A building that used to house machines making barber chairs and, later, hats, will someday soon house a variety of small to mid-sized manufacturers looking to “scale up.” The building, located at 2528 Texas Ave. in the Fox Park neighborhood, will contain about 87,000-square-feet of manufacturing space and will be known as Brick City Makes.
What this project is trying to accomplish has never been done before. A collaboration between St. Louis Makes and the DeSales Community Development (DCD), Brick City Makes will combine different space sizes for manufacturers to work in, while also providing community programming, events and education in the building.
The people behind the project, Marc Bowers and Tom Pickel, are bullish at the prospect of taking a former industrial space in south St. Louis, renovating it and making it a community hub.
About 75 percent of local manufacturing companies have 20 or fewer employees, said Pickel, who is executive director of DCD. Those smaller companies need space to “scale up” their production.
“These companies are cash flow positive, new or established, but looking to accelerate growth,” Bowers said. “They have to focus on the customer and don’t want to focus on real estate and backend stuff. This project enables people to lease a small amount of space and the building to grow with them.”
The 2-acre facility will be parsed into 1000-3000 sq. ft. spaces, which could house up to 36 manufacturers inside. Brick City Makes is looking for companies with scalability and a higher degree of complexity. The project has had inquiries from people who do work with laser cutters to artisanal furniture manufacturers.
“We want to put ourselves out of business as their real estate option,” Bowers said. “In an ideal world, these companies grow so large they take on their own building in their own right. We’re an option for them, we won’t kick them out, but we’re appealing to those who would eventually outgrow the facility.”
The project, which will cost $11 million, is funded through a combination of federal new markets tax credits, state and historic tax credits, philanthropic giving from local corporations and individuals, as well as banks.
With the renovation of the space, Pickel said Brick City Makes would feature state-of-the-art systems such as all-new electrical, plumbing and fire suppression systems as well as a 5,000 lb. capacity freight elevator.
DeSales Community Development Corporation is serving as the development end of the financing, whereas St. Louis Makes will focus on entrepreneurial services. Pickel said he hopes this renovation and new manufacturing space fosters redevelopment in the Fox Park Neighborhood.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people and I’ve had countless people come up to me and say ‘well, it’s good we’re now doing something to bring manufacturing St. Louis’ but I always found that was the strangest statement you could make because it never left,” Bowers said. “What we’re doing now is calling attention to that reality and making it easier for small manufacturers to become big manufacturers.”
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