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Plans are underway to renovate a former Post-Dispatch building in downtown St. Louis as 54 market-rate apartments.

Matt Masiel, president of Prime Building & Construction, of Clayton, is leading the $15 million project at 1139 Olive Street. An affiliated firm paid $4 million for the eight-story building in December 2017. Masiel said he hopes to begin its renovation in June or July and have 44 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom apartments ready for tenants 18 months later. Monthly rents could range from about $1,150 to $1,650.

For now, the St. Louis Election Board and two small office tenants are the building’s only occupants. Masiel said he hopes to have a final agreement with the city next month to extend the board’s lease for 10 years. Under the developer’s plan, the board’s main facility would remain on the first floor and office tenants would relocate to the third floor. Floors four through eight would be redone as apartments.

The structure built for the Post-Dispatch at Olive Street and Tucker Boulevard opened in 1917 and cost $1.4 million, according to the building’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The newspaper occupied the building until 1960, when it moved to 900 North Tucker Boulevard.

Masiel’s apartment project is named Front Page Lofts as a reference to the building’s newspaper past.

“We will tie it back to the history of the Post-Dispatch,” he said.

Masiel said downtown’s apartment market is strong and should be able to support the Front Page Lofts project. He said he hopes renters include students at the St. Louis University Law School, on Tucker a block south of the former Post-Dispatch building.

“We’re pretty bullish on the apartment market downtown,” he said.

The developer added that he appreciates the “historical and beautiful” structure. Barnett, Haynes & Barnett, a prominent St. Louis architecture firm, designed the building in the Beaux Arts Classical style.

In 1965, an owner subsequent to the Post-Dispatch covered the building in a metal facade to modernize its appearance. A later owner removed that facade in 1999 to reveal the original gray granite and limestone exterior, which remains largely intact.

An issue in the Front Page Lofts project is the status of the vacant parking garage next door. The city condemned the garage in 2015 because of structural problems, records show.

Masiel said he hopes the garage’s structural problems and legal matters involving the owner, in New Jersey, are resolved in a way that allows parking for Front Page Lofts tenants. He said the garage has a direct connection to the Front Page Lofts building.

“It would be ideal for us to have parking in there,” Masiel said.

The developer said he will likely seek tax abatement from the city as a financial incentive for Front Page Lofts. He also hopes to get $2.1 million in federal and $2.7 million in state historic preservation tax credits for the redevelopment. Masiel said he is in talks with banks to finance the remainder of the project’s cost.

Front Page Lofts is not Masiel’s only downtown endeavor. Screaming Eagle Redevelopment, of which he is principal, is proceeding with its plan to redo the warehouse at 1815 Locust Street as 67 apartments.

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