Lofts of Washington University

Format
Full

City
St. Louis

State/Province
MO

Country
USA

Metro Area
St. Louis

Project Type
Multifamily Rental

Location Type
Suburban Business District

Land Uses
Multifamily Rental Housing
Restaurant
Retail
Supermarket

Keywords
Infill development
Main street retail
Mixed-use development
Student housing
University development

Site Size
4.4 acres
acres hectares

Date Started
2010

Date Opened
2014

Developed by Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the Lofts of Washington University is a student housing and retail mixed-use project. It currently provides off-campus housing for 414 undergraduate students in four buildings in the Delmar Loop, a vibrant commercial corridor a half mile from the main university campus. The Lofts’ distinctive pedestrian mews offers a new linkage between the neighborhood’s residential and commercial areas. The project also includes approximately 22,000 square feet of retail space and 220 underground parking spaces for residents. A future phase of the Lofts could add a fifth building and another 186 student beds—for a total of 600 beds in 245 units—as well as 80 more parking spaces.

Sponsored by: Allen Matkins with tag

 

 

The Site and Background | Planning Context | The Development Team and the Approval Process | Development Finance | Planning and Design | Marketing and Management | Observations and Lessons Learned | Project Information

Developed by Washington University in St. Louis, the Lofts of Washington Unviersity is an off-campus student housing project, with ground-level retail, that provides housing for 414 undergraduate students in the Delmar Loop, a vibrant commercial corridor a half mile from the university’s main campus. (James Byard/WUSTL Photos)James Byard/ WUSTL Photos
Developed by Washington University in St. Louis, the Lofts of Washington Unviersity is an off-campus student housing project, with ground-level retail, that provides housing for 414 undergraduate students in the Delmar Loop, a vibrant commercial corridor a half mile from the university’s main campus. (James Byard/WUSTL Photos)James Byard/ WUSTL Photos

Gown moves into town with the addition of the Lofts of Washington University to the Delmar Loop, straddling the border of University City and St. Louis. A half mile from Washington Uni­­ver­­sity’s main Danforth campus, the project is the result of several years of community planning and collaboration between the university, local officials, and neighborhood residents. The university’s strong partnerships and investments in the community have produced a well-received project that has delivered desirable amenities not only to students but also to the Parkview Gardens neighborhood.

The project has delivered housing for 414 new student residents to the vibrant retail corridor, as well as the Loop’s first 24-hour diner and a long-sought full-service grocery store. The property has earned the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum—with comprehensive features that include solar thermal panels, rain gardens, green roofs, and solar photovoltaic cells.

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The Site and Background

The Lofts of Washington University is located both on Delmar Boulevard, in a six-block area known as “the Loop,” and in the historic Parkview Gardens neighborhood. Both the Loop and the Parkview Gardens neighborhood straddle the western edge of the city of St. Louis and the eastern edge of University City, a diverse inner-ring suburb of St. Louis.

Half a mile from the Delmar Loop is Washington University’s main Danforth Campus. Founded in 1853, Washington University is a private research university with 14,000 students, approximately half of whom are undergraduates. The Danforth Campus includes schools of arts and sciences, law, business, engineering, social work and public health, and design and visual arts. Washington University also has a medical campus in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis on the eastern edge of Forest Park.

The Lofts of Washington University was developed by the university as a response to its goal to increase the proportion of undergraduate students living in university housing near the campus. The university’s Danforth Campus lacked available space for more housing. Building new student apartments in the Parkview Gardens neighborhood and the Delmar Loop, a popular student destination for food and entertainment, has enabled the university to offer additional housing options to 414 juniors and seniors.

Washington University owns many properties in the Parkview Gardens neighborhood and has long been involved in working with the local business community and residents to strengthen the area. After examining several sites in the Loop and conducting a development feasibility study, Washington University selected a 4.4-acre site that could accommodate housing and help meet the area’s retail needs. Ninety percent of the site—bounded by Delmar Boulevard and Eastgate, Enright, and Westgate avenues—was on land that the university already owned. The site includes additional green space to the north bordered by Enright, Eastgate, and Limit avenues. Two municipal alleys are also within the development area.

The site consisted of six adjoining parcels that included a small restaurant, two apartment buildings, and townhouses. The site also included about 100 off‐street parking spaces. On the southeast corner was a vacant lot, formerly an old service station. Unlike other buildings on Delmar Boulevard, the two existing Delmar apartment buildings had no commercial or retail uses on the ground floor.

To allow for the new development, all existing structures on the site were removed. The new project includes two five-story buildings on Enright Avenue and two mixed-use buildings on Delmar Boulevard. A future phase may add another building, bringing the total beds available to about 600. The Lofts features 22,000 square feet of street-level retail space and provides a continuous retail frontage on Delmar Boulevard.

The Delmar Loop is a vibrant commercial corridor that has been recognized by the American Planning Association as one of the Ten Great Streets in America. (Sam Fentress Photography For William Rawn Associates, Architects)
The Delmar Loop is a vibrant commercial corridor that has been recognized by the American Planning Association as one of the Ten Great Streets in America. (Sam Fentress Photography For William Rawn Associates, Architects)

Populated with boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and entertainment venues frequented by residents and tourists, the Delmar Loop is a vibrant commercial corridor that the American Planning Association has recognized as one of the Ten Great Streets in America. The Loop’s revitalization and vibrancy have been propelled in large part by Joe Edwards, a businessman, developer, and civic leader who has refurbished several historic buildings in the neighborhood over the past 40-plus years. Starting with the Blueberry Hill restaurant and music club in 1972, his other redevelopments over the past decades have included the restoration of the 1924 Tivoli Theatre cinema, the Pageant concert nightclub, the Pin-Up Bowl martini lounge and bowling alley, and the boutique Moonrise Hotel.

His most recent addition is a restaurant tenant for the Lofts of Washington University: the 24-hour Peacock Loop Diner. Edwards notes, “The Lofts has brightened the Loop. The University could have just built apartments, but a true 24-7 neighborhood helps make a city great.”

The Loop, which was named after a former streetcar turnaround linking University City to St. Louis, and the Parkview Gardens neighborhood are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Parkview Gardens neighborhood contains one of the St. Louis area’s major concentrations of historic, walkup apartment buildings, a relatively unusual typology among the predominantly single-family homes in the residential neighborhoods of the city. Ground was broken in March 2015 for a project that will bring a trolley back to the Loop, connecting Delmar Boulevard with the Missouri History Museum in nearby Forest Park.

The Lofts’ site is on the eastern edge of University City and extends into the city of St. Louis, in the cross-jurisdictional Parkview Gardens neighborhood. The Delmar Loop is the southern border of the Parkview Gardens neighborhood. In addition to Washington University and the Loop, Parkview Gardens has nearby access to MetroLink light-rail transit, a regional greenway network, and Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

“This project serves multiple stakeholders and contributes to the revitalization of the retail district,” according to Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration at Washington University.


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Planning Context

A foyer lounge is among the many common residential spaces both indoors and outdoors where students can congregate. (Tom Paule Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)
A foyer lounge is among the many common residential spaces both indoors and outdoors where students can congregate. (Tom Paule Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)

The Lofts was developed with strong direction from a series of local land use and transportation plans developed for the neighborhood over the past decade in collaboration with local residents, University City, the city of St. Louis, Washington University, and other community partners. “We wanted mixed use that could support economic and social equity,” recounts Andrea Riganti, director of community development for University City.

Some of those efforts have included federal support from Building Blocks, a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The interagency collaboration seeks to coordinate federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services and to help communities create more housing choices, make transportation more efficient and reliable, reinforce existing investments, and support vibrant and healthy neighborhoods that attract businesses. The following plans helped guide development in the area:

2005 University City Comprehensive Plan Update. Adopted by the City Council for use as a policy guide in making land use and economic decisions, the document outlines the city’s strategy to preserve and enhance the character of University City.

2008 Park Master Plan. This 20-year master plan manages and prioritizes future capital needs for University City’s 19 parks. The plan is updated every five to seven years to reflect changing demographics and recreational trends.

2010 Parkview Gardens Park and Open Space Plan. A long-range design and implementation plan for the three municipal parks in the Parkview Gardens neighborhood was developed collaboratively under a partnership that included University City, the Parkview Gardens Neighborhood Association, and Washington University.

Two exclusively residential apartment buildings have entries on the Enright Avenue side of the property. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)
Two exclusively residential apartment buildings have entries on the Enright Avenue side of the property. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)

2011 Delmar Loop Area Retail Plan and Development Strategy. A study identified demand for an additional 155,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and entertainment space, as well as possible mixed-use residential space in the Loop areas in University City and St. Louis. The report was commissioned by Washington University and produced under a steering committee in collaboration with area property and business owners, residents, and local government representatives.

2011 Parkview Gardens Sustainable Development Plan: Connecting People, Places, and Parks. The plan addresses how affordable housing, transportation, walkability/bikeability, and arts and parks can best be integrated into the neighborhood. The plan is the result of a three-year effort that began in 2011 after University City was awarded a joint Sustainable Community Challenge planning grant from HUD and a DOT Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery II planning grant. That $315,687 grant was leveraged with $317,813 in local cash and in-kind contributions. Nine partners collaborated on the plan, including University City, Washington University, Parkview Gardens Neighborhood Association, and Great Rivers Greenway. The five-story, higher-density buildings in the Lofts of Washington University project emerged from the plan’s recommendations.

2012 University City Sustainable Land Use Code Audit. A demonstration of the U.S. DOT-HUD-EPA Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the land use code audit reviewed the city’s zoning and subdivision codes to incorporate sustainability and was conducted under a grant from EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities. The resulting revised required parking ratios and the proposed mixed-use districts were important elements that allowed the development of the Lofts of Washington University.

The Lofts of Washington University implements recommendations from several of those plans, including the following:

  • Greater density and a diversity of housing types (2005 University City Comprehensive Plan Update);
  • Increased green space (2010 Parkview Gardens Park and Open Space Plan);
  • Increased density, context-sensitive architecture, mixed-use development, and reduced parking requirements (2011 Parkview Gardens Sustainable Development Plan and 2012 University City Sustainable Land Use Code Audit); and
  • Infill development in the commercial streetscape (2011 Delmar Loop Area Retail Plan and Development Strategy).

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The Development Team and the Approval Process

The creation of a pedestrian mews among the project’s buildings established a new midblock corridor connecting the Delmar Loop with the residential Parkview Gardens neighborhood. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)
The creation of a pedestrian mews among the project’s buildings established a new midblock corridor connecting the Delmar Loop with the residential Parkview Gardens neighborhood. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)

Much of the preparation to develop the Lofts was done in the years preceding construction, as Washington University partnered with local governments and community organizations on the series of urban plans that outlined a vision for the future of the Parkview Gardens neighborhood. That institutional investment in the community paid off with widespread support for the Lofts development, a project that sought to implement local priorities for the neighborhood.

Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration at Washington University notes, “The Loop is really important. It’s where students play and live—and where parents stay when they visit. The success of the Loop as a vibrant, active, unique place is important to quality of life.”

Washington University originally considered using a private developer for the Lofts but ultimately decided to retain control over the project by acting as the master developer. Although it is off campus, the project is still an undergraduate housing facility operated by the university’s Residential Life division. Lead architect William Rawn Associates of Boston was selected in part because of the firm’s extensive experience in designing university housing.

Because the Lofts straddles the boundary between St. Louis and University City, the project required the cooperation of officials in both municipalities. Since the majority of the 4.4-acre site was within University City, St. Louis officials agreed that University City would take the lead in the complex approval process. The jurisdictions also negotiated other agreements on matters relevant to the site, such as the division of sales taxes generated by the ground-floor retail space. Taxes produced by the United Provisions grocery store go to St. Louis City, whereas University City receives the tax money generated by the Peacock Loop Diner. With two jurisdictions involved, the project required reviews by multiple municipal commissions addressing fire, police, traffic, historic district, green practices, and zoning considerations.

The site plan for the Lofts of Washington University. The four buildings on the right have been completed; the building on the left is a potential future phase of the project.
The site plan for the Lofts of Washington University. The four buildings on the right have been completed; the building on the left is a potential future phase of the project.

For example, the project was subject to three historic preservation reviews: the University City Historic Preservation Commission, the Skinker DeBaliviere Historic District in the city of St. Louis, and the city of St. Louis’s Cultural Resources Office. All of the existing buildings on the site were designated for demolition to make way for the new construction. Although some of those buildings were within an historic area, none of the properties were considered to be contributing structures.

Rather than focus on the architectural style of the project, University City’s review emphasized massing, height, street frontage, and other issues related to compatibility. As Cheryl Adelstein, Washington University’s assistant vice chancellor of community relations and local government affairs, explains, “The Parkview Gardens neighborhood is a local and national historic district. This was community-based planning. The Lofts was thoughtfully designed to fit the Delmar context.”

University City also reviewed the Lofts as a planned unit development (PUD), rather than on the basis of the underlying zoning. A PUD consists of a particular type of building development as well as a regulatory process. As a building development, it contains a mix of land uses, such as housing, recreation, commercial centers, and industrial parks within one development. As a regulatory process, a detailed plan for a proposed PUD must be submitted to the Planning Commission for approval.

The creation of a pedestrian mews among the project’s buildings established a new corridor within the neighborhood and links the commercial/retail streetscape of Delmar Boulevard to the residential Parkview Gardens neighborhood to the north. The addition of the corridor required a determination of who among the multiple stakeholders involved would manage the public/private space. Ultimately, it was determined that the south section would be guided by a shared-access agreement between Washington University and University City.

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Development Finance

The Peacock Loop Diner is the latest addition to the corridor by Joe Edwards, a local developer who has been a major force in the revitalization of the Delmar Loop over the past two decades. (Alise O’Brien)
The Peacock Loop Diner is the latest addition to the corridor by Joe Edwards, a local developer who has been a major force in the revitalization of the Delmar Loop over the past two decades. (Alise O’Brien)

As a private university, Washington University has a deep capacity to manage real estate and financed the $69 million project entirely.

Although the university considered using an outside developer, officials wanted this project to be part of the university’s Residential Life system. Project oversight by university staff experienced in developing student housing meant that the project would be designed to meet the institution’s needs as well as to provide a rich array of amenities and supports for the 5,000–5,500 students who live in campus housing. However, in a “raising all boats” strategy, Washington University also sees its institutionally financed projects as a means to strengthen the local market for new for-profit development.

The university’s AAA credit rating gives it access to good financing terms. New buildings are constructed with 100 percent debt that is then paid off by student rents. The university’s goal for student housing is that properties will be fully supported over time by rents paid by students. Although new projects inevitably lose money in their first few years of operation, those losses are eventually offset by revenue from older student housing projects whose debt service has been entirely paid off.

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Planning and Design

The plan incorporates a total of four buildings that house 414 students as well as 220 underground residential parking spaces. The two buildings fronting Delmar Boulevard include approximately 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail with residential apartments on the upper floors. Two exclusively residential apartment buildings have entries on the Enright Avenue side of the property (a third building facing Enright is planned).

A pedestrian mews stretches between the structures, creating connective public space between Delmar Boulevard and Enright Avenue. The buildings’ green spaces include courtyards, open spaces, and rooftop terraces. Those areas reflect a common feature with courtyards in many of the multifamily buildings in the adjacent Parkview Gardens neighborhood.

One of the most distinctive elements in the architecture of the Lofts of Washington University is its relationship to the surrounding streets. Those streets differ widely in character: from the lively Delmar Boulevard commercial corridor on the south to the quieter residential Enright Avenue to the north, populated by red-brick multifamily residences characteristic of the Parkview Gardens neighborhood. Lyda Krewson, Ward 28 alderwoman of the city of St. Louis, notes, “This project brought a large institution into a small neighborhood. We wanted to know: how does the project address the street?”

The north portion of the mews is exclusively residential and defined by stoops and trees, while the south section of the mews includes retail shops and dining with outdoor seating that reflect the character of the nearby Loop. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)
The north portion of the mews is exclusively residential and defined by stoops and trees, while the south section of the mews includes retail shops and dining with outdoor seating that reflect the character of the nearby Loop. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)

On the Delmar Boulevard side, the property includes 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, including the Peacock Loop Diner and the United Provisions grocery store. A midblock pedestrian mews provides an aesthetic and recreational amenity, as well as a connection to the residential neighborhood to the north.

Architectural overview. Although the Danforth campus of Washington University is noted for its collegiate Gothic architecture, the contemporary design of the off-campus Lofts is a deliberate effort to create a modern building that complements the streetscape of the Loop as well as residential Parkview Gardens to the north. According to Jamie Kolker, assistant vice chancellor of campus planning and director of capital projects at Washington University, “The Lofts is different from a building on campus. It is a unique project type.”

On the Delmar Boulevard side of the project, the guidelines in the Parkview Gardens Sustainable Development Plan became the foundation for the mixed uses and higher density. The articulated building mass is designed so that it does not appear to be an imposing wall along the street. On the north side, the Lofts complements the nearby residential apartments by using a similar red-brick material and scale found throughout the Parkview Gardens neighborhood. Ranging in height from three to five stories, each of the Lofts’ buildings is designed to transition between the active Delmar Boulevard and the adjacent quiet neighborhood.

The mews provides a wide pedestrian path that transitions the commercial side of the Loop area to the residential side. The south section of the mews reflects the character of the Loop by featuring retail shops and dining with outdoor seating. Conversely, the north portion of the mews is exclusively residential and is defined by stoops and trees.

On the Delmar side, perforated aluminum louvers cover the south facade, serving to provide residents privacy and shade.

In addition to the linear space of the mews, shared student spaces and public spaces in the buildings include three courtyards, large lounge areas with a kitchen in each building, a roof deck overlooking Delmar Boulevard, and open green space at Eastgate and Enright avenues.

The residential apartments, configured in a variety of different styles, are completely furnished and have full kitchens. (Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos)
The residential apartments, configured in a variety of different styles, are completely furnished and have full kitchens. (Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos)

The residential apartments are configured in a variety of different styles. They include two‐story units, duplexes, and units with walkup entrances directly accessible from the street.

Building interior. Accounting for a potential future phase, the project will include up to 58 efficiency units (256 square feet), 19 two-bedroom units (646 square feet), and 168 three-bedroom units (752 square feet) and will house 600 students. The apartments are completely furnished with full kitchens and cable and internet services. Each building has a common laundry room and mail room, as well as spaces for trash and recycling.

Construction. Design and construction for Phase I, including four buildings and the underground garage, were completed in 18 months, a very short time for a project of this scale and complexity.

Parking. Residential parking is located in an underground garage, with 220 spaces provided under a 0.5-space-per-unit reduced parking ratio compatible with the Parkview Gardens Sustainable Development Plan. Students with cars must purchase a parking permit to use the garage. Secure elevators provide access to the residences.

Retail customer parking was the subject of many discussions. Surveys indicated that retail parking facilities could be minimized because many patrons would walk, bike, or take the bus to the retail locations. Retail parking relies on street spaces, public lots, and shared-use agreements with other merchant lots.

A roof deck overlooking Delmar Boulevard is one of many common-area student spaces in the Lofts buildings. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)
A roof deck overlooking Delmar Boulevard is one of many common-area student spaces in the Lofts buildings. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)

Bicycle, pedestrian, and transit access. To encourage students to use alternative modes of transportation, the Lofts includes bicycle parking for all residents. Two‐thirds of the spaces are located inside the building; the remaining one-third are in outdoor racks. Bicycle racks are also available for visitors and the public.

One of the considerations for the Lofts’ off-campus location was to facilitate students’ walking, biking, or taking the bus to campus, while deterring residents from contributing to additional automobile traffic on the Danforth campus; marketing materials encourage students to explore those options. The half-mile distance between the Lofts and Brookings Hall, the university’s gateway building, can be walked in about 15 minutes, biked in about seven minutes, or traveled via bus in 10 to 15 minutes. The Lofts is located near three separate bus routes heading toward or directly to campus.

In collaboration with the city of St. Louis Street Department, local government leaders, and neighbors, Washington University has also improved sidewalk amenities along primary routes between the Lofts and the Danforth campus, including installing 104 pedestrian-scale sidewalk lamps on both sides of Skinker Boulevard between Forest Park Parkway and Delmar Boulevard. Other upgrades on Skinker include closed-circuit security cameras, six “blue-light” emergency phones, and 24 overhead street lamps retrofitted with new LED bulbs.

Sustainable design. The Lofts was awarded LEED Platinum certification in 2014 by the U.S. Green Building Council, and it is the university’s first LEED Platinum project. Designed to be 46 percent more efficient than standard construction, the property includes the following green design elements:

  • Extensive use of indoor and outdoor LED lighting
  • Green roofs over portions of the buildings
  • Solar thermal panels that heat 25 percent of the buildings’ domestic hot water
  • Solar photovoltaic cells that provide 10 percent of the electrical needs
  • Rain gardens and green roofs that drain rainwater into a cistern for reuse in irrigation
  • Distinctive aluminum louvers on south-facing two-story walls that serve as both an attractive design element and a tool to keep apartments at a comfortable temperature

In the student apartments, lights are set up on occupancy sensors, so the lights turn off when no one is home. To run the heating and air conditioning requires inserting a card in a card reader; when the last person leaves and removes the card, everything returns to a minimal setting.

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Marketing and Management

The Peacock Loop Diner features four U-shaped counters brightly lit like the colorful feathers of a peacock. (Alise O’Brien)
The Peacock Loop Diner features four U-shaped counters brightly lit like the colorful feathers of a peacock. (Alise O’Brien)

As a mixed-use, off-campus student housing project, the Lofts establishes some new territory for Washington University for marketing and management. The Lofts adds 22,000 square feet of high-profile retail space to the university’s newest student housing development, which required finding the right tenants that would be a good fit with the student apartments. In addition, the off-campus housing units managed by the university’s Residential Life division require extra attention to such matters as security and transportation.

Retail and student housing. The Lofts adds a 15,000-square-foot grocery to the Loop and a 24-hour diner as commercial anchors for the project. Those retail elements, although intertwined with the residential component, also enhance the neighborhood. Including ground-floor retail as part of the Lofts along Delmar Boulevard ensures a vibrant and continuous pedestrian experience going from the west Loop and crossing Skinker Boulevard to the east Loop.

Informing the retail portion of the Lofts was the 2011 Delmar Loop Area Retail Plan and Development Strategy, commissioned by Washington University, which analyzed the retail demand in the corridor and how to make the Loop a more attractive place to live. The study indicated a strong desire for a grocery store in the Loop in light of a 40-year absence from the area. As part of the Lofts, the grocery store could support the needs of students as well as neighborhood residents.

“The retail amenities are very important to the students. Residents report that they frequently use many of the local amenities, specifically citing the grocery store, restaurants, and entertainment venues,” says Laura Jenks, chief of staff to the executive vice chancellor for administration, Washington University.

The United Provisions supermarket is a spin-off of Global Foods, opened in 1999 by the Prapaisilp family in nearby Kirkwood. In addition to regular grocery staples, such as milk, bread, and eggs, the market stocks a wide array of international and gourmet foods as well as beer and wine. The Dining District within United Provisions includes a coffee bar and a café with a sushi bar.

The Lofts includes United Provisions, a 15,000-square-foot grocery and a long-sought-after neighborhood amenity, as a commercial anchor for the project. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)
The Lofts includes United Provisions, a 15,000-square-foot grocery and a long-sought-after neighborhood amenity, as a commercial anchor for the project. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)

The Peacock Loop Diner—the first 24-hour establishment in the neighborhood—is the latest addition to the corridor by Joe Edwards, the local developer who has been a major force over the past two decades in the revitalization of the Loop. As noted, Edwards is the owner of popular dining and entertainment venues in the Loop that include Blueberry Hill Restaurant, Pin-Up Bowl, the historic Tivoli Theatre, the Moonrise Hotel, and the Pageant Building.

The diner’s distinctive decor includes several display cases of peacock memorabilia and old-time diner souvenirs from Edwards’s personal collection, and four U-shaped counters brightly lit like the colorful feathers of a peacock. In addition to sandwiches, soups, and salads, the diner menu includes a full bar serving spiked milkshakes, specialty cocktails, local craft beers, and selected wines. For special occasions, the Peacock Carousel of Love offers a rotating circular booth. Outside is patio seating along both the tree-lined pedestrian mews and Delmar Boulevard. A beacon for the diner is the elaborate 11-foot-wide peacock-shaped animated neon sign.

Managing student life off campus. The Lofts offers students the independence of apartments combined with the security and supervision that come from being part of the university’s Residential Life division. The completely furnished apartments with full kitchens and cable and internet services offer an attractive package for students. Priced comparably to similar Washington University campus housing options, room rates are $6,408 per semester in two- and three-bedroom apartments and $6,890 for a single efficiency unit. Residential advisers are in each building to assist residents and provide social and educational programming, including kickoff events in August and January for residents to meet one another.

To address access considerations, each residential building in the Lofts has a security-locked street entrance and a staffed front desk. The underground parking for residents is served by separate elevators. The university also initiated the addition of 104 pedestrian-scale lamps and blue-light emergency phones along Skinker Boulevard, a main corridor for pedestrian travel between the Lofts and the Washington University campus.

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Observations and Lessons Learned

The 15,000-square-foot United Provisions supermarket includes a wide array of international and gourmet foods, a coffee bar, and a café with a sushi bar. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)
The 15,000-square-foot United Provisions supermarket includes a wide array of international and gourmet foods, a coffee bar, and a café with a sushi bar. (Sam Fentress Photography for William Rawn Associates, Architects)

Recognize that university real estate is different. When considering the risks and rewards of development projects, universities have an institutional perspective that is distinctly different from individual private developers, typically using broader criteria and a much longer time frame in assessing the results of the project. For instance, Washington University is unlikely to ever sell the Lofts property. The retail rents reflect costs and what the market will bear; though not heavily subsidized, the rents are not purely economic either. Rather, the university’s focus is developing a project that not only meets its institutional priority to increase its supply of student housing but also enjoys widespread support in the community and contributes substantially to neighborhood quality of life.

Create strong partnerships with the community. Washington University recognized that continuous engagement with its neighbors was important and implemented that concept with a consistent presence in local planning efforts well in advance of a specific project. The result was a well-received project that delivered desirable amenities not only to students but also to the larger community. Benefits for all include the way the buildings relate to the rest of the neighborhood, the inclusion of courtyards, the pedestrian-friendly design, the connective pedestrian mews, and the inclusion of significant retail spaces.

Allow adequate time for design and construction. Timing for the development of student housing must be precise and on schedule out of necessity: the property needed to be move-in ready when students arrived in August. To meet that goal, the Lofts’ design and construction schedule was very aggressive, with construction starting in January 2013 for the August 2014 opening. The tight timing made the project more of a challenge.

Communicate early and often. The university’s communication strategy with the business community and residential neighborhood operated on an early-and-often basis—including weekly construction communication updates—that was appreciated by neighbors. Those dedicated efforts helped mitigate the inconveniences caused by construction.

Strive for new connections. Before the development, there was no dedicated passageway between the Parkview Gardens neighborhood and the Delmar Loop. The Lofts’ pedestrian mews has dramatically changed that circumstance by creating a wide pathway for shoppers and residents that links the residential and commercial areas.

Maintain some flexibility for a new product. Washington University is not typically a retail developer, but it needed to navigate that territory for the development of the mixed-use property. Some flexibility was needed for adjustment between the original design and actual occupancy. For example, the architect originally designed the retail space for seven tenants fronting Delmar Boulevard. Instead, the Peacock Loop Diner and United Provisions grocery store provide two larger commercial anchors in those spaces, with a third, smaller storefront accessible from the mews.

Consider the role of transportation. Building off-campus housing is not about the residential development only: students still need to travel the half mile to campus. Washington University has sought to maximize the convenience of alternative transportation options, since typical constraints of on-campus parking make it important to minimize the number of trips by car. Equally important was the need to address the perception of the cycling and walking distance from campus. The institutional and local government improvements of sidewalk and pedestrian amenities, particularly the installation of ample lighting along Skinker Boulevard, have been important contributions to the success of the Lofts as student housing.

2.3.2015--Washington University in St. Louis added 104 pedestrian light standards, about 52 on each side of Skinker Blvd. The University installed 6 blue-light emergency phones, 3 on each side of the street. Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos
2.3.2015–Washington University in St. Louis added 104 pedestrian light standards, about 52 on each side of Skinker Blvd. The University installed 6 blue-light emergency phones, 3 on each side of the street.
Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

Educate as well as innovate. As a LEED Platinum building, the Lofts has unquestionable sustainability credentials. Yet some of the active features included with the energy-efficient design are unfamiliar to many students—such as lights with occupancy sensors or heating and air conditioning that turn down when the unit is vacant. Washington University officials noted that it would be useful to provide students with an orientation explaining how those energy-saving accessories work.

Strive for consistency in unit design. Because of the architecture of the buildings, there are 19 different apartment floor plans. That variation also results in some wide differences in bedroom size. For example, a three-bedroom apartment may have two smaller bedrooms and one larger one. However, since students all pay the same residence fees for university housing at the Lofts, more consistency in the residential unit design is important. Thus, similarly sized bedrooms among the apartments would streamline property management considerations for student housing. Fewer floor plans would also ease Residential Life’s furnishing of the apartments. Any future phase will strive for more consistency in bedroom sizes and apartment layouts.

Don’t underestimate the value of shared spaces. Many residential amenities are neighborhood based at the Lofts—nearby restaurants, the ground-floor grocery, and a community gym down the street. The Lofts has no in-house cafeteria or gym. However, students have expressed a need for more study rooms in the Lofts to provide a quiet space to read or study.

Recognize that parking is a delicate matter. Complying with required parking ratios can impose major physical and financial challenges to a high-density development. As part of an effort to spur mixed-use and multifamily development, University City has reduced the required number of off-street parking spaces for apartment buildings and retail stores, restaurants, and office space. “Car-free living” in the neighborhood is also an option endorsed by the Parkview Gardens Sustainable Development Plan that the neighborhood’s mixed uses and excellent infrastructure for pedestrian, bicycle, and mass transit can increasingly support.

However, efforts to reduce parking ratios in the Lofts project have met with mixed results. The Lofts includes 220 underground permit-only residential parking spaces for students, based on a reduced parking ratio that emerged from the PUD process for the project. But students are often attracted to the convenient, inexpensive street parking instead of the garage, taking away retail and employee parking. Moreover, United Provisions, which relies on street parking and shared lots, would benefit from having some dedicated parking for its store.

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Project Information

 

Development Timeline
Planning startedFall 2010
Construction startedWinter 2013
Sales/leasing startedSpring 2014
Phase I completedSummer 2014
Gross Building Area
UseBuilding area (sq ft)
Residential272,800
Retail22,200
Parking106,800
Total GBA401,800
Land Use Plan
Site area (acres)% of site
Buildings1.8442
Landscaping/open space/other2.5358
Total4.37100
Residential Information
Unit typeNumber of unitsUnit size (sq ft)Typical rent
Efficiency58256$6,890 per semester
Two bedroom19646$6,408 per room per semester
Three bedroom168752$6,408 per room per semester
Total245
Number of beds
Completed414
Potential future186
TotalTotal
Retail Information
Percentage of retail gross leasable area (GLA) occupied100
Annual rent range$20–$30 per sq ft, triple net
Average length of lease5–10 years with additional option(s)
Key retail tenantsRetail typeApproximate GLA (sq ft)
United ProvisionsGrocery15,000
Peacock Loop DinerRestaurant5,000
Development Cost Information*
Site acquisition cost$1,000,000
Hard costs$55,000,000
Soft costs$13,000,000
Total development cost$69,000,000
*for Phase I

City
St. Louis

State/Province
MO

Country
USA

Metro Area
St. Louis

Project Type
Multifamily Rental

Location Type
Suburban Business District

Land Uses
Multifamily Rental Housing
Restaurant
Retail
Supermarket

Keywords
Infill development
Main street retail
Mixed-use development
Student housing
University development

Site Size
4.4 acres
acres hectares

Date Started
2010

Date Opened
2014

Website
www.facebook.com/theloftsofwashingtonuniversity

parkviewgardenvision.org

reslife.wustl.edu

Project address
6255 Delmar Boulevard
6263 Delmar Boulevard
6200 Enright Avenue
6300 Enright Avenue
University City, Missouri 63130

Master developer
Washington University
St. Louis, Missouri

Project architect
William Rawn Associates, Architects
Boston, Massachusetts
www.rawnarch.com

Associate architect
Tao + Lee Associates Inc.
St. Louis, Missouri
taolee.com

Other Participants

Structural engineering
LeMessurier Consultants Inc.
Cambridge, Massachusetts

KPFF Consulting Engineers
St. Louis, Missouri

Sustainability consulting
Open Field Designs Inc.
St. Louis, Missouri

Parking consulting
Walker Parking Consultants
Chicago, Illinois

Landscape architecture
Stephen Stimson Associates
Cambridge, Massachusetts

DTLS Landscape Studio
St. Louis, Missouri

Mechanical, electrical, plumbing/fire protection engineering
Ross & Baruzzini
St. Louis, Missouri

Civil engineering
Cole Associates
St. Louis, Missouri

Traffic engineering
Crawford Bunte Brammeier
St. Louis, Missouri

General contracting
Paric Corp.
St. Louis, Missouri

Interviewees

Cheryl Adelstein, assistant vice chancellor of community relations and local government affairs, Washington University

Joe Edwards, local business owner and developer, owner of Peacock Loop Diner

Laura Jenks, chief of staff to the executive vice chancellor for administration, Washington University

Jamie Kolker, assistant vice chancellor of campus planning, director of capital projects, Washington University

Lyda Krewson, Ward 28 alderwoman, City of St. Louis

Nancy Marshall, project manager, capital planning, Washington University

Brian Newman, project manager, capital planning, Washington University

Andrea Riganti, director of community development, City of University City

Peter Tao, architect, Tao + Lee Associates

Henry S. Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration, Washington University

Staff

Kathleen B. Carey
Executive Vice President and
Chief Content Officer

Dean Schwanke
Senior Vice President,
Case Studies and Publications

Deborah L. Myerson
Principal Author

James A. Mulligan
Senior Editor

Joanne Platt, Publications Professionals
LLC
Manuscript Editor

Betsy Van Buskirk
Creative Director

Martin Schell
Manager, Online Communications

Danielle Bilotta
Online Communications

Anne Morgan
Graphic Design

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