Over the past five years, this sleepy stretch of DeBaliviere Place has leveled up.
stroll down Pershing Avenue, in the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood, used to be a quiet affair: Century-old brick apartment buildings, leafy branches overhead, dog walkers. Lately, though, the ground’s been shaking with harbingers of change: cranes, construction crews, and contemporary architecture.
Over the past five years, this once sleepy stretch of Pershing has leveled up. In 2018, St. Louis–based Lux Living finished the 160-unit Tribeca apartments in the 5500 block. Lux’s second major project, the Chelsea, is now underway, practically across the street. The 152-unit building features a saltwater pool, a two-story fitness center, and a bistro café on the first floor. But the most intense action is at the west end of the street, at the intersection of Pershing and DeBaliviere. Lux is going big there once again with the Hudson, a 155-unit building designed to house a ground-floor restaurant. And on the opposite side of DeBaliviere, a different developer—Jeff Tegethoff of CRG—is constructing two separate buildings that will hold a combined 287 units, plus a grocery store (and much more) on the street level.
All of this is right at the convergence of the MetroLink and Forest Park’s north entrance and bike/pedestrian paths.
“Literally five years ago, the place had a lot of crime issues, and you could buy real estate for a tenth of the price you can buy it for today,” recalls Vic Alston of Lux Living. “Now there are a lot of other developers coming in.”
Alston is based in California. During a visit to St. Louis several years ago, he says, Pershing struck him as underrated. It was sandwiched by prosperity: Washington University and the Delmar Loop to the west and the Central West End, BJC, and Cortex to the east. He knew that the demand for housing there was strong, because he was involved with a separate investment group that already owned buildings on the street.
The idea behind the Tribeca, Chelsea, and Hudson—names chosen to evoke the density of Manhattan—was to present some “new product” on the street. It’s marketed to 25- to 35-year-olds, Alston says, who are in their second or third jobs and not ready to commit to a house but nevertheless desire the comfort and design of a house. In the Chelsea, for instance, kitchens feature two-tone cabinets with mitered edges, Samsung fridges with iPads built into the doors, and speakers in the ceilings. That building will also have a Topgolf room, the aforementioned pool, and a bistro right on Pershing that’s open to the public.
Tegethoff notes that the amenities expected by prospective tenants have changed over time. Outdoor/pool space has become de rigueur. Tenants are looking for workspace in common areas, private fitness rooms, connected fitness systems such as Peloton, and dog spas. “The percentage of tenants who have pets now is astonishing,” he says. The online economy has prompted him to rethink his buildings’ access control and to include package-storage rooms and other features. “The postman used to come once a day,” he says. “Now you might have, in a building with 300 units, 50 to 60 deliveries a day.”
Tegethoff says other developers had pursued his site over the years but couldn’t close on the lot, which contained a defunct strip mall. He finally did manage to gain site control, then worked with Bi-State Development to gain control over its former parking lot. (The Expo, that 287-unit project, will include a new garage, preserving parking spaces for the nearby MetroLink stop.)
He says his team conducted a masonry analysis of the neighborhood and found 50 different types of brick within a three-block radius. Ultimately they decided on a contemporary design by Trivers. “We really felt like we needed to do something iconic,” he says, “something to reset the compass of the neighborhood.” They also chose to name it The Expo in honor of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.
“It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I quit taking for granted Forest Park,” says Tegethoff, who grew up in Oakville. “It is arguably St. Louis’ greatest civic asset. Of course, people will want to live there.”