Posts Tagged ‘Grand’


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


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.


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.


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.


New “Attraction Corridor” Signage

July 22, 2010

While Driving down Highway 40 recently I was pleasantly surprised to see new signs that attempt to convince motorists to exit the freeway while driving through the City of St. Louis.  Signs on 170 advise of the “Attraction Corridor” that 40, our main street, has become; and the three main exits on the corridor (Kingshighway, Grand and Broadway) advertise their respective attractions.  The first exit, Kingshighway, has signage that to me is puzzling.

Kingshighway "explore St. Louis" Sign

Three attractions are listed: Forest Park, The Hill and The Loop.  Isn’t the Loop centered around Skinker not Kingshighway?  Isn’t the Central West End an amazing attraction just North of 40 and Kingshighway?  When this question was raised on UrbanSTL today, the answer from Nerfdude struck me as pretty good thinking:

bonwich: Terrific idea, great graphics. But why in God’s name do they have signs in both directions on 64 telling people to get to the Loop via Kingshighway???

Nerfdude: because then you’ll have to explore St. Louis to find what you’re looking for, of course.

Not too bad.  I assume there will be signs @ Delmar and Kingshighway directing people west to the Loop eventually (there are none as of this posting).  Apparently the start date for this was June 23rd and kicked off a project that will continue for the rest of the year and end up placing 300 signs throughout the city and county.  I am very happy with this project but wish that there were more attractions on the signs that are already up!

Explore St. Louis Sign @ Grand

The Central West End is a pretty big omission from the Kingshighway sign, and Midtown Alley would have been a great addition to the Grand sign.  I hope that both of these are added as time goes on. Keep an eye out for more of these helpful signs.


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).


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.


The Best Steak House

February 5, 2010

The Best Steak House, with its prime location (on Grand “across from the Fox“), delicious food, reasonable prices (shown after tax on the menu boards) and otherwise wonderful experience, is my favorite place to eat.

St. Louis Restaurants

Best Steak House in Grand Center

As a SLU student I would sometimes eat lunch at the steak house and then return for dinner.  When I discovered the Chicken Gyro, I met one of my best friends.  At my most recent job, I had a Monday, Wednesday and Friday Best Steak House Lunch set up that ran for months.  My coworkers and I would play a game where we would try to finish an entire steak dinner and then stay awake for the rest of the shift.

Steak and Chicken Plate - 10 dollars after tax

I accidentally covered up my steak with the Texas toast for this picture but there really is a six ounce rib-eye under there and the meal did actually cost just ten dollars.  More commonly I get the chicken sandwich baked potato daily special which comes out to 5.85 with tax – Incredible.  If possible, save room for dessert.  German Chocolate cake, Carrot cake and Baklava are my favorites here but if you’re too full after eating one of those steak dinners, I’d recommend simply looking around the room at the excellent collection of historical photographs of the neighborhood.  This history lesson is expanded upon a little more by Living St. Louis:

According to the small ammount of additional information I have been able to find online, The Best Steak House on Grand is a remnant of what was once a larger trend in the United States.  Luckily, from what I have read, we are left with the Best of the Best Steak Houses.  A reviewer of The Best Steak House on Broadway in Chicago gave a brief history of the business model:

Once upon a time, “Best Steak Houses” littered big cities and small towns across America. They weren’t part of a chain or a franchise — they were just cheap places to get a steak, baked potato, and the ubiquitous Texas toast.

This reviewer “John B.” went on to give the Chicago eatery a terrible review demonstrating to me that what our Best Steak House has to offer is truly unique in the year 2010.  In many ways, Grand Center owes the increasing stability it now has more to the Steak House than to the Fox Theatre or Powell Hall.


Strauss Park’s Earth Rabbit

January 11, 2010

When I first saw this rabbit in Grand Center it was a little after Easter last year and I assumed that the rabbit was a temporary installation for the holiday.  Of course I was forgetting that Grand Center is the intersection of Art and Life.

Strauss Park Earth Rabbit

I was inspired to mention this piece here because of KETC and youtube.

Grand Center really needs more art projects but I love the few that are already there.  I have a few more photos of the rabbit here.


Grand Center Restaurants

December 22, 2009

Today I noticed on Sauce Magazine’s blog that a new Restaurant is to take over for Reggie’s Backstage at 522 North Grand in Grand Center.  This would be the third restaurant to move into this location since I was really introduced to Grand Center about 3 or 4 years ago.  I remember when the Tuxedo room opened (Late 2006) it seemed to be such a great thing for the neighborhood.

The Tuxedo Room

It was one less vacant storefront on a stretch of Grand that should be full of life.  Unfortunately, The Tuxedo Room did not last long.  I ate there once and was very unimpressed with the food (apparently I wasn’t the only one), so when it closed I hoped that was the reason.  Then Reggie’s Backstage moved in and seemed to be doing alright.  Their operating schedule was still based almost solely off that of the Fox Theatre, but the Fox really does bring most of the traffic into the area.  When I saw a sign on the door this summer saying that it was “temporarily closed” I wanted to stay optimistic but couldn’t help but worry.  Did Reggie not learn from the mistakes of Mr. Tuxedo?  Today I did some Google searches and found that Reggie’s had planned to close for 3 months and then reopen as an R&B venue but sadly something must have prevented this from happening. I hope the St. Louis Rhythm & Blues Preservation Society can still accomplish their goals and would love to see them reappear in Grand Center.

Grand Center Spring 2008

Luckily there are more optimistic St. Louisans willing to give this excellent location another chance and I wish Kota Wood Fire Grill success.  I hope they keep the Reggie’s Backstage sign up (unless they get a new one of their own!), but it is sad to see that the sign was only relevant for a short amount of time.  I think this will be a great opportunity for Grand Center to really take off.  The renovation of the Woolworth’s building appears to be a huge success and the murals on the Metropolitan Building really make the block seem more friendly.

Murals on the Metropolitan Building

In addition to Kota opening up, we also have The City Diner at the Fox which should be open by the end of the year in the Humboldt Building.  These new restaurants on Grand, along with delicious anchor of the block that is The Best Steakhouse, will provide for a diverse and delicious variety of dining options.  Now all we need is something to replace W. M. Shakespeare’s Gastropub in the location formerly occupied by Gary’s Restaurant.  Maybe another Art Gallery?

Update:  Grand Center now has a website for its restaurants!  But where is it listing the Best Steak House?