Updated: Nov 13, 2021
After the proposal for a 150-unit apartment building, which required the demolition of the current Optimist International HQ in the Central West End, was shot down at the August Preservation Board meeting, Lux Living has returned with a new proposal. This time, the project will honor the "pavilion" structure at the corner.
The new plan, designed by renowned homegrown architecture firm HOK, would incorporate the corner structure into the greater building with some alterations being made to the corner structure. The most noticeable changes include adding a few more thin windows to let more natural light into the space and breaking up the black rock "wall" along Taylor to allow access to walk-up units. The new "L" shaped apartment building also honors the corner structure by going with a similar color palette. A pool would be located on the roof of the pavilion structure while parking would remain underground.
This building strategy of taking a historic structure and integrating it into a new one, which has been used in many other cities cross the United States and World, is also a strategy Lux if familiar with. Just a few months ago, their Katz on Main project in Kansas City's Westport neighborhood was approved by the City Council there. That project renovates the landmark and historic Katz Drugstore at the corner of Main and Westport into amenity space and a restaurant plus it puts the pool on the roof (like air Optimist). Connected to the Katz building will be a 192-unit apartment building with a color palette to match the Katz building and surrounding neighborhood.. After the project was approved, many in the Kansas City preservation world, urbanist world, and neighbors to the project were glad as a landmark structure would be saved and integrated into a higher usage on the streetcar route. Lux intends to start construction on the Katz early next year.
For HOK, the firm has experience in designing multi-family buildings as well as designing other buildings that merge old and new. When it comes down to multi-family, the firm designed the "Grand Flats" in South City, "Arterra" in the Crossroads neighborhood of Kansas City, and is a partner architect on the "Expo at Forest Park" with Trivers. One example of a design that merges the old and new by HOK is the 14th and W Apartments in Washington DC. That project involved incorporating a few old 20th century townhomes into a new, much larger development while designing a project that honors its surroundings.
The Optimist apartment building will be built in the 2+5 style (2 concrete levels + 5 wood). The total number of apartments in the building is 151, an increase of 1 unit from the previous plans.
Like the first proposal, this plan includes a bistro space which will be open to the public. Instead. All remaining spaces inside of the building will be dedicated to resident usage. Additionally, unlike the previous plan, which had two parking garage entrances (one from Lindell and one from the alley), this plan retains the single curb cut on Lindell to access the underground parking garage.
As mentioned earlier, the new building brings a new type of apartment unit to the Central West End - walk-up style. While this type is typically found in townhomes/row homes, this will be the first project in the neighborhood to introduce this type of unit. It's a popular style in some other cities and offers residents a different feel than your typical apartment (which is accessed from an interior or exterior corridor).
It is unclear how much this new proposal costs, or the estimated timeline to see this building built. Additionally, like the last proposal, no incentives will be sought meaning that a tax exempt property will be brought back on to the tax rolls after more than 60 years. The estimated tax contribution, from the last go around, would've been between $850,000 and $1 Million yearly. It's likely to be a similar figure under these new plans. The apartments in this building will be market rate.
It is unclear if those who were opposed to the previous plan will be in favor of this one, but the new proposal is a win for many who had hoped this approach would be taken. It's a win for those who want more density in the Central West End as a result of more housing and it's a win for those who wished to see the Optimist Pavilion building saved due to its significance in St. Louis Mid Century Architecture. As such, this project might have a higher chance of being approved by the City's Preservation Board and by preservation minded citizens.
A survey conducted by the City of St. Louis a few years ago named the Optimist Building, in particular the corner pavilion structure, as a building of high merit that is a great example of the Mid Century design. That survey's findings, plus some people still being upset about the demolition of the San Luis Apartments in 2009, led to enough opposition for the previous proposal to be shot down.
Meeting Notice: Lux Living is inviting neighbors of the Optimist International site, and Central West End residents in general, to attend one of two (or both) meetings on this new proposal. Wine and cheese will be served at these meetings. They'll be hosted on Wednesday November 3rd at 6PM and Wednesday November 10th at 6PM. There is no need to register for these meetings.
Previous CityScene STL posts about this project...
July 22nd, 2021: Opinion: Why I'm Supporting LuxLiving's Optimist Site Proposal