Retail Midwest

What to do with St. Louis' Railway Exchange Building?

Railway-Exchange6-2015

A vision for reenergizing the dormant Railway Exchange Building in downtown St. Louis is being evaluated following a first-ever collaboration of civic, real estate, design and institutional professionals conducted by the Urban Land Institute St. Louis for Downtown STL, Inc.

A vision for reenergizing the dormant Railway Exchange Building in downtown St. Louis is being evaluated following a first-ever collaboration of civic, real estate, design and institutional professionals conducted by the Urban Land Institute St. Louis for Downtown STL, Inc.

ULI St. Louis conducted a private development Technical Assistance Program (TAP) to determine how the building could be repurposed for market needs.

At 1.2 million square feet, revitalizing the historic but vacant Railway Exchange Building has been among the biggest development challenges facing downtown St. Louis in recent years.  Once the home of May Department Stores and its Famous-Barr flagship store, the century-old Railway Exchange has been empty since the department store closed in 2013 and TRex, a technology incubator, moved to its own building on Washington Avenue.

After touring the building, interviewing a wide variety of downtown stakeholders and regional leadership and reviewing existing market studies, the TAP panel recommended a mix of uses that meet a range of needs in downtown St. Louis, including market-rate residential uses, hotel options, innovative office space, retail and recreational uses. There were also several areas of the building where shared amenities would be carved out for special use including a ballroom, pool, sky bar and restaurant on the top floor and fitness facilities and indoor recreation space on the lower floors.

The panel also noted the need to maintain the historic nature of the existing façade and discussed ways to bring more light into building. Opening or coring out additional floors within the atrium, pulling walls back within spaces to create ‘exterior’ space open to the elements, and placing vertical pocket parks – for both recreation and connectivity between floors – were among the ideas presented.

The ULI St. Louis TAP panel united local professional expertise in design, development, historic redevelopment, and institutional and civic leadership.  It included Chip Crawford, Forum Studio; Andy Trivers, Trivers Associates; John Shreve, Populous; Tyler Meyr, Forum Studio; Wendy Timm, Enhanced Value Strategies, Inc.; Larry James, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP; and Hank Webber, Washington University in St. Louis.

Until this recent engagement to study the Railway Exchange Building, ULI St. Louis TAP panels have been solely used to guide municipalities and public organizations on redevelopment and land use issues. These engagements have included TAP studies for Maryland Heights, the cities of Olivette and University City, Ferguson, and Citizens for Modern Transit in partnership with Metro, the Bi-State Development Agency.