by Michael R. Allen
I have worked inside of the St. Louis Design Center Building at 917 Locust (built 1913, designed by Harry Roach) in downtown St. Louis for a few months now. First I worked at Art St. Louis and now I work at Landmarks Association. During this time, the building and its block has been rather gloomy: few tenants remain in the Design Center due to a forthcoming renovation planned by owners The Roberts Companies, the lobby is dark and cavernous from a 1980’s rehab and there has not been a single occupied storefront on this block of Locust. Add to this the ongoing demolition and construction morass at the Century Building site across Locust, the closure of 9th Street since last September, the ugly Renaissance Grand Parking Garage on this block and the ugly empty parking lot nearby that stretches from 8th to 9th along Locust, and the 900 block of Locust has been a fairly dispiriting place to work this year.
Until now, hopefully. Residential tenants have been moving into the rehabbed Board of Education building at 911 Locust since the spring, and a first-floor tenant seems to be preparing to open. More immediate to my concerns, Heuer Hardware and Locksmith is moving from the Louderman Building into the empty storefront downstairs at the Design Center. The block may be coming to life again! Perhaps next Gus Torregrossa will think about developing the shuttered four-story commercial building at 919 Locust and a buyer can be found for the stucco-covered 1860’s storefront building at the corner of 10th and Locust.
Density is life!