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$72 million, 333-apartment project in south St. Louis could change South Kingshighway

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ST. LOUIS — A developer is proposing a $72 million project along South Kingshighway that would add 333 market-rate apartments and represent one of the largest investments south St. Louis’ Bevo Mill neighborhood has seen in years.

John Clancy, a Florida-based Planet Fitness franchisee who owns dozens of the gyms across the country, has spent the last two-plus years assembling the 12-acre site just south of Chippewa Street, spending $4.65 million acquiring a former U.S. National Guard armory, an empty auto repair garage, and a former Catholic Church-owned recreation center that has since been demolished.

The development, along the busy Kingshighway Boulevard corridor, would reactivate commercial real estate underutilized for years. Backers say it is another example of real estate strength trickling south from the city’s central corridor — the usually hot stretch along Interstate 64 from downtown to Clayton. And this project, they say, is particularly significant because it could push momentum south from bustling Tower Grove neighborhoods, and east from the neat-and-tidy residential homes in Southampton, both strong real estate markets.

“This is truly a beacon of opportunity for south city,” said Dave Sweeney, a Lewis Rice attorney representing the developer. “As someone who lives about a mile from here, I see what a great opportunity and a major, major investment this is.”

Clancy owns several Planet Fitness locations in the St. Louis area through his Ohio-based Planet Fitness Midwest Group, including the recently opened Planet Fitness in the former Shop ‘n Save building just to the north of the site. He bought that real estate as well.

He and his team, which includes commercial real estate firm Berkadia, hope to close soon on a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan to finance the project. They plan to focus first on a $37.2 million initial phase of 178 units, with a second and third phase adding 155 more units at a cost of $35 million.

The five-building apartment complex plans to charge rents of about $1,000 to $1,200 for one-bedroom units and up to about $1,600 for two-bedroom units.

The St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment board on Tuesday recommended 20 years of tax abatement for the project — the first 15 years at 95% and the last five years at 90%. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen needs to give final approval to the incentive.

Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward, represents the area and noted that most of the site was tax exempt for decades while it was owned by the Catholic Church and the federal government.

“We’re on a tipping point here in the 14th ward,” she said, voicing her strong support for the project. “We’re primarily residential, and I think this will add and stimulate a lot of development in the area and possibly bring more people to the ward.”


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