Missouri Theater Premiers Global Love Story

By on September 8, 2017

by Tom Finan, Executive Director, Construction Forum STL

On Thursday Aug. 31, a story of friendship and a father’s love, spanning continents and almost seven decades, opened at the old Missouri Theater building on North Grand Ave.

The theater itself has been gone almost half a century, replaced by a parking lot, but a dedication ceremony held there that morning invoked Hollywood-worthy elements. The dedication marked the renaming of the building – the last remaining undeveloped historical structure on North Grand Avenue in the Grand Center District– as the “Angad Paul Building”. The revitalized building will house the headquarters of steel products firm Bull Moose Industries, an arts hotel, retail, and commercial office space. Paric is the construction manager on the project.

For awhile, Steve Smith CEO of the Lawrence Group, co-developer of the site with Bull Moose’s parent company Caparo Group, had envisioned loft apartments for the site. That approach was included June 2014, when he presented to Construction Forum STL at the Sun Theater, which was also a Lawrence Group project. Smith recounted his company’s journey from a single building to many projects in the area. That vision has since morphed to include the former Federal Mogul site, rebranded as The Foundry on I64/40 at Grand.

A few months after Smith’s presentation to the Forum, a fateful meeting took place.

A Father’s Love

Steve Smith and Lord Paul at dedication

I “love my son,” Angad’s father, Lord Paul said during brief comments at the dedication. Then he told a story that began continents away and culminated in that day’s dedication ceremony.

In 1951 Swraj Paul an MIT student from India, visited St. Louis as part of his exploration of the United States. He fell in love with the city, and in particular its art district. After obtaining a bachelors degree and two masters degrees, he returned to work for the business founded by his father in India, which made buckets and farm equipment. Today that company has grown into one of India’s largest and oldest family-owned conglomerates.

Swraj Paul traveled to London in 1966 to find treatment for his four-year-old daughter Ambika, who had leukemia. After her death he remained in London and founded National Gas Tubes. The company grew into a conglomerate, the Caparo Group.

Almost 30 years ago Caparo acquired St. Louis-based Bull Moose Industries, founded in Wellston in 1962 as Bull Moose Tube. In 1996, after stepping down from the chairmanship of Caparo, Swraj Paul was named to the House of Lords, becoming Lord Paul of Marleybone.

Lord Paul’s son Angad also came to the U.S. and graduated from MIT, with a degree in economics. Then, hearing that MIT was starting a film program he asked his father if he could enroll for a second degree. Film degree in hand, Angad wanted to produce movies. Lord Paul recalled that while he reminded his son that they were in steel business, he told Angad that he could also produce films. Angad was the producer of several commercially successful films.

“That’s the building!”

The film next flashes forward in the Missouri Theater Building’s story to October of 2014. Steve Smith was one of four developers called into a meeting by Bull Moose’s attorneys with  Angad, who was CEO of Caparo. The purpose of the meeting was to select a developer for a new headquarters for Bull Moose. Smith submitted a downtown site, some suburban properties, and – almost as an afterthought –  the Missouri Theater building.

“And as the image sat on the screen, Angad bursts out ‘That’s the building…that’s the building!’  Angad was never subtle.  As I reflect on this journey, I believe it was at this moment..when we not only became business partners in spirit, but began our close friendship striving to make a positive difference in life,” Smith recalled.

“I had done my homework on Angad. (He was) a very successful global businessman, an entrepreneur, a movie producer, and an innovator in the auto industry amongst many other things. But I was not prepared for Angad, the person. For those here who were not blessed to have known Angad, I can tell you that he was a larger than life individual. He was special. Smart and engaging, visionary and driven, he was a man with a worldview always challenging the status quo. But he was also kind, appreciative and warm. You could not help but like him immediately.”

Angad Paul and Steve Smith

Both Steve Smith and Angad Paul shared a passion for great design and things that go fast. When Smith presented to the Forum he told the story of how his search to find place to work on his motorcycle collection had resulted in the development of the Moto Museum, the Triumph Grill, and millions of dollars of other development. Angad built and marketed the Caparo T1, a £211,000, street-legal vehicle, designed by the McClaren Formula 1 team, that was capable of accelerating from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds.

Steve Smith expressed regret that Angad, who died in 2016, could not be present to see the Angad Paul Building project begin.He said that renaming the building after Angad ensured that his vision and presence would be recognized. A plaque, unveiled by Steve Smith and Lord Paul states:

Angad Paul was a passionate about design and creativity. He challenged conventional thinking and sought innovative solutions to ordinary problems. Angad would say: “What is art but seeing the world in a different way. What is life but a series of experiences connected together.”

Part of a Bigger Picture

Steve Smith arrived at the dedication ceremony on the fly, having just left the groundbreaking for the new SSM SLU hospital to the south on Grand. Lord Paul alluded to the greatness that he had experienced in St. Louis in his youth. He praised former Mayor Francis Slay and Ken Kranzberg of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, who were in attendance, for their roles in the renovation of the city. He spoke of his family’s friendship with the family of Steve Smith. Paul said that his family and company were excited to be part of the renaissance currently taking place.

Lord Paul’s slight voice was sometimes drowned out by the sounds of construction across the street. Work  was being completed Arts Academy Plaza, a 14,000 sq.ft. green space located at the corner of Grand Blvd and Grandel Square.

Forum Studio, in collaboration with Land Collective and Grand Center constituents, led the design of the space. The park design includes a series of seating terraces as well as an amphitheater and harvest tables, which will accommodate larger groups of patrons and provide outdoor dining space for nearby restaurants.

The noisy, bustling setting provided a moving backdrop for a father’s story of friendship, creativity, and vision. It  appears that Angad’s last production may have sequels.

Other highlights of recent and current development in the area include:

The new $9.1 million Fox Theater parking garage.

The Sheldon Plaza next to the to the venue’s parking lot. It  will include a plaza next to a three-story installation of vines. S.M. Wilson & Co. of St. Louis is the general contractor. The project was designed  by architect Ben Gilmartin and DLANDstudio, both of New York.

Renovation of the Grandel Theatre and .ZACK by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. .ZACK, a multi-purpose arts center at 3224 Locust, includes a a 202-seat proscenium-style theater and scene shop, co-op office space for arts organizations, a restaurant and catering company, retail, and commercial office space.

The re-imagined Grandel will also play host to visual arts exhibits, dance classes, educational programs and live jazz. The Darkroom restaurant has relocated there. SPACE Architecture + Design is directing the program at the Grandel.

The new rooftop venue “ANEW” at Big Brothers Big Sisters, which was designed by HDA. The rooftop restaurant, which can accommodate 120 for a sit-down dinner and 250 for a cocktail party, will be used for special events. 

Redevelopment of the historic Bronson House as office space plus outdoor dining/drinking establishment by Chameleon.

A&E is also working to build the new Centene Innovation Lab.

Click here to download a map of businesses and venues in Grand Center, along with the the dates of their revitalization.

 

 

 

 

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