Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Quick Look at Washington Avenue

Washington Avenue is really something to be proud of. It wasn’t too long ago that its buildings were almost completely vacant and the area was more than a little sketchy. I remember walking down Washington on numerous occasions in the late 90s/early 00s and not passing another person on the street. Now, it is absolutely fantastic.

While Matt Burghoff and John Steffen are no longer in the development business (for various reasons), we should be thankful for the legacy they left us in the 1000 block of Washington. The Bee Hat Building and Dorsa Lofts look fantastic, and the sidewalks were full of diners at The Dubliner and Mosaic on this lovely day. And of course, Kitchen K in HRI’s Merchandise Mart Building across the street was still going strong as well.

There are still some prominent retail vacancies: the former Baseline Gallery space in the Vanguard Lofts in the 1100 block, a large space in the ground floor of the Meridian at Washington and Tucker, the former Good Works space in the Bankers Lofts and the ground floor space in the Bogen, to name a few.

It’s imperative that the St. Louis Centre skybridge be brought down ASAP. While not a physical barrier to pedestrian traffic, it’s definitely a mental barrier that cuts off the easternmost blocks of Washington from the hustle and bustle of the western blocks. The area under the skywalk is dark, uninviting, lined with pigeon droppings, and reeks of urine. The redevelopment of the Dillard’s Building at 6th and Washington is absolutely critical in order for Washington to reach its potential. Once that skybridge comes down, I think we’ll see something go into the vacant ground floor space at 555 Washington (whatever happened to the rumors that the Lombardo Family was thinking about opening a restaurant there?).

There are a few prominent vacant lots that would be prime development sites:

-The northwest and southwest corners of Washington and 11th
-The northeast corner of Washington and 10th (next to the Lammert Building)
-The southwest corner of Washington and Tucker, which was slated for a small new office building – Nadira Place – that doesn’t seem to be materializing.
-The northeast corner of Broadway and Washington – to me, this would be an ideal site for a new Class A office. It is a huge, well located site with plenty of adjacent parking. It would also help continue to push the boundaries of the CBD and greatly improve the environs of the convention center.
-And of course, the lot that was supposed to be the site of the SkyHouse development needs to be built on.

While there’s still work to be done, Washington has come a long way. And it gives me hope that other downtown streets, particularly Locust and Olive, can eventually achieve the same level of success.

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