What to Look Forward to in 2019

It is no doubt that 2018 was a time of great change for St. Louis. New buildings have sprouted up across the region while historic restorations either began or ended but 2019 is shaping up to be an even better year for St. Louis. While it remains hazy as to whether a ton of new projects will be announced in 2019, one thing is certain, that a majority of projects, in the "Proposed" section of the projects list, will begin in 2019 and usher in a building boom that will radically change our neighborhoods, city and region. Now, we won't be on the level of Nashville and Denver in terms of construction but we will see a ton of projects start that will make us feel on top of the world. I have rounded up a few of the more significant projects to start next year and I think we can all agree that these projects will propel us forward till the next development cycle in the 2020s.


Let's start in the City of St. Louis.


City of St. Louis

I will start in Downtown and work my way to the Western City Limits. The North and South sides do have projects that will strengthen those areas but there are just so many good ones, I can't list them!


Railway Exchange Building

The hulking structure, bounded by 6th, Locust, 7th and Olive, has sat vacant since T-REX moved out in 2014. Since then, Hudson Holdings, a Delray Beach Florida based company, has acquired the building and has envisioned a major redevelopment of the building. The past two years have been depressing for the building after a water main flooded it's two basements and covered it in a sludge like substance while a sinkhole opened up on 6th Street and swallowed a car. But that's not all what's bad, the Business Journal reported that Hudson Holdings has 7 liens against them totaling up to $4.7 Million, one of the largest lumpsums is the $1.75 Million lien filed by CannonDesign as Hudson Holdings failed to pay for the work requested.


Despite all of these problems, Hudson Holdings still remains optimistic and may start the project in 2019. Currently, partial demolition is ongoing to assess the total cost of redevelopment, which is expected to be over $300 Million. Based on photos on the Business Journal's website, the building appears to be in good shape with the basements cleared of sludge and water. Most of the work will come in the form of fitting out the building to become office space, retail space, apartments and a hotel. Refinancing plans are also on the table and while I don't believe the whole Railway Exchange will be redeveloped at once, I do think that a "phased approach" would work well as it would offer wiggle room for the developers as the real estate market changes.


Chemical Building

After sitting vacant for years and after going through a partial renovation job before the 2008 Recession, the Chemical Building is bound to come roaring back to life. Morgan Communities, of New York, is planning to convert the building into 206 apartments as well as some ground floor retail space. This follows a trend in the Old Post Office District where almost all buildings surrounding the Old Post Offices are now apartments and lofts. Construction was originally supposed to start this month but sources close to me have stated that a Mid-Quarter 1 start is more possible. Once this building is redeveloped, it will be the last major vacant building on all streets surrounding the Old Post Office till you get to the Railway Exchange Building a block East and, as stated above, that building could start in 2019 if Hudson Holding's gets their act together.


Jefferson Arms

It appears Dallas based Alterra Worldwide has gotten their act together on the project. After failing to receive Brownfield Credits earlier this year, Alterra is now eyeing a Spring start on the Jefferson Arm's project. The plan is to turn the large structure, at Tucker and Locust, into a 200 room AC Hotel, 200 Apartments and retail space. The total cost is to slated to be $104 Million with some of the financing coming from a satellite company of the Chinese Government. The contractor is set to be GHJ, which is owned by Beijing Construction Engineering Group International (BCEGI) which is owned by the Chinese Government and that is who will be helping fund this project. If all goes well, this project could open in 2021 and restore a vital building in the heart of Downtown St. Louis.


Jefferson Connector

I've been personally waiting for this one to start. The stretch of Locust from Jefferson to Beaumont is depressing as hell and to see this investment come to this stretch is amazing. Jassen Johnson's Renaissance Development Associates, Twain Financial Group and Tower Real Estate Group are all going at this major project to link Downtown West to Midtown Alley. That is why the project is known as the "Jefferson Connector." While a new parking garage will occupy a large majority of the Southern side of Locust past Jefferson, it will have street level retail which will add to the new feel of Locust Street, meanwhile, the Beaumont Telephone Building will be redeveloped into office space and loft apartments. Across the street, the 2647 Locust building is already being redeveloped into Apartments, Office Space and retail space. Next door the building tat say's CANDY on it is to become a retail building and potential micro-brewery. As far as new construction goes, shipping containers will be turned into a unique shopping destination known as "the box yard" while the John Hayden (not the police chief) branch of State Farm will be torn down for a 10 Floor, 120FT tall hotel designed by Trivers (pictured).


In all, the development will cost upwards of $60 Million. The full project should begin in the Spring and will wrap up in 2021. What makes me excited for this development is the potential it brings, the buildings it preserves and the new construction it creates. I'm interested to see the final design for the hotel and garage as anything as tall as the currently presented one (10 Floors and 120FT) is perfect for this intersection as it is unapologetically urban and contrasts well with the Wells Fargo and AT&T complexes. I am also interested to see how the rest of the project turns out. The Jefferson Connector is to be the new gateway to both Downtown West and Midtown Alley so it has to be iconic and this project checks the boxes in its current form. Here's to hoping it isn't revised to the point to where it becomes another "meh" project.


Cortex K

Koman has it's eyes set on a spec office development in Cortex at Clayton and Sarah. The first phase of a projected 3 phase development is a 120,000SF office building (which grew from a previous plan of 93,000SF). Koman is clearly bullish on Cortex as they should be. A majority of the recently opened office buildings in Cortex have been nearly 100% occupied and the district continues to grow. The recent addition of a MetroLink stop and the currently under construction Aloft Hotel really set up this area for a boom in the future. Koman's development also builds off of the momentum in the Grove just two blocks South. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2019 and wrap up a little over a year and half later.

AC Hotel in Central West End

I actually feel bad for pestering Sam Koplar into letting me in on the current status of this project but it worked. He has told me that it will start in Quarter 1 of 2019 and will wrap up in Late 2020. Paric will be operating as the General Contractor on the project. Total cost of the project: $45 Million. Architecture firms will be Denver based Johnson Nathan Strohe (JNS) and Chesterfield based HDA. Not only will this project fill in a gap that has long existed in the Central West End, it will practically build out the area surrounding Maryland Plaza. Unless the Argyle Garage is demolished, this are becomes scarce on land to develop. Sure, there is a small surface lot, but nothing significant can be built there due to size, so this is something that should be on your radar for 2019 as it will dramatically change the CWE and add a much needed hotel to the CWE market.


Pearl Companies' Forest Park-Debaliviere TOD

Honestly, I was told this would happen but never expected it to be in this form. The $70 Million project will greatly improve the aesthetics around the Forest Park-Debaliviere station. Indianapolis based Pearl Companies is the developer of this project and they plan to displace two parking lots and a strip mall for the project. The project sets a benchmark for future Transit Oriented Development in the St. Louis area. In addition to the benchmark being set, the development is also very urban by bringing thousands of square feet of street level retail facing Debaliviere. If anything, this development will surely spur more development along the Debaliviere Strip. Construction is slated to begin in the third quarter of 2019 and wrap up in 2021. Trivers is the architecture firm.


St. Louis County

Let me turn my attention to the County now, but I am focusing on the municipalities outlined when this website relaunched. I will focus on University City, Clayton, Washington University, Richmond Heights, Brentwood and Maplewood. For the sake of this post, all Centene developments will be left out. Let's start.


AC Hotel at the Clayton Police HQ...

What will soon replace a vacant police HQ in our region's second business district. It will be a nice looking, 12 floor hotel designed by Johnson Nathan Strohe and Trivers Associates. According to HomeBase, this project should begin in the Spring and they chose this location because of it's easy access to transit and major highways (not to mention the fact that it's in the heart of Downtown Clayton). This project made the list because of how the hotel will add a new offering to Downtown Clayton, whose last hotel opened decades ago. That fact coupled with the fact it is a block North of a MetroLink station means that this will be a good tourist hotel. Time will tell whether or not this gets off the ground, but I have a feeling that it will.


Shaw Park Apartments

At Brentwood boulevard and Forsyth is a vacant lot that is currently used for parking. It's such an unsightly sight and I'm surprised that the neighbors let it stay this way for years, but it won't be like this for long. Indianapolis based Flaherty and Collins unveiled a 24 floor apartment tower in February 2017 for this lot and are moving forward slowly on it. In December 2017, they reduced the height to 22 floors and recently, they agreed to a parking agreement with KP Development regarding their proposed office building next door and have requested an extension on time to 2020 on the site. With that hurdle out of the way, it now appears Flaherty and Collins can begin and I expect them to do so sometime in 2019. With that said, I will not jump next door.


Forsyth Pointe

Originally unveiled in late February 2017 as a 60,000SF, 9 Floor office building, I am shocked it hasn't gotten under way yet. Office demand In Clayton is high so this building could help contribute to the demand but I guess construction couldn't start until the hurdle with Flaherty and Collins was jumped over, which it was. I do expect a redesign for this project though as both Shaw Park Apartments and Forsyth Pointe offered larger than life parking garages. A new design could include a shared garage, but that isn't likely. I expect this project to begin next year sometime as 60,000SF could fill up quickly in Clayton, so they (KP Development) could build on spec and have it filled up in a hurry.


The Boulevard Phase 2

I both love and hate this project at the same time. I love the fact that it will take out a disgusting strip mall and replace it with shiny new buildings. It's the ultimate infill development and will greatly improve this stretch of Brentwood Boulevard. But then comes the part I hate, the design. The architecture is thrown together and appears sloppy. Hopefully (but not keeping my hoes up) the final product looks better than the renderings. The Condor Partners, the developer based in Chicago, are supposed to begin construction in Quarter 1 2019 and wrap up two years later.


Conclusion

With these 11 projects listed, I must stress that these are ones to watch for 2019. These will be key players when determining how the future of development goes and whether or not this Wall Street crash leads to a recession. We always seem to be the caboose on the development cycles and we always pick up right when the bubble is about to pop. I guess we will find out. I personally think that we will experience a slowdown that does some harm to us but allows us to keep growing. New projects seem to be added every week so we will see which happen and which don't happen.


As for the other projects that are planned in St. Louis, 90% of them will happen while the other 10% disappears only to reappear in the next development cycle. 2019 is full of projects to look out for but will also be a year of determining the future and if we ca keep this momentum growing without being interrupted, we will soon see development on the levels of Nashville, Indianapolis and Denver, but we must take, and are taking, baby steps.

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