October 5, 2014 admin

Once declared the world’s tallest reinforced concrete building, the century-old Arcade is under rehab as downtown St. Louis’ largest apartment development in decades.

When reopened late next year, the Arcade Building will have 282 apartments, plus classrooms, offices, a street-level art gallery and an auditorium for Webster University, which is expanding its downtown campus.

The $118 million project represents a turnaround for the historic building, which had been vacant for years and targeted for demolition by some previous owners whose redevelopment plans fizzled. At a “groundbreaking” event Tuesday, Mayor Francis Slay and other officials said they hope the Arcade’s revival will lead to more downtown redevelopment.

Dominium Development, of Minneapolis, bought the building in August from the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority for about $9.5 million. Almost immediately, heavy work began to renovate and restore the 500,000-square-foot building at Eighth and Olive streets.

The Arcade is really two buildings — the 18-story Wright completed in 1906 and the Arcade, built around the Wright more than a decade later then joined to the older structure. Combined as the Arcade, the complex is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Architect Paul Hohmann, whose ebersoldt + associates architecture has a piece of the rehab project, noted that the Arcade was designed during World War I, when much of the nation’s steel production was diverted to military use.

As a result, engineers and architect Tom P. Barnett turned to reinforced concrete. Contemporary press accounts said the 16-story Arcade was the world’s tallest for such structures.

After years of neglect, the Arcade’s interior is a mess, but the reinforced concrete frame remains solid, Hohmann said.

“Structurally, it’s very sound,” he added.

Dominium’s plan calls for 202 affordable artist lofts and 80 market-rate apartments. Marble hallways and other original flourishes will be refurbished. Surviving shop windows on the eight floors of former retail space will be retained.

Opaque panels to be installed behind the glass will provide privacy for apartment dwellers on those floors. A rooftop deck for residents will have views of the Arch and the Mississippi River.

The Arcade will be downtown’s largest apartment project since the mid-1960s, when the Mansion House complex, with nearly 400 apartments, was constructed.

Complicated funding for the Arcade project includes U.S. Bank financing of $77 million through federal New Markets Tax Credits, federal and state historic tax credits and federal low-income housing tax credits. Additional financing includes bridge and permanent construction loans from BMO Harris Bank, a permanent loan from Cornerstone Permanent Mortgage Fund and a $4.8 million loan from the city. Paric Corp. is the general contractor.

Jeff Huggett, the Dominium vice president heading the project, said his company will lavish work on the Arcade’s namesake feature, much of which Webster plans to fill with offices.

Huggett said Dominium will restore the original appearance to the two-level, 35-foot-high, barrel-vaulted arcade that runs the length of the building.

In several American cities — Cleveland, most notably — downtown arcades lined with stores preceded the suburban shopping mall. Huggett said the restored St. Louis arcade will surprise many people.

“Most people in St. Louis don’t necessarily know this is here,” he said during a tour Tuesday.

Downtown St. Louis is a growing residential market, with several apartment projects planned or underway. Among them is the planned apartment conversion of the upper floors of the Laclede Gas Building, the 31-story office tower across Eighth Street from the Arcade.

The Arcade’s renovation will leave the Chemical Building as the only unrehabbed structure at Eighth and Olive.

Officials said its owners continue to seek financing to put 120 apartments in the nearly empty, century-old office building.

“We need to complete this corner,” said Matt Schindler, director of community development for the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis.

Huggett said he is “completely pumped” about the Arcade project, adding that new lighting on the building’s exterior will transform the corner at night.

“When this thing is all lit up, it’s going to be really, really cool,” he said.

Read more at St. Louis Post Dispatch