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City Foundry Development Presses On In Midtown St. Louis Despite Pandemic

Office space has already opened in the massive mixed-use development along I-64.
Office space has already opened in the massive mixed-use development along I-64.

The pandemic has slowed but not stopped the opening of a high-profile development in midtown St. Louis. City Foundry, along Vandeventer Avenue across from IKEA, is expected to be open midyear.

Or at least, that’s the hope.

“Our tenants are cautiously eager to get in there and get started,” Will Smith said.

Smith is the director of asset management and investments for New + Found. The development company was launched last year by Lawrence Group, which took over the foundry site in 2015.

If the pandemic takes an unexpected turn, Smith said, it could push things back further.

It's just about timing,” he said. “It's making sure that we're not putting our tenants in a situation where they gear up and get started and spend money and hire people and then we're in a situation where customers can't come in and customers can't purchase.”

Businesses have already moved into office space at City Foundry, but the opening of more public elements, like a food hall, that were slated for last year have been delayed because of the outbreak.

One of those businesses is Butler’s Pantry, which has been on board with the City Foundry development for roughly three years.

Butler’s Pantry president, Richard Nix Jr., said his plan is to open the entertainment venue 18 Rails in City Foundry this summer. “We think the timing is going to be perfect for the end or maybe the fact that COVID will maybe be ending at that particular point,” he said.

The first phase of City Foundry is a more than $220 million development. The next phase is estimated to cost $115 million. It is expected to include apartments along with more retail and office space.

The area wasn’t always so enticing. The site sat vacant for about a decade after production in the foundry stopped in 2007. Several of the buildings were listed for demolition over the years, but plans fell through.

Originally, Century Electric owned the site and made motors and generators. Preserving that piece of history was a big reason why the Lawrence Group wanted to go through with the redevelopment. The site is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Smith insists plans were never derailed by COVID-19.

"We're not looking at having the same kind of opening that we were going to have before the pandemic when it was kind of everything at once," he said. "We're looking at a longer opening period because we are working with tenants on what fits their needs."

Nix said that approach is a big reason why his company continues to stick with City Foundry, even if the pandemic causes more delays. He added that flexibility will be vital once we get through the outbreak.

"It's going to be a little different when we come out of this," he said. "We do know whether it's this or something else, we just have to be creative.”

The appeal of the property is clear to other business leaders as well. City Foundry is at full capacity for current office space and at about 50% for remaining retail and entertainment spaces.

Smith said the goal is to attract local "up-and-coming" retailers, and talks continue with regional and national companies that do not yet have a location in St. Louis.

Follow Wayne on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

City Foundry officials say roughly 50% of retail and entertainment spaces are available. It is at full capacity for office space.
/ New+Found
City Foundry officials say roughly 50% of retail and entertainment spaces are available. It is at full capacity for office space.

Wayne Pratt is a veteran journalist who has made stops at radio stations, wire services and websites throughout North America. He comes to St. Louis Public Radio from Indianapolis, where he was assistant managing editor at Inside Indiana Business. Wayne also launched a local news operation at NPR member station WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana, and spent time as a correspondent for a network of more than 800 stations. His career has included positions in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Toronto, Ontario and Phoenix, Arizona. Wayne grew up near Ottawa, Ontario and moved to the United States in the mid-90s on a dare. Soon after, he met his wife and has been in the U.S. ever since.