Phone: (314) 677-1477

Koman Group proposes $31 million Central West End project

Koman Group Central West EndA developer is proposing projects in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood that would renovate a pair of mid-century modern structures and construct a six-story building of stores, offices and apartments.

Behind both projects is the Koman Group. The largest of the two proposals is the construction of a nearly $31 million mixed-use building at 32 North Euclid Avenue. The site is across West Pine Boulevard from CityWalk, a project of 177 apartments and a Whole Foods Market under construction by Mills Properties.

Two blocks away, at 4490 Lindell Boulevard, Koman is proposing a $9 million renovation of the two-building Optimist International headquarters as offices.

Koman officials said Tuesday the company has the Optimist buildings under contract. The company bought the North Euclid property in July.

Josh Udelhofen, Koman’s chief investment officer, said the Euclid project would have space for street-level stores, second-floor offices, 60 to 70 apartments on the four upper floors and two levels of underground parking. The building’s contemporary design of brick and synthetic stucco is by Trivers Associates.

“We feel there’s good logic in differentiating our project rather than putting up something that blends in with everything else,” Udelhohen said.

He said Koman would move its headquarters to the Euclid development from downtown St. Louis. The headquarters had been at CityPlace in Creve Coeur until Koman sold that office complex last year. About 15 people work at the company’s temporary headquarters at the Cupples Station 9 building downtown.

Included in the Euclid proposal is $4.5 million in tax-increment financing. Koman said the incentive is needed to offset the high cost of building underground parking and upgrading utility infrastructure.

The developer also plans to seek a $1.5 million TIF for the Optimist project because of what the company said is the expense of renovating the buildings’ facades to modern standards while respecting their architectural heritage.

Both Koman projects are scheduled for review Aug. 27 by the Central West End Development Committee of Park Central Development, the area’s development organization. The developer hopes to begin construction on both projects in February, completing the Optimist project by January 2017 and the Euclid project by June 2017.

Sacrificed for the Euclid project would be the one-story building on the site. Occupying the structure are a dry cleaners and Club 34, a bar that opened the same year as the building: 1941. Koman said in documents submitted to Park Central the building has major structural, roofing and mechanicaldeficiencies.

The Optimist complex comprises two structures — a two-story building opened in 1961 and a three-story addition completed in 1979. Koman said both buildings need extensive renovations to meet current building codes and to be competitive in the office market.

Last year, the CWE development committee denied Covington Realty Partners’ request for tax abatement as part of its plan to construct a 14-story apartment building on the Optimist site. As a result, Covington dropped its $50 million plan.

Alderman Joe Roddy, whose 17th Ward includes the sites of both Koman projects, said he had opposed the previous plan for the Optimist site because it would have provided a city incentive to demolish buildings.

“This is working out for the best,” he said. “I am glad to see a proposal that calls for their renovation and that promises to bring daytime jobs to the neighborhood, which is exactly what the neighborhood needs.”

The plan by Christner architects calls for replacement of the buildings’ narrow vertical windows with large glass panels to allow sunlight to penetrate what Koman officials said is now the structures’ “tomb-like” interiors.

Park Central’s executive director, Brooks Goedeker, said the Koman plan “saves these architecturally desirable buildings and revitalizes them with a new skin.”

Benny Ellerbe, Optimist International’s executive director, said the organization would relocate its 35-member staff to another St. Louis location but had yet to pick a site.

Previous Koman projects include renovations of its Cupples Station warehouse as offices and the former GenAm building as the Laclede Group headquarters downtown.


From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by Tim Bryant