A $30 million housing development backed by philanthropist and arts patron Emily Rauh Pulitzer is poised to remake a virtually empty block on Olive Street in the Grand Center area of St. Louis.
When finished, the development will include 27 single-family homes and a building with 35 apartments, mixed between one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Developers plan to begin construction on four model homes, each designed by a different architect, in the fall.
Steve Trampe of Owen Development and James Maloney, manager of the Pulitzer Family Office, join Pulitzer as principal developers of the project, known as Olive West. It will be located on Olive Street between North Spring Street and Vandeventer Avenue.
Seven accomplished architects have been recruited to design elements of the project. That will ensure a mix of styles that will complement existing buildings in the neighborhood, Trampe said.
Participating architects include Tatiana Bilbao of Mexico City, who is creating one of the four customizable home designs; Michael Maltzan of Los Angeles, who is designing the apartment building, and New York City-based firm MOS Architects, which is designing another of the home styles.
“How do you meld art with economics? We are trying to meld art architecture with [real estate] development, and they are not natural partners,” Trampe said. “There won’t be another one of these projects in St. Louis. I don’t know that there’s another one in the country.”
Prices for the homes will begin at $350,000.
The only building now standing on the site is a boarded-up structure known as the Wolfner Building, which was built by Bell Telephone in 1898 and once housed the Henry L. Wolfner Library for the Blind, the first facility of its kind in the U.S.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission voted in August 2018 to allow the Olive West developers to restore and preserve the Wolfner Building’s Italian Renaissance facade but demolish its less architecturally significant rear portion. The building will be part of a clubhouse area for residents.
The site is otherwise occupied by vacant lots and lined with a crumbling sidewalk. It sits a few minutes’ walk from the Contemporary Art Museum, the Sheldon and other attractions.
The Grand Center Arts District has been revitalized over the past two decades, with rehabilitations of historic buildings and the addition of structures like the home of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, designed by noted Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
Though it houses several apartment buildings largely catering to students of nearby St. Louis University, Grand Center does not feature many one-family homes.
“This project will help in fostering that more well-rounded neighborhood development in Grand Center, which is very exciting,” said Daniel Krasnoff, director of the city’s Cultural Resources Office, which is part of the planning department.
Much of the neighborhood’s commercial activity is centered on patrons of attractions like the Pulitzer, CAM, the Fox Theatre and the Sheldon.
“When the theaters are active, it’s a bustling area,” Krasnoff said. “Having that residential population that is not student-based will, over time, increase the variety of types of customers for the businesses, and that’s a win for the neighborhood.”
Trampe said he hopes to have the four model homes completed by early next summer. Construction on the apartment building will begin in the spring.
Developers say they will not make any money on the project.
“The goal is really to build something that’s really significant and lasting and that will have the same effect that the Fox Theatre and Powell Hall do within Grand Center,” Trampe said.
Editor's Note: Emily Rauh Pulitzer is an honorary co-chair of St. Louis Public Radio's 2019 capital campaign.
Jeremy can be found on Twitter @jeremydgoodwin.
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