Development proposal may boost Midtown area

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The parts of Midtown most often recognized throughout the city are Saint Louis University’s campus and the Grand Art and Life Center. The streets of Midtown are also lined with food options and housing plots. Yet the neighborhood still suffers from numerous vacant lots and a shortage of popular retail locations that would help bring more business and economy  into the area. However, new proposed developments on the horizon may provide some solutions.

Pace Properties, a St. Louis- based real estate company, hopes to spruce up the vacant lot adjacent to SLU’s campus with a new shopping center.  The proposed site plan lays out construction of four buildings where the Federal-Mogul automotive parts plant once resided.  The plant closed in 2007 and Pace acquired the property soon thereafter.  Located on the north side of I-64, the site is bordered by Vandeventer and Spring Avenues to the west and east and Forest Park Parkway on the north.  The “Cortex” development serving nearby hospitals sits just west of the potential retail site.

The company is talking with Great Rivers Greenway District concerning the feasibility of replacing the old, elevated railroad tracks with a bikeway.  The bikeway would connect riders from Downtown to Forest Park.  In addition to the bikeway, Pace Properties hopes to encourage pedestrian foot traffic by adding another Metro Link station in the Cortex.  The new Metro stop would connect the Grand Avenue stop and the Central West End/ Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Pace Properties hopes to revitalize the region with the building of “Midtown Station.”  The company’s renderings show four buildings located around the collective parking lot.  The drawings allocate five major retailers among the buildings, totaling 166,000 square feet of retail space. Pace’s proposal includes demolishing the existing industrial buildings.  NextSTL, a website run by city residents dedicated to tracking construction and renovations in St. Louis, hopes to pressure Pace to utilize the current warehouse facades if at all possible. Although Pace stated that no companies have committed to the site there are rumors of big-name stores like Target and IKEA looking seriously at the development plans. Additionally, Pace Properties has confirmed that their company does represent IKEA in their search for available space in St. Louis.  However no timeline for the project has been published.

As Pace Properties prepares to provide Midtown’s residents shopping centers, another project in the works might change the activity along West Pine Street between Vandeventer and Sarah Avenue.  According to NextSTL, a proposed one-and two- bedroom apartment complex would include street-level retail and restaurants, while the loft apartments would occupy the space overhead.  An estimated timeline for the complex includes breaking ground in early 2014 with the project finishing mid-year 2015.  Filling a vacant stretch of land on the south side of West Pine, the building would provide more housing options for students. New activity in the area might also increase student interest in the existing apartments along West Pine and Sarah.

The area SLU occupies remains a work in progress, but progress is being made nonetheless.  If Pace and NextSTL are able to see their proposals through to completion, the Midtown area has an opportunity to add a serious retail presence to complement its vibrant arts scene.