New downtown condos are all about the river

By Charlene Prost

Of the Post-Dispatch


Artist's rendering
Artist's rendering

Downtown St. Louis is about to get something it never has had before: a condominium building overlooking the Mississippi River.

What's coming also will be the first new vertical residential building constructed in downtown since Mansion House opened in 1966.

Rodgers Group LLC in Clayton intends to spend about $25 million to build the 10-level Port St. Louis. Developer Mark Rodgers said it will have 49 high-end condos on seven floors, atop three levels of parking.

All the units will have balconies designed to take advantage of the river views. The glass and brick building also will have a rooftop deck with a swimming pool, entertainment area and other amenities

Because the land slopes toward the river, the building will be seven stories on the west side, 10 stories on the east side. The 120 parking spaces, two for each condo and then some, will be tucked into the slope.

Designing a building on top of sloping land was just part of the challenge facing the developer and Shaughnessy Fickel and Scott Architects Inc. of Kansas City.

The building will rise just west of a working railroad trestle that shares the block. The site also is in a flood plain.

The solution for both problems: Put the condos above the parking.

"The first residential floor will be slightly above the trestle," Rodgers said. The trestle won't block views, he said, but "you will see the top of trains go by. "

The building also will have sound-resistant windows to block noise from outside. And it's being specially designed to withstand floods, earthquakes, vibration from trains and anything else that comes its way.

"We will go to bedrock with our piers," Rodgers said. "Everybody's best guess is 20 feet down ... so structurally, it will be a very sound building."

If flood waters do rise, the condos should be high and dry. "We know some parking will at times be flooded," Rodgers said, "but we're making sure the residential is above the flood plain."

He and his twin, John Rodgers, own the development firm that is planning its first project downtown. They got involved after Jo Ann Keeney, a broker and owner at Independent Brokers Network LLC, called to suggest that they take a look at the undeveloped block in Laclede's Landing.

Keeney, a broker for Landing properties for years, said she was impressed with the high quality of the Rodgers' Shaw Park Villas condo project in Clayton. She said she wanted to see something similar in the Landing, now that the market for it finally is there.

Mark Rodgers said he and his brother didn't take long to go for it once they saw the vacant block. They own part of the land and have contracts to buy the rest.

"The river is St. Louis' best asset. It has the best views," he said. "We couldn't believe there wasn't something on that land."

Rodgers said construction should start later this year or in early 2006, as soon as about half the condos are reserved. Construction will take about two years.

As of this week, Rodgers said, 14 would-be buyers - from in town and out of town - have signed on.

Among them is Mary Jean Russell, development director for the Wings of Hope organization. She said she "can't wait" to move to Port St. Louis from a duplex she owns in University City, now that her daughter has grown up and moved away.

Russell, 50, said she looked at some renovated residential buildings downtown, but none was a good match. Then she heard about Port St. Louis, checked out the design and found what she was looking for.

"I'll have the history of St. Louis, the beauty of the river, the excitement of the riverfront, all right there," she said. "I wanted to find a place overlooking something beautiful. My unit will overlook the Eads Bridge, the (Gateway) Arch ... and I'll even be able to see the bend in the Mississippi to the north from my wrap-around balcony."

Rodgers Group LLC

Founded: 1988 by twins Mark and John Rodgers
Builds and renovates houses, mainly in west St. Louis County, Clayton and University City. It currently is building Shaw Park Villas, a 12-unit luxury condominium project at 50 and 60 Brighton Way in Clayton, and planning Port St. Louis, a condominium project on Laclede's Landing in St. Louis.

Port St. Louis

About $25 million.
49 condominiums on seven floors above three levels of parking.
Condo prices:
About $628,000 to $698,000 for units with 1,800 to 2,000 square feet, respectively.

Reporter Charlene Prost