Thursday, December 11, 2008

St. Louis Design Center

The Roberts Brothers’ plans to open a Hotel Indigo at 917 Locust got me thinking about that building’s most recent use, as the St. Louis Design Center. I was familiar with the building primarily due to the fact that the Landmarks Association and Art St. Louis were located there up until this year.

Apparently, the St. Louis Design Center was intended as a smaller scale version of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, a one-stop shop for interior designers and architects and their clients.

The 12-story, 60,000 sf building, originally a warehouse for Scruggs-Vandervoort-Barney department store, was repositioned and became home to furniture and lighting showrooms, art galleries and even an open-to-the-public artists’ supply shop. Knoll International, an office furniture and furnishings company, was the first tenant, establishing its showroom on the 11th floor.

The Design Center opened in 1986 and was founded by Paul McKee, president of Paric Construction, and a group of limited partners. Mike Murphy was hired as the center’s director and Sharon Derry was the creative director.

Back then, the building was a hub of activity, hosting a constant stream of exhibitions, shows and seminars. It sounds like it was an incredibly cool resource to have downtown.

Would it be possible for the St. Louis Design Center to make a comeback in another location downtown? Of course, I can think of plenty of potential sites that would be perfect for it.

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