Where’s Your CREW

July 28, 2021
Written by: Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, MetroWire Media Contributing Writer

Kingsway Project Aims to Bring Delmar Corridor Back to Life

Things are hopping in 207 acres along Delmar Boulevard thanks to collaboration among several organizations aiming to improve the quality of life and infrastructure of the area, including commercial uses and involvement. 

In a June 8 online “Kingsway Development Highlight,” members of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) St. Louis got the lowdown from Kevin Bryant, founder and CEO of Kingsway Development Corporation, which has master development control of the site, and Brian Pratt, founder and CEO of Ballast CRE, which specializes in adaptive re-use, mixed-use and multifamily properties in St. Louis urban communities and supports commercial real estate initiatives of investors, developers, companies and nonprofits. 

“We got lucky as the first client of Ballast,” Bryant said.

The goal of the Kingsway project is to revitalize the Fountain Park neighborhood and surrounding areas after more than 40 years of implosion, neglect and disinvestment, according to Bryant. The plan involves 14 mixed-use subprojects and engagement initiatives with community organizations to create a “more dense, active commercial center for the benefit of the existing and future neighborhood.”  

In creating Kingsway, Bryant raised $90,000 in reinvestment funding, which triggered the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to blight the area for Chapter 99 redevelopment, with Kingsway retaining development rights. He spent about two years on raising money, finding resources for residents to improve or buy houses, and executing Phase I to buy about 33 vacant properties. Kingsway also put together a fund for improving infrastructure and using tax benefits. 

“We could gentrify the community without displacement of residents,” Bryant said. “We could stabilize vacant properties without pushing people out.” 

A community that had given up on itself started to come back. 

Partners in the Kingsway redevelopment efforts include Washington University and other area higher-education institutions, Gateway Mortgage, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, and more, along with national organizations such as the Urban Land Institute. Kingsway is also sharing resources with other groups in the Delmar corridor, such as the Maker District.

One key to success so far was buy-in on development rights from the Central West End. 

“They were one of the first community organizations to say they would unselfishly help with a project ‘across the street’ from their neighborhood,” said Bryant. 

“The commercial and residential projects go hand in hand,” said Pratt. “The intent is to have a comprehensive, coordinated plan with great opportunities for community use. The strategy is to first focus on commercial boundaries to strengthen the tax base of the neighborhood.”

The corner of Delmar and Euclid will see the 200-unit Bridge Apartment building with a garage, business center, meeting room, fitness center, independent workspaces and more. A winery is a possible addition to the commercial elements.

A former bank building will be an elegant event space. 

The Elevation Workspace will feature 30,000 SF of adaptive reuse of an historic warehouse into office and retail space. The 28 offices have all been sold and retail currently includes a UPS Store, cigar bar and Jamba Juice. 

“Kingsway owns the property, so we can have control,” Bryant said. “This creates an entrepreneurial mission. We aren’t taking from the community. It will become a destination.” 

The project has received approval for a $6.5 million TIF to make street and infrastructure improvement on Delmar from Kingshighway to Taylor Avenue. Deteriorated and outmoded street design will be replaced in three phases. 

Streetscape enhancements will include multi-modal transportation, enhanced security, improved stormwater mitigation, modernized ADA/pedestrian circulation features, traffic calming techniques, dedicated bike lanes, sustainable landscaping and contemporary design esthetics. 

“We are reimagining transit stops and connecting to the greenway, and a sidewalk grid,” Pratt said. “We’re looking more at the functional aspects than the cosmetic. We’re creating a new profile for commercial leases to work.”

Designation as a Community Improvement District will help with programming, security and the streetscape. “We’re using a layer cake of incentives, to say the least,” said Pratt.

Plans include reusing the 35,000+ SF Euclid School, constructed in 1893 and in operation until 2007, as senior apartments. Several affordable modular homes are already under construction. The Euclid Apartments at Delmar and Euclid will include market-rate apartments and ground-floor retail. A unified housing board will allow residents to participate in the redevelopment of their community. 

“We set out to create opportunities for minorities,” said Bryant. “We have included women from architects to abatement and construction work. We have the highest level of minority participation of any project in St. Louis.”

Project architects and contractors include Facet Architectural Design, Paric, ABNA Engineering and Ameresco.

“The development plan was created to inspire collaboration,” Bryant said. “When we choose to work together, we can save a community. If there’s something you would like to see in Kingsway, let us know - we can implement it.”