The Grand Center neighborhood is growing. This comes as no surprise to Michelle Stevens, vice president of Grand Center Inc. But, she says the area still has a long way to go before the “Growing Grand” plan is fulfilled.
This plan, which was finalized a bit more than a year ago, involves using the arts as a catalyst to growth and prosperity in this once lively neighborhood. The goals include increasing art spaces, living environments, retail locations and making the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. How far has the area progressed?
“The arts are a unifying theme in the district. Obviously, art tourism and cultural tourism is a great economic engine for the region," Stevens said. “We would like to add additional restaurants and residential and retail [spaces] in the district as we move forward in the next few years.”
One specific of the plan is the Artwalk — a pedestrian pathway that will connect Saint Louis University and Spring Church. Within the last few weeks, the Public Media Commons, the first piece of the Artwalk opened. Stevens said the Sheldon Concert Hall is responsible for the next segment, Sheldon Plaza.
Paul Reuter, executive director of the Sheldon, said that Sheldon Plaza will differ greatly from the Public Media Commons. While the Commons focuses on high tech, Sheldon Plaza will have a vertical garden on its entire West Wall.
He also explained that fundraising still needs to be done, which means Sheldon Plaza should be ready to open by the fall of 2016.
Potential for Housing Development
One of the keys to stability that the plan identified is housing. A new apartment complex could be coming to Olive Street. Alex Ihnen, the owner and editor of nextSTL, reported last week that a housing development is likely coming to “3700-3824 Olive,” as an application has been submitted by Atlanta-based Peak Campus Development to rezone the area.
“We don’t know what is actually going to go in, but what we see is an application to change the city zoning,” Ihnen said. “Typically, you don’t see a request for a zoning change unless there is potential financing, a developer and a builder lined up.”
Ihnen also said that he believes the new development will be student housing to cater to nearby Saint Louis University, and that the development is likely happening in the Grand Center neighborhood “because of the other development in the area.”
Stevens said she didn’t want to make specific comments about the development at this time because the deal is not closed, but she did say she is “confident that the deal will close.” Peak did not return several calls about the possible development.
Photography Hall of Fame
The international Photography Hall of Fame and Museum is getting ready to celebrate its one-year anniversary in Grand Center. Executive Director John Nagel said the museum has done very well.
“We have had three exhibitions, which were all well attended for a new startup,” Nagel said. “We have had probably 5,000 guests over the past 10 months ... and we are working on our next 18-24 month schedule.”
The museum is also a hub for the preservation of photography and its history. Nagel said it is part of the mission to educate the public about all aspects of this art form. Nagel said he sees the Grand neighborhood continuing to grow and flourish, but it is probably already one of the densest areas of cultural events and venues.
“We are delighted to be here. We have made alliances with the Craft Alliance, with the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, the Sheldon, the Pulitzer,” Nagel said. “It is a very rich environment.”
A new contemporary Mexican restaurant is opening on the corner of Washington and Grand. Owner Hugo Perez explains the concept.
“It’s figuring out how to apply modern techniques to old school or old world recipes,” Perez said. “And there are no shortages of recipes.”
Perez hopes to create a laid back atmosphere where people can simply come enjoy and share excellent food. No fiesta. No bright colors. No fuss.
Perez also hopes to create a late night environment for Grand Center residents. “I also want to bring a little bit more life to the neighborhood for the latter hours of the day. We are going to put a lot of emphasis on dinner – light food, light fare –alcoholic beverages after 9 o’clock,” Perez said.
A new coffee shop, Chronicle Coffee, will be coming to the corner of Olive and Grand, just one block from the Saint Louis University campus. Owner Jason Wilson also owns the Chronicle Coffee not far from Grand Center on Blumeyer Avenue, and Northwest Coffee Roasting Company, which has shops in Clayton and on Laclede Avenue in the Central West End.
He said that construction should begin in less than two weeks and he hopes to have doors open by mid-November.
Wilson hopes his coffee shop will attract all types of people and thinkers. "We want to continue to create spaces for community engagement – inviting spaces for civil discourse and to be more inclusive," Wilson said.
He says the design of the coffee shop will be conducive to this mission, as it imitates a bar settling more than a traditional coffee shop. There will be seating at a bar area, and patrons can either order beverages and sit at the bar, or do the more traditional coffee-shop pattern of ordering from the counter and moving to tables or carrying out.