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Wash U Redevelopment Ready to Break Ground

The $80 million project will create new living and retail space in the Delmar Loop.

Washington University in St. Louis this week obtained final approval for the school’s $80 million student apartment and retail project in the Delmar Loop in University City and the city of St. Louis. The roughly 14-month construction phase is expected to begin next week as the project moves from plan to action.

The venture is a strategic investment in the Loop and the surrounding communities through which the university aims to provide a model of sustainable urban living.

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“This is an incredible opportunity for all of us at Washington University, in particular our students. It gives us the chance to contribute in a positive way to the broader St. Louis community – a community that we are proud to call home,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “I appreciate the very positive response we’ve received to our plans in the Loop. Through a strong partnership with University City and the city of St. Louis, we look forward to making this vision a reality.”

The university has worked in close collaboration with municipal leaders.

“I am extremely pleased with Washington University’s commitment to University City and this neighborhood, as shown by this multimillion-dollar development,” University City Mayor Shelley Welsch said. “These new buildings will bring enhanced economic vitality to the area, and the addition of 22,000 square feet of commercial space. This project along Delmar is a big plus not only for this neighborhood but the whole city.”

St. Louis City Alderwoman Lyda Krewson also looks forward to the project.

“The addition of both new businesses and additional students living in the Loop is a tremendous asset for the City of St. Louis,” Krewson said. “The Delmar Loop is such an interesting, eclectic part of both the city and University City, and Washington University’s investment will bring added benefit to this vibrant area.”

The 4.4-acre residential and retail development project will incorporate a number of “green” features, and the school aims to achieve at least a LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the second-highest on the scale.

Excavation for the underground garage will follow demolition work, and construction of the buildings in Phase 1 of the project is expected to begin in the spring. Phase 1 plans call for students and businesses to move in by August 2014.

The university developed the project to meet the goals of significant community studies, which found that area along Delmar was a prime location for additional retail and higher-density housing.

Merchants and business owners in the area are enthusiastic.

“Everyone is delighted and excited,” says Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill, among other Loop businesses. “It’s going to add so much to the Loop. It’s a huge step in extending the vitality of the Loop and connecting the eastern and western ends of Delmar even more.”

In all, the development will include five new buildings, with apartments for about 600 undergraduate students and 22,000 square feet of new retail space. The mixed-use development, to be built on existing university-owned property, will be between Delmar and Enright to the north and flanked by Westgate and Eastgate avenues.

The project architect is William Rawn Associates, of Boston, with Tao + Lee Associates Inc., of St. Louis, serving as the local firm. The general contractor is Paric Corp., and several other engineering and consulting firms are working on the project’s landscaping and sustainability features.

Students, faculty and interested neighbors are encouraged to regularly check out the dedicated Loop Living web site to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. 

Green features

A key green feature of the development is the commitment to pedestrians and to bicycle use. Residents will have access to an underground parking garage, but there will be extensive bicycle parking both inside and outside the new buildings.

The university also will encourage pedestrian commuting with other features, such as widened sidewalks and improved lighting.

Early in the development’s planning, the university had a forestry consultant review the health of trees in the affected area, and many were found to be deteriorating and a risk to nearby neighbors and structures. The project will require removal of 58 trees, and Washington University is planting 125 new trees in their place.

The university’s forestry and landscaping consultants also developed a plan to use a bald cypress tree that must be removed in the new project. The tree will be carefully harvested and its logs milled into usable lumber. That lumber then will be used in a planned rooftop terrace deck and as part of a trellis located just about Delmar Boulevard.

Among other environmentally friendly project features are rooftop photovoltaic panels that will provide 10 percent of the buildings’ electricity and solar thermal panels to generate 25 percent of the hot water supply. Sensors also will determine when residents are in a room and turn down lights in an empty space. Outside the buildings, landscaping will feature rain gardens and nearly 5,000 native shrubs, grasses, grounds and ferns.

In all, the project will boast about 250 apartments, from one- to three- , some in a loft style. The WUSTL Office of Residential Life will manage the apartments. Residential advisers will live on site.

Come together

University staff began meeting with city leaders in University City and St. Louis – as the project straddles city lines – in the fall of 2011 to describe the project and discuss the time line for municipal approvals. City officials in both municipalities committed to working with the university to ensure the process moved forward in a timely manner. 

The university developed the project to meet the goals of significant community studies, such as the Parkview Gardens Sustainability Plan and the Delmar Loop Area Retail Plan & Development Strategy, which found that area along Delmar was a prime location for additional retail and higher-density housing.

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