Locals express optimism and some concerns about Wash. U.’s rising influence on the Loop

Proposed renderings of possible Wash. U. housing on the Loop from early 2010. The University recently announced that it will be following through with plans to extend housing to the north of campus starting next year. Courtesy of Washington University

Proposed renderings of possible Wash. U. housing on the Loop from early 2010. The University recently announced that it will be following through with plans to extend housing to the north of campus starting next year.

Washington University is planning an $80 million student-housing project on the Delmar Loop, and while it has stirred up some controversy among locals who are concerned about the University’s institutional community impact, most appear to be generally in favor of the changes.

The project is slated to begin construction in 2013 and will provide enough housing for 550 students. Built into the project are several storefronts, which would be directly on the Delmar Loop.

Some business owners have recently expressed concern about which establishments will go in those storefronts and wonder how the new retailers will fit with the current feel of the strip.

“What really takes away from the feel of the Loop is chain stores,” Vintage Vinyl employee Leon Reed said. “The more independent stores we have here, the better it is in order to stay in tune with the current vibe.”

But Reed said that as long as the retail space is used for shops that are similarly independent to their counterparts on the Loop, there should be no problem.

Joe Edwards, owner of many Loop establishments including Blueberry Hill and the Pageant, has high hopes for the new construction project.

Emily Sybrant | Student Life
“I think it’s a really smart thing to do for the area,” Edwards said. “It’s got a smart urban design, and I think it’ll be good for business, with the influx of more juniors and seniors living nearby.”

Edwards similarly noted that the continuation of pedestrian sidewalks brought about by the construction will help to expand the Loop in a positive way.

A March 2 St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff editorial, however, cautioned its readers from overlooking the move as “a modest development project.”

“It’s worth noting that the University’s interests are not automatically identical with those of the people who would be affected by these plans,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. “The people and businesses of Parkview Gardens and the Loop—and Washington University—have worked long and hard to find ways to preserve and improve the area. Public officials must now work, not to take it on faith, to determine if they got it right.”

The University is taking opinions such as these into consideration while evaluating what to do with the retail space, according to Associate Vice Chancellor for Students and Dean of Students Justin Carroll.

Currently the University is working with City of St. Louis and University City officials to establish approval for the construction of these new buildings in the area.

“We are interested in retail tenants who will complement the current shops and entertainment vendors in the Loop,” Carroll said. “The University appreciates the eclectic nature of both the Loop and the retail store owners in the area. It will be working to attract retail tenants who will complement the existing merchants, and who also might add needed services to the Loop.”

The property currently consists of University-owned apartment buildings, a commercial building and a vacant lot.

  • Lulu

    This is a very good things. Gentrification of the crime filled Delmar area will bring more top students to WashU rather than having them scared away due to the rampent crime just off campus.

  • Michael

    I’m very dissapointed to see these plans. The design of these buildings is just horrible. It’s the same homogenous, sterile looking development that has infiltrated so many areas of St. Louis and across the country. The end result of projects like these is a loss of character, history, and charm – a degradation of the essential value that makes older urban areas any better than the suburbs. Historic urban spaces across America are being consumed by this type of shortsighted development at an alarming rate. What a shame. The historic character of an area is forever lost.

  • Kevin

    First, I’d like to comment that myself and others who commented unfavorably on the proposed building construction at Delmar and Eastgate had our comments deleted. What does this say?
    The architecture design in no way fits the integrity of the Delmar Loop. The Loop is rapidly becoming another generic, homogenized destination that resembles west county. Franchise restaurants like Chipotle and Noodles and Co. Now, this 550 student housing apartment complex which in no way resembles the uniqueness of the original Delmar Loop. This proposed design makes as much sense as having a McDonald’s fast food restaurant at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Washington University has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of concern for integrity or GENUINE development of neighborhood and community. Washington University has made VERY clear its interest in attracting money/students to the University. This is ALL about Washington University’s interest and nothing more.
    Sincerely Concerned,

    • Jorge

      The Loop kinda’ sucks these days. There are at least three vacant spaces and loads of crime. Why is WashU expanding its bubble a bad thing?