Updated: Jun 10, 2021
KDG’s long planned Cortex K development, at the southwest corner of Clayton and Sarah on the southern edge of the Cortex Innovation District, is heading to the Planning Commission on June 9th for the hopeful advancement of a rezoning request.
KDG is seeking to rezone the property, previously occupied by St. Louis Metallizing, from Type J, Industrial, to Type H, Area Commercial, which would allow for the mixed-use development to rise. The Planning Commission recommends approval of this change to the Board of Aldermen as it conforms with the City’s Strategic Land Use Plan. The latest Cortex K plans call for the construction of three structures:
120,000sf, 4-story office building.
162-unit, 7-story apartment buildings with 30,000sf of ground floor commercial space and lots of amenities. This building has been tentatively named "Cortex MX".
6-story+roof, 610 space parking structure with integrated art features to spruce it up a bit.
All structures would be connected via a landscaped courtyard space.
Over the past 3 years, several plans for Cortex K have come and gone, but all have included the same components (office, retail, residential, and parking). Despite pushbacks, KDG has remained committed to developing this parcel. They’ve had a lot in their pipeline recently with Olive Crossing in Olivette, 4545 Laclede in the Central West End, a previously proposed building at 111-21 South Meramec, and a joint venture with Green Street on Chroma and Hue in the Grove. It’s believed that the architect is Midtown-based Remiger Design with some services provided by Chris Cedergreen. The builder could be L. Keeley Construction, the sister company to KDG. The cost for the project is estimated at $99 million.
Cortex K is one of several components to help link Cortex to the Grove neighborhood. Beyond just being a hub of activity, the project will fill in a gap that has existed for several years now. This gap is more or less a blindspot for many people, so new buildings appearing here will change perceptions quite a bit. Additional connectivity improvements include pedestrian improvements to Sarah Street via the Tower Grove Connector, a bike and pedestrian trail connecting Forest Park Avenue to Tower Grove Park by way of Sarah Street, Vandeventer, and Tower Grove Avenue.
The Planning Commission document does not specify a timeline for the project, but this move is one of the first steps towards starting construction. Another step is gaining approval from the TIF commission. New 17th Ward Alderwoman, Tina Pihl, requested that the May 26th TIF Commission meeting be pushed back to July so that she could review the project and potentially begin working out a deal with KDG on the usage of a TIF here. A similar move was successfully done at the City Foundry project where $1.8 Million of an $18 million TIF for Phase 2 was pledged to affordable housing initiatives in North St. Louis. KDG is requesting $14 million in TIF for the Cortex K development.
The move to request changes and make deals with developers over tax incentives has become more commonplace since Tishaura Jones became Mayor in April. She made it clear, through the veto of a tax abatement for the redevelopment of the Jesuit Hall building at Grand and Lindell and another project on Locust Street, that better incentive deals would have to be made if developers wish to have the request signed off by the Mayor. It’s yet to be determined what the impact of the new stance on incentives will be on future developments in the City, but I am aware of a few developers dropping projects over the move with others saying that it complicates the planning process more than they’d like. Other developers are ok with the change in tune and believe that this move, if done right, will benefit more parts of the City leading to a greater revitalization of the City. Time will ultimately tell who’s right in this case.
In recent years, the Cortex area has undergone a transformation from a business park-like environment to more of a mixed-use district. Most recently, an Aloft Hotel opened up in the district and a proposal for a 262-unit apartment building at 4343 Duncan was sent back out to bid. Another office building, 4210 Duncan (lovingly nicknamed the "Sandcrawler") has seen construction halted for over a year now. At Duncan and Newstead, Washington University's Neuroscience Research Building is rising with the two red tower cranes visible for miles. Prior to all the investment into the area, Cortex was once a blighted industrial zone.
Additional renderings of the Cortex K project, including a site plan, are in the gallery below.