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Friday, September 5, 2008

The St. Louis new/proposed construction report and questionnaire

SI'll start this post off by commenting on a recently completed new building that I have come to really enjoy--Park East Tower in the Central West End. I finally "get" this building now. It's not as if its contemporary take on Art Deco truly escaped me. It's just that I saw it as cheesy before. Viewed from one of the skybridges at the Washington University Medical Center, the building was striking to me. The southern approach looks great. The street level, though, could use some reconfiguring.

Along with the Park East Tower, the Park East Lofts seem to me an excellent addition to the streetscape (and might resolve some of the issues with the Tower's street level presence). It's hard to assess how the actual build-out will look, since they've only got the steel beams up right now, but renderings are promising (see below).

Let's stay within the Central West End. The new mixed-use building on Lindell between Sarah and Vandeventer (dubbed Villas of St. Louis) is the perfect scale for the street. I don't think it's any paragon of design in and of itself. But it's not offensive, in my opinion. And it might set a proper, urban precedent for massing along that de-urbanized stretch of Lindell Boulevard. Here's a picture from Steve Patterson's flickr page:

Moving out of the CWE, what's that huge, LEED-certified warehouse along Chouteau just east of Compton? I'm glad that it's billed itself as energy-efficient, but did it have to offer its window-less face to such a huge swath of Chouteau? It's so bulky and lifeless. I guess I'm disappointed because this was a great opportunity to spruce up Chouteau and maybe, someday see it as a true, urban boulevard.

Also, there's a sign up for new construction in the Gate District--near Compton and Eads. I couldn't stop (grandparents were driving at the time), but it looked like there was a name and rendering for the development. This seems significant because it's on the west side of Compton--the side that St. Louis University's medical campus has systematically dismantled. Even if the rest of Gate District construction isn't top notch by any measure, I would breathe a sigh of relief to see houses constructed on this unlikely urban prairie. Anyone have any more information on this development?

Okay. South Grand now. The new building at S. Grand and Winnebago (formerly Pyramid's senior homes, now Dominion's) is progressing nicely. While this is a much less appealing building than Villas of St. Louis, I do have to once again admire the scale and the mixed-use nature of the project in a city that practically mandates suburban design through its outdated zoning code.

Here is an earlier view of the building from the St. Louis Business Journal:

I think Vivienne on Lafayette is a great development--a wonderful adaptation of a St. Louis vernacular style. I hope they shake up the formula a bit and build more.

The down-the-street-neighbor Union Club, though, is disappointing. The inability to imitate the (oxymoronic) graceful ruddiness of Richardsonian Romanesque in the angles of the bay curvature and the brick color renders this building as odd-looking in my book.

Let's shoot up to Grand Center. Last night, I went to the reception for the Light Project. The Light Project is four installments, but, of course, the one that will grab the most attention is the burnt out church on N. Spring--its onetime roof now bedecked in lamps and lampshades of every color. It's truly a magnificent sight. It was also amazing to see people strolling casually around Grand Center in such numbers. All of this temporary urbanism made me long for some permanence. The large signs advertising the ArtHouse development made me feel a little more confident that St. Louis's "arts district" may truly materialize someday.

One last site to discuss: the new recreation center in Carondelet Park.

Here is a rendering:

I had no idea they were going to completely isolate this suburban-style building in the middle of Carondelet Park. Why not add to street life? Why remove the old-growth trees? Why take up park space? Why does this center need to be within a park? I can think of dozens of other sensible places. Why not fill in a gap along the Patch's South Broadway stretch? Or somewhere along Gravois (the overly large parking lot behind the Bevo Mill, for example)?

I am disappointed that I voted for the proposition to allow for this construction. Shouldn't residents of south St. Louis have been consulted with the placement and design of this facility?

Your thoughts?


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