Count Joe Edwards among the Delmar Loop business owners who are salivating at the prospect of hundreds of students living near their businesses.
Edwards, the owner of Loop staples Blueberry Hill and the Moonrise Hotel, said the more than 400 Washington University students who will live in the soon-to-be-finished dorm rooms will be a boon to local businesses. He said he’s hopeful all those students will also keep business lively at the Peacock Diner, a 24-hour restaurant he owns that will serve up spiked milkshakes and a variety of pies.
“You might not be able to eat them in one sitting, but you can never have too many pies,” said Edwards. His his restaurant is located on the first floor of the student housing facility.
Washington University juniors and seniors are expected to start moving into the dorms in the next few weeks. If they manage to be selected through a lottery, they’ll reside in one, two or three-bedroom loft-style apartments situated in the middle of a bustling commercial district.
The annual cost for a two-bedroom apartment is a little over $12,500 a year. A studio apartment, known as an "efficiency," costs around $13,510 a year.
Hank Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration for Washington University, said placing the dorm on Delmar Boulevard is mutually beneficial for his institution and the surrounding community.
“I think for the university, it allows our students to live in a vibrant, diverse, urban community which many of our students -- juniors and senior undergraduates -- want to do,” Webber said. “It allows them to live in a great building, in a great place, with great amenities.”
One of the amenities is United Provisions, a grocery store located next to the Peacock Diner. Shayn Prapaisilp, the project manager for the store, said he’s enthused about fulfilling the longtime demand of many who work and live around the Loop.
“Really, I think one of the biggest components missing out of the Delmar Loop is a grocery store,” Prapaisilp said. “Everybody’s been clamoring to really complete the Delmar Loop as not just a place to dine and visit, but a place to live as well. And we’re excited to join the neighborhood and fulfill that need.”
The $80 million project is located on the border between University City and St. Louis. While the student apartments themselves are tax exempt, University City will get tax revenue from the Peacock Diner and the city of St. Louis will receive sales tax proceeds from the grocery store.
St. Louis Alderman Lyda Krewson, a 28th Ward Democrat who represents the area where the dorms are located, said that setup works, especially because it revitalizes what was once a “dead zone” for businesses, restaurants and stores.
“Taxes are always an issue,” Krewson said. “But big educational institutions, big hospitals, big not-for-profits – they don’t pay taxes and that’s the way our tax system in this country is set up. And for the most part, it works out OK because they have lots of employees.”
Washington University is planning a second phase of construction that could be completed three years from now. That will boost the student population to roughly 600 students who could frequent Loop businesses, including the ones owned by Edwards.
“People are real excited about the number of students that are coming in,” Edwards said. “They’re really connecting the east and west parts of the Loop better than ever before and safer than ever before. And that I think, to me,is as exciting as having all the students.”
“I think it’s just marvelous what they’ve done,” he added.