This past spring Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) sponsored an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) to address the addition of a MetroLink (light rail) station along the current alignment in Midtown St. Louis, between Boyle and Sarah Avenues and within the Cortex Life Science District. CMT released the report today detailing development matters including possible parking options and incentives to attract further development to the area suggested by the ULI panel of experts. .
The proposed station location sits in the middle of the Cortex life science district, a ten-year old development which is attracting national attention. The vision for the District is innovative, compelling, and broad-reaching, yet the challenges faced at this stage of development –the need for gap financing, timing of new infrastructure development and the complexity of development incentives and other possible gap funding solutions made this ULI TAP particularly interesting.
The primary stakeholders for the TAP process included representatives from the City of St. Louis, Citizens for Modern Transit, Metro, Cortex and its founding institutions, and surrounding residents and businesses.
1. If a MetroLink station is added to the current system between Boyle and Sarah Avenues in Midtown St. Louis, what specific location would maximize the potential benefits for the Cortex development as a whole and best serve residents in the surrounding neighborhoods?
2.There are four sites identified for a potential parking garage in the Cortex district. If a MetroLink station is added to the current system between Boyle and Sarah Avenues in Midtown St. Louis, what are the pros and cons of each potential garage site from a TOD perspective? How can specific site design and tenant mix enhance the opportunities?
3. What incentives could be utilized to bring in even further development at the site?
At the end the process, the Panel had the following recommendations for CMT and the Cortex District leadership.
The new MetroLink station, envisioned to serve the Cortex District, would best serve the businesses, employees, and area residents if it were placed between Boyle and Sarah, at the western-most section of the block. This location, close to Boyle, would best serve the core of the District, provides ample opportunity for access and visibility, and welcomes riders to the District with a grand view of the Cortex Commons.
Parking Garage Location(s)
Following a careful review of the four potential locations for a new parking garage in the District, the Panel did not feel strongly that any one site was ready to be developed into a parking garage at this time. From a TOD perspective, each site poses a number of opportunities as well as challenges, and as such, no one site rose to the top as an ideal location for a parking garage.
The panel strongly urged that CORTEX conduct a comprehensive parking study.Further evaluation will be required to identify the current parking needs or capacity in the District through a better understanding of the number of current spaces, the total number of employees working and then need or glut on spaces.
The Panel had the following recommendations with regards to enticing additional development to the area.
• TDD or CID
• Special purpose bonds
• New Markets Tax Credits
• Partnering to make use of MDFB credits
•Great Rivers Greenway funding or partnership
In addition to financial incentives, the District should consider providing amenities that might appeal to businesses and knowledge workers and attract additional development to the area.
• District branding and wayfinding to create a sense of place and a user-friendly experience
• Improved pedestrian environment (cut grass, pull weeds) and safety and security measures such as call-boxes or escort assistance
• District-wide WiFi
• Bike-stations and/or bike sharing
• CarShare availability or preferential treatment for electric or hybrid cars
• Garages wrapped with office or residential uses
• Use of garage roofs for additional green space or patios for District residents and/or employees
This TAP wraps up CMT’s fourth and final TAP as a part of its work on the HUD Regional Planning and Sustainability Grant in St. Louis.