St. Louis Post Dispatch
October 15, 2020
ST. LOUIS — A developer is proposing $84 million worth of projects along Delmar Boulevard, an ambitious plan that aims to leverage the strength of the adjacent Central West End to attract major investment north of the city's infamous racial and economic divide. Kevin Bryant of Kingsway Development has been working for years to acquire land, obtain financing and win buy-in from residents in the Fountain Park, Lewis Place and Central West End neighborhoods. He's assembled a development team that includes industry veterans Brian Pratt, the former Green Street St. Louis executive who recently started his own firm, and development attorney Dave Sweeney. Bryant also is working with Kwame Building Group as construction manager and architecture firm Trivers, among others. To aid the project, Bryant and his team are seeking $6.2 million in tax subsidies through a 30-acre tax increment financing district along Delmar Boulevard. They made their initial pitch to the city's TIF Commission Wednesday and will have a formal public hearing Dec. 9. The plan calls for five distinct projects over the next two years in the area where the booming Central West End meets the struggling neighborhoods north of Delmar Boulevard. The sudden change in property conditions over just a few blocks — from one of the most affluent neighborhoods of the region, south of Delmar Boulevard, to majority Black neighborhoods speckled with dilapidated and abandoned houses — is the staggering contrast behind the infamous "Delmar Divide" moniker. Major private investments in the city north of the road are rare. But along Delmar Boulevard near Euclid Avenue, at least, there are signs the strong Central West End is beginning to lure investment. The 86-unit Lofts at Euclid, redeveloped by Cullinan Properties, is right at the border, albeit the south side of Delmar Boulevard. Across the street is the headquarters of Square co-founder Jim McKelvey's tech training nonprofit LaunchCode.
Bryant plans to start buildout along Delmar, still dotted with vacant buildings and unused lots, with a $6.3 million rehab of the building at 4731 Delmar Boulevard into office and retail spaces. The building is preleased, Bryant said, and construction could start as soon as December. He aims to begin another $14 million office building around that time. Also planned is a $3.8 million rehab of the building at 4915 Delmar Boulevard into a performing arts center, a project Bryant said he hopes to begin next year.
Late next year, he hopes to begin a $43 million, 156-unit apartment complex on the site of an empty parking lot at the southeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Delmar Boulevard. A previous plan there for micro-apartments from developer Bob Saur fell through, and Bryant said his plan will include traditional apartment sizing at market rents.
The design calls for the entrance to the apartments, dubbed "The Bridge," to be on Delmar Boulevard, Bryant said, rather than having the entrance facing south toward the already-redeveloped Central West End.
"We imagine creating a project that will be a symbolic unifier for both sides of the street," Bryant told the commission. "We thought it was important to put the entry point on Delmar."
A large portion of the TIF financing will go toward about $4.3 million in streetscape improvements to calm traffic and beautify Delmar Boulevard, according to the project application.
Financing the project relies on a mixture of state and federal historic tax credits, Missouri Brownfields tax credits and federal New Markets Tax Credits. The financing plans also would create a Community Improvement District, which can levy a special sales tax, and use 10-year property tax abatement through an already-established redevelopment district in the neighborhood.
Bryant still is working to fill a $6 million financing gap on the apartment project, but city officials signaled they are working closely with him and applauded the partnerships he has built.
“This is a good one,” said St. Louis Development Corp. Director Otis Williams. “A lot of challenges. … But he’s done a good job and we are trying to get him and this development opportunity over the hump.”