the yellow bollards. Unfortunately they’ve been filing it with extra shopping carts lately, defeating the purpose.
Looking back out toward the parking. New hotel with rooftop bar across the street, in the background.

Let’s go inside Fresh Thyme, later we’ll go into the Food Hall.

When you enter the main doors, you head to the left.
They’re known for having nice produce that’s nicely displayed.
I love the old industrial skylight.
Inside looking north toward the meat & deli areas.
In the NE corner is a seating area, I can imagine Saint Louis University students/staff/faculty walking over here, meeting friends.
The compact store is well-stocked, though they don’t yet have sweetened condensed milk.
Even checkout is self serve, though there are a lot of employees to help you. Some are for smaller purchases while others are for larger with more area for scanned items.

Fresh Thyme Market has other locations in the region, on both sides of the river. The grocery chain in based in suburban Chicago (Downers Grove, IL). The large chain Meijer is an investor, their nearest location is Springfield IL. So you’ll see some Meijer products on shelves.

On opening day I planned to get a package of Meijer frozen tuna steaks that I priced on the Fresh Thyme’s website (Kirkwood location). At this new location the very same item was 50% more than in Kirkwood. WTF!?! I ask the manager why the price is so much more. The answer was unexpected. The Fresh Thyme Market at City Foundry STL isn’t part of Fresh Thyme’s system, including pricing. Fresh Thyme investor Meijer is a partner on this location, so the pricing is based on that.  The manager told me they’d match the significantly better price at checkout. To this day if you do a search on the actual Fresh Thyme website for the nearest location it won’t find the City Foundry location. It’s not on the Meijer website either. Very weird.

Other than the frozen tuna steaks the prices I’ve checked have all been reasonable, their milk price is the best I’ve seen anywhere in the region. We’ve been back numerous times, a welcome new addition. Now if they’ll just stop filling the ADSA-compliant accessible route with extra shopping carts.

Moving on, let’s visit the Food Hall.  First, a food hall is not the same as a food court:

Here are 4 things about food halls and what makes people love them:

  • Food halls are usually a collection of small, locally-developed restaurant concepts or outright new creations that come from the minds of local chefs or start-up entrepreneurs and restauranteurs. They offer an assortment of unique food and beverage items that are usually cooked from scratch (prepared from raw ingredients vs. shipped in partially or wholly made) or nearby in a commissary (but still from scratch). On the other hand, food courts are usually filled with national chain restaurants that offer little scratch cooking and little-to-no brand cache.

  • Food courts will typically feature a cast of usual players like one or two Asian concepts (with one or both of them serving a version of Bourbon chicken), an ice cream place, a pizza place, a burger chain or two, a Latin concept, a hot dog concept, a cheesesteak concept, and maybe a cookie place. The dining options in a food hall are more in line with a collection of food trucksat a food truck park than the food found in a food court, with ethnic favorites like Vietnamese bao buns, Cuban street sandwiches, wine and cheese, Italian sandwich or pasta shop, local ice cream or gelato, chocolatiers, or Napolitano style pizza (vs. Sbarro’s par-cook-n-reheat slices), southern fried chicken sandwiches, and just about anything you can imagine.

  • Food halls are aesthetically pleasing, often in turn-of-the-century warehouses, train stations, or old mills with high ceilings where the building’s history is partially or mostly preserved. Ponce City Market was originally a Sears & Roebuck distribution warehouse. Chelsea Market in New York was a Nabisco factory where the Oreo was invented. Quincy Market in Boston is one of the oldest food halls in America (it was a food hall before folks started calling them food halls) and sits next to historic Faneuil Hall…it was designed from the beginning (1824-1826) to be a marketplace. In a food hall, the charm of historic significance combines with the unique food offerings and the novelty of reclaimed industrial space to form a city’s social nucleus, while food courts are really little more than uninspired feeding pit stops for mall shoppers.

  • Food halls are destinations. Retail stores are few and are injected to add interest and shopping-as-entertainment to the food experience, but they must convey a consistent lifestyle “voice” to their visitors. Anthropologie, Lululemon, or Madewell are common national retail supplements. Food courts are designed to keep shoppers shopping so they don’t leave the mall when they get hungry… the food supports the shopping, not the other way around like in a food hall.

Ready?

Entry before you get into the main space.
The main space is in the heart of the old foundry, very industrial.
Tables & chairs are throughout the large space. Vendors have small storefronts.
Most vendors are walk up.
But a few also offer bar seating. This might not be ADA-compliant because a person in a wheelchair couldn’t eat here, will need to see if they have a provision for that.

Concluding thoughts on City Foundry St. Louis

I was very happy & curious when I first heard the developers planned to keep the old industrial buildings rather than scrape the site clean. Overall I’m pleasantly surprised by how they’ve turned an old dirty industrial site into a retail & office destination. If you haven’t been I recommend visiting.

Transit users can take MetroLink to either Grand or Cortex, the nearest bus lines are the 42 & 70.

— Steve Patterson

 

A Look at City Foundry St. Louis…in August 2013

November 22, 2021 Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design Comments Off on A Look at City Foundry St. Louis…in August 2013

In August 2013 the vacant brake foundry in Midtown St. Louis, Vandeventer Ave. & Forest Park Ave., was an “eye sore” just south the main campus of Saint Louis University.  IKEA’s announcement to build on the opposite side of Vandeventer was still a few months away. I visited the foundry site as best I could in my power wheelchair, taking 9 photos in a 20 minute period.

Before posting about the new City Foundry STL (with food hall, offices, retail space, and recently opened grocery store) I want to take you back to the afternoon of Saturday August 24, 2013:

Looking NE from the west side of Vandeventer, under I-64.
A little further north, looking toward Forest Park Ave.
Turning east, the rail spur (right) hadn’t been used in decades.
Further north, looking east.
Now east of Vandevener, looking east along the north side of the foundry site, Forest Park Ave
From the gently-sloping parking lot within the site, looking east.
This is a cropped view from the previous image.
Into the site a little more, looking SE
Looking south along Spring Ave, the east boundary of the foundry site.
Down the hill, looking back north along Spring Ave. The eastern most foundry building is now on the left.
Looking east from IKEA’s 3rd floor restaurant on September 23, 2015 — the day the media was allowed to preview the new store. IKEA’s Opening Day was a week later, September 30, 2015. The foundry site to the east was unchanged more than 2 years after my visit above.

Soon I’ll use these images to compare the foundry to the completely reimagined present. The single-story building along Vandeventer was razed, all other buildings remain today. See amazing before interior photos here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

May 30, 2018 Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design, SLU, Walkability Comments Off on Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

Grand Avenue runs through Saint Louis University’s main campus. It’s very busy because other North-South options like Spring & Theresa were vacated years ago. This means North-South that had 5 options now have 3: Vandeventer, Grand, and Compton. To handled the increased volume, on-street parking was removed. Without having to slow for cars parking, speeds increased. For pedestrians this is dangerous.

Since the city has given away public right-of-way (aka streets) to private property owners for years this problem exists throughout the city.  The proposed solution is the same superficial one — decorative crosswalks. The warm & fuzzy element of urban planning.

SLU’s rendering of proposed changes to Grand where West Pine used to be

Here again is what SLU is planning at Lindell, where West Pine used to be, and Laclede:

The project calls for the elimination of one of the three northbound lanes on Grand, which will allow the remaining lanes and the median to be widened. Bollards will also be installed to protect pedestrians who are about to cross the street as well as those who might be standing in the median. The roadway where the crosswalk is, will be changed to a brick-like surface to enhance the look and remind drivers to slow down. (KMOV)

Let’s take a closer look at each element.

  • Removal of one Northbound travel lane: Reducing the number of travel lanes is good.
  • Widen the remaining travel lanes & median: While widening the median is ok. increasing the width of travel lanes is the wrong thing to do! Wider lanes means driver’s feel safe at higher speeds. The remaining lanes should either be kept at their current width or reduced if you want to slow vehicles to increase pedestrian safety.
  • Bollards installed: In this context bollards gov an impression of safety, though they might help since cars will be going even faster on wider lanes.

b

I’ve long been interested in the Grand & formerly West Pine crosswalk. I visited and observed at 4:45pm on Tuesday September 21, 2010 — nearly 8 years ago.

The crosswalk was highly visible to pedestrians & motorists, September 2010

After I observed the crosswalk and took the photo (above) I decided to record what I was witnessing,

Here are the problems I listed at the end of the video:

  1. Signal timing is too long for pedestrians, they get tired of waiting and cross when they can. The timing needs to change so pedestrians can safely cross more frequently.
  2. The pedestrian button, like most in St. Louis, doesn’t do anything. Even the one person who pressed the button crossed before getting the “walk” signal.  Eliminate the button or make the signal change quickly once pressed.

The fixes, save for shortening the crossing distance & giving students more space to stand between traffic, won’t make this crossing any safer. It’s possible the dark bricks will be less noticeable to motorists than the white paint. I know from a wheelchair perspective brick crosswalks are highly annoying. Motorists need to slow down before they reach the crosswalk.

Looking North on the East side of Grand, June 2011

One of the big problems is the lack of anything to get motorists to slow down: parked cars, narrow lanes, or — my favorite — street trees. It feels too wide open so motorists feel ok going faster than they should. Other things to do would be rumble strips in the pavement prior to reaching the crosswalk. make traffic stop more frequently during busy times, embed flashing LED lights in the lane markers ,a lighted sign overhead, etc.

Sadly too many are fooled by this region’s superficial efforts to appear to make pedestrian-friendly environments. Here’s the results of the recent non-scioentiofic Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Proposed changes to the crosswalk on Grand South of Lindell will greatly improve safety for pedestrians.

  • Strongly agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Somewhat agree 7 [31.82%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Disagree 4 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [4.55%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

This crosswalk will, to most eyes, look better. Aesthetics aside, it won’t perform any better — it might be worse. This is a way for SLU to mitigate damages from a future lawsuit by claiming they made an effort to improve safety. Actual safety is perceived as too inconvenient to motorists.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Which Location Would You Pick For A Soccer Stadium?

October 30, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Midtown, Popular Culture, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Which Location Would You Pick For A Soccer Stadium?
Please vote below
Please vote below

The NFL has left, but major league soccer (MLS) is interested in St. Louis.

There are at least two potential MLS ownership groups in St. Louis.

They include Foundry St. Louis, which has already identified property at the northwest corner of Chouteau Avenue and Grand Boulevard for stadium development, and MLS2STL, whose representatives are adamant the stadium site should be downtown. (Post-Dispatch)

The downtown site would technically be in Downtown West — just West of Union Station.

So today’s non-scientific poll seeks to figure out where the readership thinks a dedicated soccer stadium is best placed, if at all. There are many pros & cons to both possible locations.

The poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown>Hampton>IKEA>Downtown Part 2

Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about the two different transit I’d taken (MetroLink, #90 & #32 MetroBus) and issues faced as a pedestrian trying to navigate in between.  I’d made it to IKEA for shopping, followed by lunch.

I'm obsessed with food so naturally I took a pic of my plate: Veggies balls with vegetarian black bean sauce,, steamed veggies, Swedish apple cake, and tap water.
I’m obsessed with food so naturally I took a pic of my plate: Veggies balls with vegetarian black bean sauce,, steamed veggies, Swedish apple cake, and tap water.
When I was done with lunch the rain had resumed.
When I was done with lunch the rain had resumed.

I checked the transit options, it would be a while before a MetroBus stopped out front. Plus, that would only get me to Lindell where I’d have to wait in the rain for the #10. The Grand MetroLink is closer than the CWE MetroLink, but Forest Park is the most direct route and I recall some access issues the last time. Plus, my transfer from earlier was now long expired.

No matter what I’d be in the rain, so I decided to just roll home — 2.9 miles. I’ve done it a few times before, though not in the rain. I’m still wearing a poncho to keep me and the controller on my chair dry. My shoes, however, get soaked.  North on Vandeventer to Lindell. I stayed on the West side of Vandeventer because I’m bot sure if the city ever got around to the huge gaps in front of the curb ramps on the NE corner of Vandeventer & Forest Park. At Lindell, I checked the schedule again — I can get home before the next bus would arrive.

Because of the rain I only took a few pictures. The following week I took the bus to Lindell & Spring to backtrack and take pictures of things I saw in the rain.

Lindell & Spring, the crowd passed the walk button. Not sure if required.
Lindell & Spring, the crowd passed the walk button. Not sure if required.
New traffic signals being installed at the Lindell/Olive intersection. April 6th
New traffic signals being installed at the Lindell/Olive intersection. April 6th
This signal is long overdue! In the background the Hotel Ignacio is getting its EFIS facade repaired
This signal is long overdue! In the background the Hotel Ignacio is getting its EFIS facade repaired
How many years ago did I post about the need for painted crosswalk lines here? August 2011 -- click image for post.
How many years ago did I post about the need for painted crosswalk lines here? August 2011 — click image for post.
Olive & Compton, no need to push the button tho cross Compton. If you want to cross Olive you must press the button.
Olive & Compton, no need to push the button tho cross Compton. If you want to cross Olive you must press the button.
At Ewing is a ramp my powerful chair cannot get up -- the vertical height is too much. April 6th
At Ewing is a ramp my powerful chair cannot get up — the vertical height is too much. April 6th
The same ramp again. Like hundreds/thousands of curb ramps it was built too high relative to the paving. Plus, like so many, the paving right in from is partially missing. I have to role in Ewing a little bit to get to a driveway.
The same ramp again. Like hundreds/thousands of curb ramps it was built too high relative to the paving. Plus, like so many, the paving right in from is partially missing. I have to role in Ewing a little bit to get to a driveway to get onto the sidewalk.
The West side at Ewing & Olive is another issue. The concrete at the top has caved in. .
The West side at Ewing & Olive is another issue. The concrete at the top has caved in between the top of the ramp and the access panel.
I've not tried to go up this ramp. it might also be impossible
I’ve not tried to go up this ramp. it might also be impossible
At Leffingwell you must press the button to get a walk signal to cross Olive -- even when traffic has a green light
At Leffingwell you must press the button to get a walk signal to cross Olive — even when traffic has a green light
At Olive & 20th I saw the buttons in the rain, they were far away. To cross 20th you needed to be over by Olive and vice versa.
At Olive & 20th I saw the buttons in the rain, they were far away. To cross 20th you needed to be over by Olive and vice versa.
When I went back I confirmed no button is needed to cross 20th but you do need to press a button top cross Olive. The signs are wrong, the button next to each crosswalk is what is wired.
When I went back I confirmed no button is needed to cross 20th but you do need to press a button top cross Olive. The signs are wrong, the button next to each crosswalk is what is wired.

Used to be — but no curb ramp is missing for the nearly 3 mile trip. If I tried to use Locust there are many missing curb ramps.

I still fail to understand why all the cost of the buttons when they don’t need to be pushed in the East-West direction. And why have to press a button to get a walk signal when vehicles from side streets get a green light?  This is how we’ve spent money — building infrastructure that frustrates this pedestrian!

— Steve Patterson

 

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