Posts Tagged ‘Grand Center’

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North Sarah Update

June 16, 2013

The North Sarah Redevelopment Project‘s second phase has really started to take shape.

Vandeventer, Grand Center, New Construction

North Sarah Phase II on Vandeventer looking north from Bell.

Three 2-3 story mixed use buildings facing Vandeventer Avenue just across the street from Grand Center’s western edge are the most visible signs of progress.  Although I am unaware of the plans here, similar buildings from phase I have live/work spaces facing Sarah.

From a 10/26/2012 Post-Dispatch article:

The front room doubles as a living room and waiting room, and a big sliding door covers half the interior wall. Roll it one way and an office appears off the waiting room, ready for business. Roll it the other, and the office disappears and a kitchen appears off the living room. A bedroom and laundry room are in back.

Driving/walking down Sarah you can see that most of these spaces are now occupied by small businesses (these shots taken on a Sunday evening):

Live/Work, Redevelopment, North St. Louis, Small Business

Diversity Gallery on North Sarah

Health care on North Sarah

Williams and Associates – Addressing Minority Health Disparities

Health care on North Sarah

Call of Duty Home Health Care Services

Many of the storefronts have more subdued signage that is hard to see while driving past, but the fact that almost all are advertising small businesses is very encouraging.  Across the street construction is underway on another portion of Phase II.  Hopefully commercial space of some sort is included in this new building as well.

New construction in the Vandeventer neighborhood

North Sarah Phase II – Mixed use building going up on the west side of Sarah

Now that the live/work spaces have occupants, maybe we’ll hear news about the planned grocery store soon.

Nothing inside, but the sliding door look promising.

Grocery Store on North Sarah

This is an exciting development, and I truly hope that it encourages infill development between Sarah and Vandeventer that allows at least some of the surviving historic homes to stay.

For more photos of this development, see my flickr set: North Sarah Redevelopment

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Projects in Grand Center Advancing as Promised

June 25, 2012

It’s been a while since I last wrote about Grand Center, and since then a lot has happened.  The neighborhood has been improving at a remarkable pace, with a lot more investment than we’re used to seeing around the city.  KWMU’s new home, UMSL at Grand Center just opened, and the building is a great addition to Olive Street.  I haven’t seen any signs of work on the proposed plaza behind this new building  but hopefully it’s still in the pipeline.

KWMU Grand Center

KWMU’s new Location on Olive Street

Just across Grand, the Metropolitan building renovation is a big project that will dramatically improve the look and feel of Grand Center’s center.  The Metropolitan Artist Lofts, as the project is being called, are scheduled to open September 1st and I’m getting excited.  As one of the largest buildings in the neighborhood, and one that has had a few failed attempts at rehab, the reopening of the Metropolitan Building will be a major psychological boost to Grand Center.  The activation of this building should also help to link Grand Center with SLU and Midtown Alley given its placement at the intersection of these three districts.

Metropolitan Artist Lofts

Just a couple blocks up Grand is another new sight.  The Grand Center Public Art area finally has its third installation.  Entitled “A Chromatic Confluence,” this colorful, interactive sculpture is quite unique and worth checking out.

A Chromatic Confluence

Particularly fitting is that this art installation is right across the street from the Grand Center Arts Academy.  Already home to Cardinal Ritter High School and Clyde C. Miller Career Academy (not to mention SLU), Grand Center is really establishing itself as a neighborhood that values education.

Grand Center Arts Academy

Another new addition to the neighborhood that this blog has reported on in the past is Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust.  Located on Delmar about halfway between Grand and Spring, the restaurant is a little bit isolated by parking lots and an abandoned building or two, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging any business.  Riding off the success of the TV show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” (which really shines a positive light on the city of St. Louis in my opinion), as well as their delicious food, this new location looks like it’s going to be an attraction of its own.

Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust

Grand Center has had an ambitious list of projects queued up, but after seeing so much recent success  I am confident that we will see many of them come to fruition.

Just for fun, here are some more photos I’ve snapped around the neighborhood in recent weeks:

NPR UMSL St. Louis Grand Center

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Hotel Ignacio Opens

April 22, 2011

St. Louis University’s new Boutique Inn, Hotel Ignacio opened its doors this month.  This accomplishment follows numerous Midtown Hotel projects that never made it much farther than the planning stage (except for the very small Grand Center Inn).  Midtown is a pretty major destination in St. Louis with assets such as SLU, The Fox, Powell Hall, The Moto Museum, Chaifetz Arena, Pappy’s Smokehouse and The Best Steak House all within a couple of blocks of the hotel.

Hotel Ignacio - Across Olive from SLU, Just a Block from Grand and Grand Center, and Right on Locust Street in Midtown Alley

The hotel’s placement is very nice for the growth of Midtown Alley, helping to anchor its Western end along with Triumph, The Moto Museum, MotoEuropa, The P.W. Shoe Lofts and the recently opened Field House Bar and Grill.

West End of Midtown Alley

In the near future, hotel guests and area residents alike will be able to enjoy Frozen Yogurt from Flying Cow Frozen Yogurt Company set to open this summer in a newly renovated building just East of the hotel.  It’s neighbor is currently an Art Gallery with some cool looking work on the walls and pedestals.

Art Gallery and Hotel Ignacio

Other recent additions to Midtown Alley such as the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (which makes delicious beer) and the Double Apple Cafe and Hookah Lounge are bringing more people to the area and increasing its visibility.  My hope is that we won’t have to wait too much longer to have the large parking lots separating Grand Center from Midtown Alley replaced with useful buildings to create a continuous urban space.

Parking Lots in Midtown Alley and Grand Center

A large Parking Lot right in front of the new hotel is a bad first impression and I hope that SLU will realize that a parking garage with first level retail is a better way to go.  The enormous glut of parking in Midtown remains its biggest problem in my opinion, and only by rebuilding the city where it has been torn down to create these parking lots can we get this neighborhood to reach its full potential.

More Photos of Hotel Ignacio

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Ellen Clark Sculpture Park Finally has Sculptures

December 15, 2010

While visiting The Best Steak House this past weekend, I noticed some activity on the former site of the Marina Building at Lindell and Grand, a fenced-in grass lot that was recently bestowed with a sign identifying it as the Ellen Clark Sculpture Park.  It was finally getting sculptures!

Ellen Clark Sculpture Garden is Under Construction

This lot has been informally used as a dog park for several years and I am glad to see it made into a more attractive place. Although I am disappointed to see a permanent use for the land that doesn’t add to the density of the neighborhood, the fact that something is happening is a releif.  What I really hope is that the black fence (ubiquitous on SLU’s campus) surrounding the lot is removed.

Not the Entrance - A Fenced in Sculpture Park

This corner is very important in linking SLU’s campus to Grand Center and while it is fenced-in it will remain underused, something that is particularly important to avoid in a place where neither of the two adjacent corners attract much activity.  Midtown is one of the coolest neighborhoods in St. Louis already; with more seamless connectivity between the University’s, Grand Center and Midtown Alley, the neighborhood could truly reach its potential.

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High Ball Alley

October 9, 2010

Grand Center is one of St. Louis’ coolest areas, but has some pretty bad problems.  I would say the that the biggest problem is one shared with Downtown and other city neighborhoods: it can’t keep people around after events.  People drive in to see shows at The Fox, The Sheldon, Powell Hall, The Black Rep etc., and then hop right back into their cars and drive home.

Grand Center from the North

Some do have a bite to eat at Kota Wood Fire Grill, The Best Steak House or the new City Diner @ The Fox before hand, but theater/concert patrons only add business for the hour or two directly preceding their show.  Looking at a map of Grand Center, the explanation for this phenomenon is pretty obvious.

Ample Parking

Although the view from Grand is wonderful, most of Grand Center is made of parking lots.  The only thing to do is park and then leave.  For Grand Center to be the entertainment destination that it could be, the parking lots must be replaced with something!  Clearly parking is necessary, but surface is not the answer.  We need some parking garages with stores, bars, restaurants and clubs on the first floor and we need mixed-use infill everywhere else.  To make this task easier and reduce the amount of land in need of development, I propose adding a North/South street in between Spring and Grand from Olive all the way to Enright.

Grand Center Avenue (or High Ball Alley!)

This short Avenue also creates much more walkable blocks that improve the friendliness of the pedestrian experience.  Looking at the map I became curious if there was once a similar street in place breaking up these long blocks, but according to the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from 1907, no such street existed.  What did exist, however, was a short street connecting the back of the St. Louis Club to the Olive streetcar.  On the map it is labeled “High Ball Alley.”

A little bit of Google investigation yielded more about the drink than the alley, but proved quite interesting nonetheless.  Apparently the Highball had been invented in Grand Center at the University Club during the late 1800s, and had become a very popular drink at the area clubs.  Somehow, over time, the streetcar conductors changed the name of their stop along this stretch of Olive, from the St. Louis Club stop to Highball Alley.  This spot, that was once popular enough to have its own name and streetcar stop, is now a pair of surface parking lots.

High Ball Alley Today

I think that Grand Center’s revitalization would get a huge boost from the creation of an extended High Ball Alley.  Doesn’t it sound like a great place to meet for a drink?

References to High Ball Alley/The St. Louis Highball:

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0101a&L=ads-l&P=10786

http://www.oldandsold.com/articles16/american-travel-18.shtml

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More and More Good News for Midtown (Alley and Grand Center)

September 27, 2010

I am walking around (or at least driving through) Midtown Alley every chance I get.  This is one of the most swiftly changing neighborhoods in the entire city and it’s evolution is exciting to witness.

Progress @ MotoEuropa

I took the above picture in excitement that the motorcycle dealership would be opening soon, and just a couple hours later when I was back in the area I noticed that a sign had been added.  It actually happens that fast.

New Sign for MotoEuropa!

After taking a few pictures of progress at MotoEuropa, I decided to do a little online reading and found a Business Journal article about the neighborhood via Threshold Investment Properties.

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company - Coming Soon

Besides what I know from “Coming Soon” signs, learned that an independent restaurant called Field House Sports Bar & Grill is apparently opening up on Theresa in the P.W. Shoe Lofts Building.  Two chain restaurants are also planning to open up locations in the already crowded section of Olive East of Compton (home to Pappy’s, The U and The Good Pie just to name a few).

South Side of Olive, just East of Compton - The Loft, Buffalo Brewing Co

One of these restaurants, Pita Pit, is a personal favorite of mine when I am traveling and forced to eat fast food.  This is one rare occasion in which I’m happy to hear about a new chain restaurant coming town.  The choice of Midtown Alley is awesome because it demonstrates that more people are noticing the neighborhoods potential.  The fact that chain restaurants are eying Midtown Alley also brings up another key to its success: multiple investors.  Renaissance Development Associates, The Lawrence Group, SLU, and others (such as Maebelle Reed, owner of the soon to open Plush in the Cadillac Building on Locust) have all worked together to make the neighborhood what it is today and what it will be in the future.

Future Home of KDHX

Meanwhile, in nearby Grand Center, the situation sees to be improving as well, with neighborhood newcomer City Diner @ The Fox appearing to attract customers on theater off-days (without hurting business at the always delicious Best Steak House).  Class has started at the Grand Center Arts Academy, temporarily housed in the Third Baptist Church.  Also, a recent announcement that community radio station KDHX is moving into the former home of the Creepy Crawl is great news as well.  A nice article on this appeared in the September issue of St. Louis Magazine and is worth the read.  Midtown is the center of our city, and hopefully it is finally getting the attention it deserves.

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New Investment on North Grand

July 17, 2010

Grand Center has been on a great roll this year and the whole area has seen dramatic improvement in my opinion.  While driving down Grand recently I was pointed out a newly rehabed building at Grand and Windsor Place just past the northern limits of Grand Center.  Justine Petersen recently renovated and moved into the Olivia building at 1023 North Grand.  The organization “helps low and moderate income families and individuals buy homes and build financial assets for the long term” which sounds to me like something that is good to have around.  Its building is the former home of The School of Social Economy (affiliated with Washington University).  Jones and Henderson’s Business College also called the Olivia Building home.

Ad for the Olivia Building May 18th 1903

Because of the building’s history, I am unhappy with the current owners for removing the original name (Google Streetview shows the building in its recent dilapidated state).

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1023 North Grand could read Olivia Building

The building has a lot of neighbors that could really use a renovation, and adding activity to the block is a really positive infusion of needed momentum to this dead zone that separates Midtown from North City.  Its bike rack, added to the fact that Grand has the best bus service in the city, really boosts the place’s attractiveness.

Bike Rack and Grand Bus

More projects close by have been recently completed or are in the works.  Just one block away, at Grand and Finney, another rehab was completed recently.  Two years ago the building was boarded up and not being used.

Grand and Finney - Summer 2008

Now it is in much better shape and had a clothing store in one of it’s Grand facing storefronts when I drove past today.

C.W. Fashion

Another couple of blocks away is a great example of the kind of infill we need just about everywhere in St. Louis.

PNC Bank on Page

This two-story building that faces Page half a block East of Grand is home to a branch of PNC National Bank, a refreshing site in an area with far too many storefronts advertising payday loans and surrounded by surface parking in every direction.  Grand is in pretty bad shape around this area but I see it improving.  Maybe the next renovation will be for the Douglas E Kelly Community Resource Center – advertised here 2 years ago.

1027 North Grand

Whatever it is, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next development to report on.

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Midtown Alley

June 27, 2010

Ever since I first rode my bicycle down Locust Street East from Theresa (as a SLU student and Grand Center resident) I have considered this area one of St. Louis’ coolest.  Once known as “Automotive Row” and recently re-branded as “Midtown Alley,” this district has many advantages including its 2005 placement on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is centrally located and in close proximity to SLU, Harris-Stowe and Wells Fargo Advisors not to mention Grand Center and existing residents of the immediately surrounding area.  It has a fairly intact built environment with fewer gaps in the street-wall than most of St. Louis and it already had a few churches, residents and many small businesses scattered throughout it (most notably on Washington Avenue which has a Limousine Business, a Sign Maker, Salvation Army Harbor Light, Grand Wig House, several auto-related businesses and more).

Washington Avenue in Midtown Alley in 2007

Unlike many concentrations of commercial activity in the city of St. Louis, Midtown Alley is not restricted to one street.  Washington, Locust, Olive and all the streets that connect them are part of this district and each have been benefiting from recent investment.  Midtown Alley also has short, walkable blocks (which Jane Jacobs is a big fan of) and an ability to expand in any direction it wants!

Map of Midtown Alley

In the last few years the area has improved dramatically, particularly along Locust and Olive Streets.  Restaurants, nightclubs, barber shops, residences, offices of professionals and more have made the decision to move into Midtown Alley.

Motorcycle Event Outside Moto Museum

There is a motorcycle museum, a tanning salon, a boutique clothing store, a Taekwondo school, a recording studio, a very popular rock venue, the Black Alcohol/Drug Service Information Center, and more.  SLU is opening a boutique hotel in Midtown Alley next year and next door on Locust will be a Motorcycle Dealership (SLU had better have a lobby that connects Locust and Olive).

Hotel Ignacio and MotoEuropa

This is from the website of the Tour de Grove bicycle race (which included the Midtown Alley Grand Prix:

Moto Europa coming July 2010, Moto Europa located at 3410 Locust is the latest addition to a true motorcycling destination right here in StLouis, MO. Attached to the Moto Museum and the Triumph Grill Moto Europa will offer new Ducati and Triumph motorcycles combined with a beautiful state of the art dealership and providing customer service second to none. Opening July 30, 2010.

Personally I’m excited.  And not as a Motorcycle fan.  The transformation this area is undergoing is just incredible.  And the best part is that Midtown Alley is not alone.  It is just one of many places around the city that people are rediscovering.

Anti-Aging and Wellness Center next to Arch Taekwondo

Areas where people concentrate themselves generate economic and social activity that makes our city a city.  We can never have enough of these places where St. Louis actually looks like a real city and we can really learn a lot of lessons from seeing what works when redeveloping neighborhoods.

Midtown Alley's Grand Opening was September 26th 2009

The slow and organic growth that Midtown Alley has been experiencing has actually been going pretty fast!

Locust Street in 2008 - The Two Buildings on the Right are now the REO Lofts

I commend Midtown Alley and its businesses/organizers for their great work.  Pappy’s attracted the New York Times to Midtown Alley (even though they didn’t name drop it) and I’ve been recommended the chicken wings and sandwiches at The U, the pizza at The Good Pie and recommend to others the beer at the Buffalo Brewing Company (and the food).

2 Buildings SLU is converting to Apartments and Retail

Unfortunately, despite all of the success Midtown Alley has had, it still faces some pretty big obstacles.  Just like the Loop owes much of its success to Wash U, SLU and Harris-Stowe are key to the success of Midtown Alley.  Although they literally touch Midtown Alley, both institutions have turned their campuses inwards leaving fences to face the outside world.  Olive Street already suffers from it’s extreme width that discourages pedestrians from crossing it.

SLU's Face Fence to Midtown Alley

If SLU were to add street entrances to it’s buildings along Olive and allow students and staff to enter from the inside OR outside of the campus, people would be better able to take advantage of what the school’s prime location has to offer.  In addition, the blight of surface parking between Midtown Alley and Grand Center must be addressed.  If re-connected, these areas could benefit each other greatly.  I recommend driving through Midtown Alley at the very least.  While a lot of what it has to offer is still just potential, that potential is still great.

More photos of Midtown Alley.

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Sweetie Pie’s Progress in Grand Center

April 10, 2010

My love of Grand Center (and my addiction to the Best Steak House) has kept me driving past the future fourth location of Sweetie Pie’s, keeping me up to date on the swift progress that is being made on this project.  A few days ago, to my delight, I noticed that as the outer layer of the building was being peeled off to reveal the brick underneath, Ghost Signs were also revealed on the West side of the building.

San-Del Strickland Printing Co Sign @ New Sweetie Pie's Location

Here is a closer look at the wall in 2 chunks:

San-Del Strickland

S-D Bindery Co.

Google doesn’t seem to know much about the business advertised here but I hope to come across more information as I continue to look.  Still, it is exciting simply to see history excavated like this (even though in this case the brick will still have to be covered up again because of the strong adhesive used to initially cover it).

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Activity in Grand Center

March 30, 2010

The Intersection of Art and Life has been off to a great start this year.  Kota Fire Grill is open and with the same ownership as Triumph Grill I have faith that it will outlast its location’s recently previous tenants.  Around the corner at 3526 Washington, a new hair salon, Salon Edge Hair and Tanning is open, with a Jewelry Store, Grand Center Jewelers, and a Computer Repair shop, Virtual Technologies.

3526 Washington

This retail space is a great addition to Grand Center and I wish these businesses success.  Luckily they will be able to take advantage of added traffic from the City Diner @ The Fox which although behind schedule (what isn’t) appears to be well on it’s way to opening.  Today I saw this public announcement about a neon sign for the new diner.

Extremely exciting.  Another recent move to Grand Center was made by the Veterans Affiars Dermitology Clinic to the retail space in the Continental Life Building on Olive.  Today when I went to take a picture of this new office I found an even better picture @ Grand and Olive.

Cobblestones and Streetcar Track peeking through the street on Grand and Olive

The history of Grand Center is its greatest asset in my opinion and I think this is one pothole the city should not repair.

Also underway is work on the new location of Sweetie Pie’s on Delmar.  I’m very glad to see that the ugly facade is being removed to expose the brick building.

New Sweetie Pie's

Seeing the work here actually started is really great, particularly so soon after the initial announcement.  I hope we see the same kind of swift action getting work started on renovating the Beaux Arts Building (Carter Carburetor Corporation @ 711 N. Grand) to be the home of Grand Center’s new Arts oriented Charter School (the Grand Center Arts Academy)

I am very happy to hear about this new Grand Center Development and think that another school in the area (there are already at least 2 in Grand Center) will be great.  2010 is looking pretty nice for Grand Center and I can’t wait to see these latest projects reach completion.

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