Thanks to some good work by Brad Scott and his team at the General Services Administration and the St. Louis Comptroller’s Office, the City has an interesting chance to solve several problems.
We have been working hard for several years to re-open the Kiel Opera House as a first-class entertainment venue. We now have an agreement to buy the Abram Building from the federal government, which will allow us to build parking, if needed, to re-open the Opera House. That’s progress.
But, there is an important additional possible benefit to owning the Abram Building.
The City’s Health Department and Human Services Department are currently located together in a building at 634 N. Grand (that’s it in the picture). That building, a landmark in the Grand Avenue Theater District, needs a major, expensive rehab and is no longer fit for either City department. When we buy the Abram Building, it will be possible to move those two departments into the Abram Building, if the Opera House does not need the entire building for parking.
We’ll have a better idea what the Opera House will need in the way of parking when the developers have finished refining their proposal to reflect the new Blues and Savvis Center ownership,
The City already has an agreement in place with Grand Center, Inc., that Grand Center will buy 634 N. Grand when the two City departments move. And if they move into the Abram Building, proceeds from the sale of 634 N. Grand will offset most of the cost of purchasing the Abram Building.
Grand Center, in turn, will sell 634 N. Grand to a developer who will rehabilitate it, most probably as street-level retail, office space, and condos. The productive re-use of that historic building will add to the renaissance of the Grand Avenue Theater District — and will take a building that no longer serves the City’s needs and that the City can no longer afford to repair and operate off of the City’s hands
This is a good example of quality teamwork among City government partners and other governments.