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Thursday, April 15, 2010

A New Life for Soulard's Anheuser Busch Parkings Lots?

Most St. Louisans are well aware that the new management at Anheuser Busch-InBev, or A-B InBev, has been cutting positions at A-B's onetime world headquarters in Soulard. With financial operations moved to New York City, and with much of the company's leadership in either Brazil or Belgium, the Soulard campus is growing quieter. Don't get me wrong. I believe this is pretty bad news for St. Louis and for Soulard.

But there may be a small--or potentially large--up-side to this.

Take a look at Exhibit A: north Soulard, above Sidney Street.

Despite being hemmed in by Interstate 55 on the north and west and an overly-wide and relatively unadorned 7th Street/Broadway on the east, Soulard is a remarkably intact and physically dense neighborhood.

South of Sidney Street, A-B parking lots pervade and largely sully what could be a great connection to one of St. Louis's greatest urban neighborhoods. Living in the shadow of perhaps the world's greatest brewing legacy should be a saleable amenity, but few Soulard homes are within arm's reach of the complex these days.

Exhibit B: south Soulard, below Sidney Street.

Especially towards 7th Street, surface parking takes over an otherwise intact and beautiful neighborhood. Now, with fewer employees and a gradual shift away from the Soulard campus towards other spots across the globe, could the city reclaim these lots? Would A-B InBev hand them off? At least four square blocks are entirely dedicated to surface parking in an area bounded by Lynch Street on the south, 10th Street on the west, Sidney on the north, and 7th on the east. Well, almost entirely.

A nice Soulard home survives on 9th Street with its outbuilding intact (courtesy of Bing Maps). Anyone know the story behind this odd island in the sea of parking?

At any rate, it serves as a good reminder of how to reinvest in this area. We should seek to return these blocks to that successful Soulard scale--one of the city's most intimate.

I wonder what the status of these large lots is now that A-B in Soulard is essentially being downsized. Do surrounding businesses use these lots as well? Would Soulard residents or A-B InBev really miss them?


... said...

I'm not sure of the story behind the house, but here is a little info on the house on 9th:
It is located at 2703 S. 9th, owned by Paula and Joseph Crews, who reside in St. Louis Hills; the lot to the north of it is owned by InBev as a residential lot, as is the lot to the south (assessed as a commercial parking lot). 2703 is assessed commercially and used as an apartment home (according to the property assessor). As late as 1971, the house had all its neighbors (using maps from By 1998, almost all were gone. My guess -- it's just a strange survivor that the owners never sold out.

If the homes and AB could coexist 100 years, surely AB could survive by selling off some of its lots.

Daron said...

Nah, a small amusement park called BeerLand where it is mardi gras every day. Oh yeah.

Think the neighborhood association has any opinion on it?

Anonymous said...

You fail to mention the hundreds of workers who were moved from Sunset Hills to the AB complex in Soulard. There are probably more people working there today then before the cuts.

Matt M. said...

I did fail to mention that. I had forgotten. Still, these surface lots are probably not needed. A small parking structure east of Broadway--in an already compromised area urbanistically speaking--would do just fine if A-BInBev was willing to front the money.

Still, I'd like to see the numbers re: employment over time.

Anonymous said...

It was not just the SSH campus. It was every remote office in STL. All of those employees are now reporting down to the main campus. Trust me - There is not a surplus of parking spaces. Go drive around the campus around 8am and take a look for yourself.

Matt M. said...

I must admit I've never been around A-B at those times. As I said, with the land A-B owns all around, these surface lots aren't necessarily needed. I know there is no incentive for A-B to build a structure and to open these up for development--just wishful, urbanist thinking here. I am guilty as charged.

Anonymous said...

I know nothing of recent history of the house on 9th but I did live on the 3rd flr as child until about 1952/3. Property was owned by Robick(sp) family with many relatives living in the apts. The now vacant lot on the north was also owned by a brother. I don't know when 2703 was sold.
Sharron U.

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