New Owners of Chemical Building Think Small

By on September 22, 2017

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  To bring downtown’s iconic Chemical Building back to life, the new owners of the long-vacant structure are thinking small.

Small as in “micro-apartments,” according to Scott Cresswell, chief operating officer of Morgan Communities, based in the Rochester, N.Y., area.

Morgan Communities purchased the building at the end of August for $4 million, becoming the latest in a string of owners to have a go at rehabbing the 17-story red brick and terra cotta structure at the northeast corner of Eighth and Olive streets.

“We’re trying to finalize what we’re doing with the building,” Cresswell said. “Ultimately right now, we’re heading in the direction of building micro-units.”

The concept has been used in cities such as New York and Seattle and was proposed recently in Miami. It would be a first for St. Louis, where density tends to be lower than other large metro areas.

Cresswell said Morgan Communities thinks it may be able to squeeze about 700 “highly amenitized” units into the 1896 structure designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb. They would probably be less than 500 square feet, although he emphasized Morgan Communities hasn’t yet finalized its plans for the building.

Plans call for starting construction early next year and wrapping up by 2019, and Cresswell said the developer intends to apply for historic tax credits to help finance the project.

“We like the city right now,” Cresswell said of St. Louis. “We think there’s a lot of opportunity to create value.”

It would be Morgan Communities’ first foray into Missouri. But the firm has a large national presence, with some 35,000 units in cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baton Rouge, La. Some of its projects have also rehabbed older structures, including rehabs in Cleveland’s historic warehouse district.

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