Home » Real Estate » Recent Articles:

Castle Ballroom: “Exclusively for the Best Colored People of St. Louis”

ABOVE: an advertisement from the National Register nomination (click to view)

Segregation meant blacks had to duplicate all the establishments that were not open to them, including dance halls. One such place was the Castle Ballroom on Olive & 29th (now T.E. Huntley).

Across the street to the south is the Mill Creek Valley Urban Renewal area. This 454-acre tract was the result of a clearance project which razed one of the city’s densest African American neighborhoods beginning in 1959. The low-rise community called Laclede Town was built south of the ballroom in the early 1960s; after subsequent expansions, it was closed in the 1980s and later razed. The property now belongs to the Sigma Chemical Company; most of it is open space. In this context, the Castle can be understood as one of a few remaining buildings with significant associations with the population of Mill Creek Valley.

The nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, quoted above, was written by Lynn Josse.

ABOVE: 2839 Olive today

I’d passed by this building thousands of times over the last 20 years but I had no clue to it’s history.  Again from the nomination:

For the purposes of the National Register, the most significant space in the building is the ballroom, which retains integrity. The dance floor, balcony, stage, even much of the plaster and woodwork are largely intact. Although some of the elements may not reflect the 1908 appearance, nearly all are original to the pre-1954 period of significance.

Thankfully the “pent roof” that was added to modernized the building has now been removed.  I can picture new storefront’s and the building occupied again.

Our buildings have so much history, it just takes someone to bring it to our attention.  In my case it was my friend Leigh Maibes, who has the property listed for sale. I’ve seen dark pictures of the ballroom space but without power I wasn’t able to see inside in person (walking is difficult enough for me in well lit spaces).

The renovation of midtown is moving east and downtown is moving west, in a few years they will meet along Washington, Locust or Olive.  Hopefully all three within a decade.

– Steve Patterson


Botanical Grove: Green City Living in the Heart of Saint Louis

A ground breaking was held last Friday afternoon for the Botanical Grove project in the Botanical Heights neighborhood.

The Botanical Heights Neighborhood is a centrally located neighborhood with close proximity to many Saint Louis amenities and destinations. The neighborhood is in the midst of a series of planned redevelopment projects that aim to improve the area, creating a vibrant walkable urban community. The first portion of redevelopment was completed between 2004 and 2007 and included the construction of 150 new homes on the six blocks bounded by 39th Street and Thurman Avenue, completed by St. Louis based homebuilder McBride and Sons. Botanical Grove represents the next phase of development, with a focus on green building within and the historic context of the western half of the neighborhood.

The neighborhood was formerly called McRee Town, so-named after McRee Ave that runs east-west through the neighborhood. Here is info on the project:

Botanical Grove includes thirty new homes on the 4200 Block of McRee in the Botanical Heights Neighborhood of St. Louis. These homes include all new homes as well as complete renovations of historic homes, with a range of unit types and sizes. All homes are built to LEED for Homes standards, to your custom specifications. Green construction on all homes, including standard geothermal heating and cooling, means a healthy lifestyle at a low operating cost. Combining these green features, with quality construction, and ten year property tax abatement allows Botanical Heights Homes to offer exceptional homes at a an exceptional value.

The firm UIC + CDO, located at McRee Ave & Tower Grove Ave , is the developer.  The project has been in the planning stages for the last five years.  In August 2010 I attended a neighborhood meeting where the project was presented to the neighbors, Ald Joseph Roddy (17th Ward) and Stephen Conway (8th Ward) both spoke at the gathering.

ABOVE: Ald Roddy (left) and Ald Conway (right) in August 2010
ABOVE: Ald Roddy (left) and Ald Conway (right), August 23, 2010

I like many things about this project, among them:

  • Existing privately owned homes within the defined area will remain in the hands of the current owners. Existing residents I spoke with will be glad to see  neighboring properties renovated and vacant lots infilled.
  • Vacant structures will be renovated, not razed.
  • New construction offers a contemporary, but compatible aesthetic.  The Model 1 has a great floor plan with central kitchen and rear living room.
  • LEED construction for the buildings as well as green elements for the street, such as rain gardens, are important to reducing waste.
  • Commercial buildings along Tower Grove Ave will also be renovated.
  • The homes include single-family detached and townhouses. The sizes are reasonable, not McMansions.

I’d be concerned about starting such a project in this economy but the bankers present on Friday are behind the effort.  I think they will phase the project over the next few years as buyers sign on the dotted line for each renovated building or new construction.

ABOVE: ground breaking shovels outside the UIC+CDO office on Friday March 18, 2011

This firm has already demonstrated with both of their buildings at Tower Grove Ave & McRee Ave that good design and a slow approach can make a huge difference over time. Over the next 10 years we will hopefully see the rest of the vacant structures in Botanical Heights renovated and the vacant lots infilled with new housing units.

– Steve Patterson


Police HQ Moving

January 22, 2011 Crime, Downtown, Real Estate 8 Comments
ABOVE: Building at 1915 Olive to become new police hq after alterations

KSDK is reporting the St. Louis Police have purchased a downtown building to allow the relocation of their headquarters:

The City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are putting money seized from criminal activity to good use. Nearly $3 million in confiscated monies was used to purchase a new police headquarters in downtown St. Louis. (full story)

There has been talk about the Police buying this building for a while, one reason I had a picture ready to go. Still unknown is what will happen with the existing police hq on Clark dating from 1920?

ABOVE: The current police hq built in 1920

bIn June 2009 contributor Jim Zavist wrote a piece What to do with Police HQ? looking at the issues then facing the police board.

– Steve Patterson


Vacant Fast Food Structure at Chippewa & Morgan Ford Razed

ABOVE: Former Steak & Shake at 4298 Chippewa St. Image: Google Street View (click to view)

Since 1964 the building shown above has sat on the SE corner of Chippewa & Morgan Ford (4298 Chippewa) in South St. Louis.  The first 40 years it was a Steak & Shake location, until a larger location to the west at 4644 Chippewa opened in 2004. The old location has been vacant the last six years.

ABOVE: The 1964 building has been razed, photo date 1/3/2011

The old building was 2,098 square feet on a 22,1887sf lot whereas the 2004 location is 3,840sf on a 38,246sf parcel, substantially larger in both the building size and total land area.

Curious about future plans for the site I contacted the property owner, Ryann Spencer Group, in High Ridge MO, but my calls were not returned.

– Steve Patterson


Zoning Hearing on Leather Trades Building

img_1635The Leather Trades building at 16th & Locust is a handsome building in need of considerable work.  In January 2007 Pyramid Construction applied for a permit to build a display unit on the 2nd floor. On 9/6/07 I attended a party, hosted by Pyramid, in the completed display unit. At the time I lived in south St. Louis but in less than three months later I was moving into a loft across Locust St.  The following April Pyramid ceased operations.

ABOVE: Artist rendering from 2007
ABOVE: Artist rendering from 2007

Pyramid’s real estate holdings were eventually all turned over to other parties for development.  In July, after talking with Desiree Knapp of the team I tweeted that work would begin in September. But it didn’t.

img_1634However, on October 29th Paric Construction applied for a building permit with estimated costs of $10.5 million.  The permit was denied because of our antiquated zoning.  The property is zoned “I-Central Business District” which requires:

26.52.050 Area regulations.

There shall be a lot area of not less than two hundred and fifty (250) square feet for each dwelling unit up to and including eight (8) stories or one hundred (100) feet in height; thereafter there shall be provided a lot area of not less than one hundred (100) square feet for each additional dwelling unit above eight (8) stories or one hundred (100) feet in height. Sleeping rooms without cooking facilities shall have a lot area of not less than one hundred (100) square feet each. (Ord. 59979 § 14 (part), 1986.)

The building sits on a lot containing 16,601 square feet which would allow for 66 units under the zoning code.  In 2007 the plan was for 63 lofts.  I don’t know the number of units in the current plans.  The hearing where the developer’s appeal will be heard tomorrow (December 1, 2010) in Room 208 of City Hall at 1:30pm.

– Steve Patterson