Posts Tagged ‘SLU’

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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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Metrolink Bridge over Vandeventer appears to be designed for Murals

January 31, 2011

As I have previously written, The Grove (also known as Forest Park Southeast) is home to a growing number of murals that really make a big impact on the perceptions of a visitor to the neighborhood.  Although The Grove has a wonderful start, its collection of murals is still quite small, at least in comparison to the large number of blank walls facing Manchester (and other side streets in the neighborhood).  With the addition of the neon sign at Manchester and Sarah, The Grove is becoming more and more of an attractive place, and I am convinced that this investment will pay off.

New Neon "Welcome to The Grove" Sign

A great way to add to this momentum is with more murals, and what better place to start but at more of the neighborhood’s “thresholds.”  With neighbors like Barnes Jewish, Wash U Med School and St. Louis University, those points of entry that are visible to these significant populations hold lots of potential.  As a SLU student I would often hike over to the Phillips 66 on Vandeventer for their competitively priced tall cans of Budweiser, but was totally unaware of The Grove’s existence just a couple of short blocks away.  In addition, I felt that the dismal walk from Campus was only barely worth the cheap beer.

Now, the Rail Bridge over Vandeventer just south of Highway 40 has been rebuilt, and it has indented arches along both sides of the roadway, and in the support that splits the opposing lanes of traffic.

Train Bridge over Vandeventer – Doesn’t it seem to be asking for Murals?

These spaces seem to be designed for murals, and I really hope that whoever is responsible for this bridge (Metro?) is open to the idea.  I truly believe that SLU students would be more willing to walk to attractions in the Grove if the walk itself were more attractive.  Right now, passing underneath the highway and train tracks is the scariest part of the trip.  Bright and Colorful Murals underneath one of the bridges could not only make the walk more enjoyable right away, they could also encourage the addition of even more artwork to the area, maintaining the momentum that has been building here for several years now.

For more on the Grove’s Murals, see MUMC.Wordpress.com.

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New Scott Transit Plaza loses Neighbors

December 19, 2010

Last weekend I noticed that one of my favorite buildings had come down.  While driving down 40, I glanced towards the Armory and saw a large lot of dirt to its south instead of the corrugated-steel warehouse that was there last time I had looked.

Beck and Corbitt Steel on Spring

I admit that the building was not an architectural marvel, or even particularly attractive, but I loved it.  With its ring of graffiti underneath the large letters announcing its former tenant, this building told the story of the area now and in the past.  It had me imagining what it was like alongside the train tracks running through the middle of the city when they were alive and productive here.  Only two blocks south of Market Street and directly on the tracks, this was a prime location.  In addition to all of this, the building had a small feature that really attracted me to it.  This Bear (or Badger as I have always called him) was on the West side of the building.  I will miss it.

The Badger

I originally speculated that this would be the site of Metro’s new Park and Ride lot for the new Scott Transit Plaza, but was corrected by Jennifer from NextStopSTL (Thanks!).  Unfortunatly, I still don’t know why this block was raized.  Maybe the land is going to be used by whoever is in the former May Company Warehouse that sits across Spring.

Gone

A couple google searches taught me that the Million square foot warehouse sold by Macy’s last year for 2 million dollars has at least 2 tenants now: Hazzard Moving and Storage, and Warehouse of Stuff.  Hopefully this land will be used productivly for those tenants or maybe for some future plans for the Armory (wouldn’t that be cool?).   I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but whatever it is, I won’t forget what was here before.

600 S. Spring

I really wish progress didn’t have to be so destructive.

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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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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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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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Spring Ave. Viaduct and Surrounding area

January 2, 2010

I have been interested in cities and their history for as long as I can remember.  I enjoyed reading about Heinrich Schliemann‘s discovery of Troy and was fascinated by remnants of the past whose use could be speculated about.  Rarely is there an account like the Iliad to explain a site.  It wasn’t until more recently that I started to really want to personally dig into St. Louis’ history.  I transfered to SLU in 2005 and started to explore the area just south of Campus.  The first place I visited was The Armory.  The Armory was accessible to me because of a pedestrian bridge in between the two directions of highway 40 at Spring Ave, and from this pedestrian bridge I was able to see the remains of the Spring Ave. Viaduct.

Looking North from Market and Spring

For some reason seeing this old viaduct in the tattered state it was in then was fascinating to me.  Immediately I began planning a trip to the more substantial chunk of bridge remaining.

Spring Ave @ Metrolink Tracks

Unfortunately the remains of the viaduct have been torn down, which is really a pity because I wanted to see it restored as a way for SLU students to safely get to the sadly inaccessible Grand Metrolink stop.  UrbanReviewSTL proposed something similar to this back in 2007.  Hopefully the Metrolink accessibility situation will be improved when the Grand Bridge is rebuilt.

Metrolink @ Spring

This whole area where Highway 40 rolls through midtown is very interesting and makes me very curious about what Market street here looked like before the highway was built.  Recent rehabs along Forest Park Parkway such as the University Heights Loft Apartments (which I enjoyed living in for a year), the Spring Street Lofts, Six Row Brewing Company, and the Aquinas Institute of Theology are bringing life to this area that could possibly extend down to the highway and hopefully continue south.  There was a big project being planned for the entire south side of Forest Park Parkway from Vandeventer all the way to Spring or even past it, replacing the Federal Mogul Plant (which seems to be abandoned despite having a 24 hour security guard) with a large shopping center.  Luckily it seems that this is not being planned anymore as I have not been able to find any links which mention it at this time.

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