Rattling skeletons of the North Riverfront Corridor
By Tavia Evans
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
North Broadway still feels 5 miles from downtown St. Louis rather than 5 blocks.
A bustling industrial corridor, just north of St. Louis' central business district, may hold the next promise for redevelopment.
The North Riverfront Business Corridor extends north of downtown along the Mississippi River. The area has long been home to diverse industries and businesses, some rooted in the city's past.
They include metal-processing plants, scrap yards and fabrication companies, steel factories, food distributors and Produce Row.
The empty hulls of large warehouses and vacant lots are common here, too, remnants of companies that moved or went out of business.
But the city and some developers see the potential for adding residential and commercial development.
Developer Kevin McGowan said his company, McGowan/Walsh, owns several groupings of old warehouses, just north of the site where Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. plans to build a $400 million casino, hotel and mixed-use complex on Laclede's Landing.
"Our plans are to put residential there," McGowan said. "But for now, we're taking a wait and see what happens with the area and the buildings along Broadway and east down to the river."
Stan Meoli said he almost sold his building at 2000 North Broadway last year. He runs American Warehouse, a shipping and receiving company that also leases storage and selling space in its 160,000-square-foot building to other companies. He's waiting now to cash in on the area's potential growth.
"We decided to hold onto the building when they said we'd have to update the sprinkler system for about $30,000" in order to sell it, Meoli said. "With everything going on downtown, if we sell it, it will be for $850,000."
The Missouri and Illinois transportation departments have proposed a new bridge to span the Mississippi River. It will cut a huge swath through several blocks of businesses in the area.
Barbara Geisman, deputy mayor for development, said "the area between the highway and the new bridge would be mixed-use going south, with new retail, office, and business and industrial continuing north."
Even with construction of the bridge, there still would be room to expand, said Carol Perry, president of the North Broadway Business Association.
"We have roughly about 110 businesses as part of the association, and most have indicated they want to grow and acquire more land in the area," Perry said.
That includes Anthony Tocco, president of M&L Foods Inc., who's looking to buy property next to his business at 1717 North Broadway. The company moved to its present location in 1985 after being displaced by construction of America's Center. Now, the food distributor sits in the path of the proposed bridge.
More recently, businesses have moved to the area for its large warehouse spaces, inexpensive land and easy access to transportation routes.
In search of more space, Walter and Marti Hauck moved their company, Zymo Sculpture Studio Inc., to 1520 North Broadway from the Central West End five years ago.
"It's been an interesting neighborhood to watch," said Marti Hauck, who handles the administrative side of the business while her husband sculpts and molds. "The area feels separate from downtown. But when you see the Arch, you definitely know where you are and you realize all the projects going on (downtown) aren't that far away."
Jack and Scott Larrison said they felt that someday, the downtown renaissance would creep farther north, so they bought two dilapidated buildings on North Broadway.
For 15 months, they gutted the insides, salvaging old wood from Mexican cedar, mahogany and maple fence posts left in the buildings to build a bar and adjacent garage. In September, they opened Shady Jack's at 1432 North Broadway.
"The area is up and coming, there's a lot of great potential here and we see it coming this way," Scott Larrison said.