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JEMA’s MOFO Project Sets Precedent for Future Infill Projects

Since it was unveiled in April 2017, 3172 Morgan Ford, referred to as MOFO, has been an interesting project in the making. From a controversial tax abatement that sparked debate on the Board of Aldermen Floor to the neighborhood surrounding it voicing their opinions, MOFO has been a highly anticipated project as it finally did away with the unsightly car wash that once stood on the site. As construction started last February, I watched this project rise and come to life. It has been a fun thing to watch and I’m happy to finally see it nearing completion.

I have criticized the project, as construction moved to the façade, but now that the building is almost completed, it looks better than I thought it would. There are still a few façade workplaces that still have to be dealt with (roofline and brick accenting) but other than that, there isn’t much left. The new sidewalk still has to be poured and some signage still needs to go up, which is waiting patiently in the Southwest retail bay. When completed, this project will have transformed a significant portion of the Morgan Ford Business District, and the transformations aren’t don’t yet.

What MOFO does, on a great scale, is set a precedent for future urban development in neighborhoods where new construction is ready to happen. In the case of Tower Grove South, the revitalization effort here has been strong over the past decade as several buildings have been rehabbed and put to greater usage. This is true for several other neighborhoods but few have received new Infill such as this project. MOFO’s street level is addressed so that it promotes sidewalk traffic. Three retail bays, totaling nearly 6000SF, make the sidewalk look more lively and, once occupied, brighter. The whole corner of Morgan Ford and Connecticut looks better overall because of this project.

But back to the precedent, this sets. The parking garage is concealed behind the retail space and is located along the alley so no unsightly garage is seen from Morgan Ford. The entrance to the apartments themselves is located on Connecticut Street and is next to an illuminated sign that says “3172 MOFO”. Finally, the apartments themselves all have decks so the residents can sit outside and enjoy life while the Corten panels, say what you will about them, offer a playful facade that juxtaposes well with the brick neighborhood surrounding the project.

I can easily see this kind of project being applied elsewhere in St. Louis, especially in Midtown, Midtown Alley and Downtown West. Even though size would be adjusted to reflect the popularity of the neighborhood, it’s a good size for Infill that connects to the street at the human level rather than the sky-high level. Elsewhere in St. Louis, the last few remaining lots in Soulard, Lafayette Square, and Benton Park could all have a development like this with a design to mimic the historic neighborhood surrounding it.

In all, I’m excited to see how well MOFO does in terms of leasing and I’m interested to see who occupies the retail space when the time comes. Even when this project is completed, we still have the sister project start one block south at 3201 Morgan Ford. Together, 3172 and 3201 add 46 apartments to Tower Grove South and continues the revitalization of Tower Grove South while continuing setting precedents for future Infill projects across the city.

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