Streets of St. Charles: Changing the face of the city

If ever it could be said that one development project changed the face of a city, the Streets of St. Charles is it. The 1.5-million-square-foot mixed-use development on 26 acres south of Interstate 70 has given the City of St. Charles a whole new “front door,” and created better connections between the historical city north of the highway and the newer neighborhoods south of it.

Now at the halfway mark of the planned development, the Streets of St. Charles features a town-square environment with urban-style apartments, modern offices, and retail. The reconstruction of South Main Street that accompanied the development produced an inviting new connection to the casino and the city’s historic Main Street.

“The really cool thing, I think, is that people are coming over the (Missouri) river to the Streets,” said St. Charles Mayor Sally Faith.

Government officials view the Streets as the city’s new front door on the busiest street in Missouri, I-70. “It is at the entry point to the city of St. Charles,” said David Leezer, director of economic development for St. Charles. “It is a showcase place across from Ameristar casino. It makes the whole city look so much better as you come in. It has created more interest in people in using the Katy Trail, and has sparked development plans for more apartment complexes south on the river road,” he said.

Just west of the Streets, SSM Healthcare has purchased the Columns banquet center with the intention of demolishing it and building a medical office building. The riverfront east of the Streets “is the future of St. Charles,” Faith said. “We are laying the groundwork there for future development that will stretch down to the Family Arena,” she said.

The county’s major private employers like it, too. On May 30, 2014, a private industry group called Partners for Progress of Greater St. Charles bestowed its 2014 Quality of Place Award on the Streets of St. Charles in honor of “its sophistication and innovative approach to development . . . (and) for elevating the real estate market of the region.”

To date, the Streets of St. Charles consists of a three-story, 100,000-square-foot office building with ground-floor retail, a 1,250-space parking garage, and a five-story, 400,000-square-foot apartment building with ground-floor restaurants and retail. AMC is building an eight-screen movie theater that is slated to open this fall.

Lelonie Luft, director of marketing for the developer, Peoria-based Cullinan Properties, said the company has interviewed hotel operators and health care providers about their interest in some of the remaining vacant land in the development. The development plan approved by the city calls 250,000 square feet of restaurant, retail, and entertainment space; 250,000 square feet of office space; and 250,000 square feet of medical office space, in addition to the apartments and parking garage.

Setback in 2007

As thrilled as St. Charles leaders are now, once they were equally disappointed. In 2006, the city council approved a plan by Greg Whittaker and Whittaker Homes that called for taller buildings and more residential space. Whittaker’s plan collapsed with his company in the debt crisis of 2007, however.

Luft said that St. Charles City brought Cullinan Properties in to look at the site in 2008. Cullinan then asked brought Cole & Associates in to draw up a new plan. Cole & Associates was the civil engineer, land surveyor, and landscape architect. The new plan was not as specific as the old one, but specified that no building would be taller than six stories. “We developed various master plans to get more market specific,” said Jeremy Roach, principal, Cole & Associates. “We developed the street design and the sidewalks and set parameters for architects,” he said.
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“There are different architects for different blocks, because different blocks have different uses. We never anticipated a single design for the whole scope. We wanted the design to be more organic, like in any urban area, everything is not designed or constructed in a day,” he said. “It has worked out great, couldn’t have worked out better,” Leezer said. “Cullinan has a vision, but they have adapted to a degree. They are nimble and flexible. Great developers do that,” he said. “They were persistent and focused and not everyone could have brought that deal off,” said Brian Satterthwaite, president and CEO of Brinkmann Constructors.

Cole Embraces Water Retention
A unique feature of the design by Cole & Associates, of which Roach is especially proud, was to put the water retention in the center of the development. “In other developments, water goes to the perimeter for storage. In this development, it goes to the literal heart of the space. It is a year-round amenity,” Roach said.

The roadside gutters are permeable concrete and connect to runnels that carry rain water to the central basin. The roads are graded flat instead of crowned. “We are not attempting to run the water off the road as quickly as possible and stick it in a pipe. We celebrate moments of storm,” Roach said. “Water is supposed to splash into the central basin. Esthetics and sustainability came together. I’m sure that no one else in the metro area has done water retention in the center of a development like we have,” he said.

Cole & Associates also designed the central road to with an eye to how it appears from inside stores and to residents looking down on it.

Brinkmann Constructors was involved with the design from the moment they joined the project team, said Roach. “This was the most collaborative project I’ve been on,” he said.

Architects come and go, but Cullinan, Cole, and Brinkmann have stayed constant. Dan Fagan, project director, Brinkmann Constructors, said, “We were intimately involved with putting in water, sewers, streets, and retaining walls, and with building the buildings.” The biggest challenge was the existing topography and the surrounding streets, he said.

Fifth Street wraps around two sides of the site, forming the western and southern boundaries. Main Street is on the eastern edge and ties into Fifth at the southeast corner of the site. I-70 runs along the northern boundary. “The city and the developer wanted to put a major street between Fifth and Main, but the grade difference was 40 feet, so that wouldn’t work. We urged the developer to work with the city to raise Main Street and they ended up raising it 20 feet,” Fagan said. Working together benefited everyone. Budrovich, who excavated the site, moved 90,000 cubic yards of soil from the site to the new roadbed for Main Street. That saved the developer the expense of hauling off the soil, and saved the city the expense of hauling in dirt.

Soil Retention

Another challenge was the construction of a 32-foot tall modular block retaining wall on Main Street, used to allow leveling of the site for the construction of the apartment building. The parking garage ties into the retaining wall. The garage is an underground garage with an exposed elevation on Main Street. Subsurface Constructors designed a secant wall to meet the block wall where it approaches the garage. “It uses tangential drilled piers, which intersect as you drill and build the wall,” said Jim Morgan, president, Subsurface Constructors.

The underground portion of the garage has a “hybrid secant wall,” he said. “We put the number of piers in that were required to support the load and spanned difference between them with shotcrete. It saved money compared to what a traditional secant wall would cost. It is similar to a traditional soldier beam tie back wall. Instead of a soldier beam we used a large drilled pier, instead of wood lagging we sprayed shotcrete. We still did tie backs, they go three feet deep,” he said. Morgan said the design was still in progress while they were building, but they coordinated with Brinkmann so that they could adjust the design and still meet the engineering parameters as they worked around the garage area. “Most of the area had designed fill. We had to work with Brinkmann to make sure that the fill they were putting in was compatible with the system we were proposing to build. From a team standpoint, it was one of the best relationships we’ve had on a project,” he said. Subsurface Constructors also designed and installed vibro stone columns for the foundations for the garage and other structures. “A lot of the soil there is sand and silt from the river. Vibro stone columns are ideal for those soils,” he said.

Contractors Help Owner Spend Less, Too

Brinkmann’s insight into designs helped the developer realize millions of dollars from value engineering. “We got out about $2.5 million in value engineering the apartments,” Fagan said. “We saved them about $400,000 on the movie theater. They were going to pour 26-foot cast-in-place concrete retaining walls to accommodate the grade, but we toldthem to redesign and put in conventional foundations with a steel structure,” he said.

“It is a great example of how, when an owner brings a contractor on board early, the contractor can help work through the construction methods and value engineering that other professionals on the design team can’t,” Satterthwaite said. Another constant on the project team was Budrovich Excavating Co. “We were the first ones there,” said Vice President Ken Collins. “We started with all the excavating, working straight for the developer.” They removed over 150,000 cubic yards of soil after Noah’s Ark was demolished. After they started, the project sat idle for 18 months while the developer worked out a way with the city to sell bonds to finance the project. “Then we kind of teamed up with Brinkmann and put in all the sewer mains and underground electrical conduit and water pipe,” he said. This summer, they installed the utilities for the movie theater.And, since they already had cranes on site, “we did quite a bit of hoisting for othersubcontractors,” said Project Manager Nick Rothe.

Guarantee Electrical Co. became a constant team member on the building projects, working on the office building, the residential building, the garage, and the movie theater. The first three projects were design/build electrical projects.On the office building, “We designed and installed the building and tenant electrical service, card access, CCTV (closed circuit television) service, and voice and data service,” said Jacob Wieneke, project manager, Guarantee Electrical Co.

For the apartment block, “We provided and installed power for each of the 309 apartment units, and voice, fire alarms, and CCTV service. In the parking garage, we installedlighting, power, and carbon monoxide detectors and heat detectors for the fire alarms,” he said. Guarantee finished ahead of schedule, “which is always a great thing,” Wieneke said.

Streets of St. Charles Project Team

Owner: Cullinan Properties
Engineers:

  • Cole and Associates
  • SSC Engineering
  • Geotechnology, Inc.

CM: Brinkmann Constructors

Major Subcontractors and Suppliers:

  • Ahal
  • Behrmann Company
  • Briner Electric
  • Budrovich Excavating
  • Cissell Mueller
  • Concrete Strategies
  • Crystal Heating & Cooling
  • Guarantee Electrical Contractors
  • Hydro-Temp, Inc.
  • Kienstra Ready Mix
  • Marschel Wrecking
  • Rainbow Painting
  • Sioux City Brick
  • John Smith Masonry
  • Spiegelglass Construction Co
  • Sterett Crane & Digging
  • Subsurface Constructors
  • Superior Building Group