A Look Inside 900 South 4th
4th Street, between Spruce and Chouteau, is really a forgettable street. Even though businesses like Game 6 Honky Tonk, Broadway Oyster Bar, an Imo's Pizza and some other businesses keep it somewhat alive, it really is nothing special. Chouteau's Landing sits waiting for a redevelopment plan while 3 older buildings sit rotting away on the 700 block of South 4th. The area was once a thriving business district prior to the construction of the interstate highways and the mass exodus of industry and people from the 1950s to present day. While most people notice the Municipal Bridge structure over the street, many tend to overlook or just not see the buildings that remain. Demolition and blight have made the area less desirable for people of all types. The area is really one big parking lot with a spattering of structures here and there, which is why this stretch is so forgettable.
Last year, word got out that Midtown Locust Properties was planning to redevelop the building at 900 South 4th into commercial and residential space. The redevelopment was welcome especially since it is the first project in the area since Steve Murphy's Chouteau's Landing redevelopment plans went dead in 2009.
900 South 4th Street was built in 1887 for Ernst Rieker, a pharmacist, who operated his drug store on the first floor. Rieker's drug store was robbed on February 4th, 1900 by a man who came in and pushed Ernst over (The Merck Report - March 1900). The upper two floors were office space where doctor oriented tenants such as Physician John Lebrecht (1899), George Godfrey (1909), and Adolph Bardenheier (1909) occupied the building up until the mid-1920s. In 1925, Louis Schwab sold meat out of the first floor retail space, formerly occupied by Rieker's Drug Store, and housed boarders upstairs. The meat business lasted until 1937. In 1938, Harry Belenzon operated a first floor grocery store here. That lasted until the 1940s when the Federal Bag Company took over the building for offices and storage. That gig lasted up until the 70s when 900 South 4th's last tenant, Sambo Sheet Metal, occupied the building.
Ever since the late 1980s, the building has sat vacant. The years of switching hands saw a turret removed from the roof, cast iron store front removed, the recessed retail entrance was removed, and the tin ceiling was taken down. The only remnants of these features are a single Cast Iron piece at 4th and Lombard and a trapezoid shaped ceiling detail within the first floor space.
In 2007, Steve Murphy, a lawyer, founded Chivvis Development to undertake the redevelopment of 4th Street and Chouteau's Landing. The plan for 900 South 4th Street was to become office space, like the neighboring building at 904-8 South 4th. The plans also included the reconstruction of the recessed retail bay and installation of the lost Cast Iron pieces. A new building would've been constructed at 902 South 4th and would've been connected to 900. The Great Recession of 2008 killed these plans.
Fast forward 13 years, Midtown Locust properties, headed by Barry Adelstein, owns the property and has a redevelopment plan under way and is nearly completed. This small, 3-story building is almost ready for a new life as residential and commercial space.
I took a tour of the building with Barry on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019. We started our tour in the garage portion of the project. The garage is meant for two cars of the future residents of the residential portion. For now, the garage is a storage unit for construction materials and the building's old fire place mantels. Those will be re-installed in the units wen completed. If there are any more cars, they can park on the back parking lot. As soon as you walk in through the door that leads to the main building from the garage, there will be a storage area for residents and a stairway to the basement. The basement is all new with new concrete and wood supports.
Just next to the door that leads to the stairs that goes to the basement is a small hallway that leads to the residential floor elevator and stairway. The elevator is a completely new installation and was not original to the building. The stairs on the other hand are completely original. The stairs are made out of wood and will be cleaned and polished when construction nears completion. The stairs had to stay in order for the project to qualify for Historic Tax Credits.
If you back track to the hallway that takes you to the residential elevator and stairs, you'll come to a hallway that leads to the commercial space. A bathroom and kitchenette will be included for whoever the company is that will move in here. The commercial space has abundant light from the multiple windows, new lights, walls and a new hardwood floor. The commercial space will also have it's own private basement. According to Barry, they are in final negotiations for a company to move from Brentwood to 900 South 4th.
From here, we went up the old stairs to the second floor. Both the 2nd and 3rd floors have the exact same layout.
If you come up via elevator, the doors will open off into a small foyer area. You'll then turn left into the main hallway area. If you take the stairs, you'll come up across from the elevator. From here, the entire floor is practically one unit with the exception of the back room facing the highway. That will be a private space and the room will utilize the roof of the single floor portion of the building as a deck. The views from the deck give you a view of some of the old buildings on 4th Street, the Arch, Downtown skyline, Municipal Bridge, and Chouteau's Landing.
The remainder of both the 2nd and 3rd floors includes a living room (fronting 4th street), dining room, kitchen, kitchenette (3rd floor), bathrooms and all the original hardwood flooring and doors. For the living rooms, they'll both have a piece of curved glass facing Downtown. The curved glass will be installed in the coming week and will give 900 South 4th it's completed look. No bathroom or kitchen features have been installed yet since painting work continues on the residential units.
Below are photos from the 3rd floor facing West and North towards Downtown.
So far, there has been interest in the residential units at 900 South 4th. Barry expects the 2 available units to go quick. The units will be for rent, but no rental rate was specified. Barry hopes that some developer steps forward to redevelop Chouteau's Landing as that would be a huge boost to this side of Downtown. For now, they'll make do with what's there.
Below are photos of 900 South 4th as it went through it's redevelopment stage. First photo is September 9th, 2018. The most recent photo is July 15th and that is the first picture in the story.
Maybe one day Midtown Locust can consider building an infill building at 902 South 4th. It would help complete the street wall and add something entirely new to 4th Street. The design below is from Murphy's plan for the area.
In the Area...
Besides Midtown Locust developing 900 South 4th and the Mississippi Mud Coffee Building on Chouteau, they have also developed a parking lot and dog park at 4th and Chouteau. The parking lot is small and doesn't go under the Municipal Bridge, but the dog park is located directly under the bridge. They plan on putting a fence up soon to allow people to utilize the space. In addition to all of this, they have an art wall and small bio-retention garden. All of these things are supposed to beautify the area under the Municipal Bridge.
At 904-8 South 4th, the "Trestle Building" stands with Imo's as it's headlining retail tenant. At the street level, the original cast iron shines bright. The Trestle Building was originally symmetrical, but the construction of the Municipal bridge saw the Southern most part of the building cut off to make way for the bridge, hence the 3-3-1 window layout on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The building is one of only 3 that Steve Murphy completed in his quest for the redevelopment of Chouteau's Landing. Today, a few office suites remain that are perfect for small law firms, accountants and independent insurance agencies.
People interested in renting office and residential space at 900 South 4th or 904-8 South 4th are encouraged to email Barry Adelstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.