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30-story Renaissance on Euclid Central West End ~STL~


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From the October 21, 2005 print edition

Mills doubles Renaissance to $115 million

St. Louis Business Journal

Heather Cole


Bruce Mills more than doubled his bet on the Central West End, remaking his $50 million apartment project into a $115 million, 30-story condominium and apartment development.

"We are lucky enough to have the largest site down there, and we're sold on both the rental and condo market," said Mills, chairman and chief executive of Mills Properties.

Called the Renaissance on Euclid, the proposed development at North Euclid and West Pine now includes 317 units: 179 apartments and 138 condominiums, including six four-story townhouses to be constructed along Euclid. Pre-selling of the condos will start in January; construction is expected to start in May.

Mills plans to seek $15 million in tax increment financing (TIF) for the project from the city. He said he is in talks with three possible lenders and had a lot of interest from pension funds, because "it's the size that they like."

Mills Properties' projects typically have a 75 percent/25 percent debt/equity ratio, but the Renaissance will have more equity according to Mills, who said he already has invested in the seven figures. While private investors have backed some of Mills Properties' previous projects, Mills is the sole developer on the Renaissance so far.

The Renaissance would be the largest of recent condominium and apartment projects in the city neighborhood. The Central West End has 12 other projects with more than 500 units planned or under way, according to Central West End/Midtown Development, a nonprofit development corporation. Of those units, 400 are condominiums.

Projects include the $50 million Opus Park East Tower at Euclid and Laclede avenues, and the recently announced Park East Lofts, a $20 million project. The Park East Tower condominiums, which range in price from $225,000 to $2 million, are 85 percent sold, 11 months before construction will be finished, said John Pitcher, director of real estate development and head of the St. Louis office of Opus Northwest.

The Central West End market for apartments is one of the strongest in the St. Louis area, with growth at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine driving it, said Keith Kramer, president of real estate consulting firm Keith M. Kramer Associates Inc. "The whole neighborhood is becoming almost 24 hour, with an urban dynamic in the neighborhood similar to what you find back east."

The Renaissance will face stiff competition on the apartment side, Kramer said. While the occupancy rate for Central West End apartments is 90 percent, Conrad Properties' 213-unit Metro Lofts is being leased, as is Balke Brown Associates' Highland Lofts across Interstate 40 from the Central West End. Two other projects are proposed in or near the neighborhood: the 205-unit University Village in the Warehouse of Fixtures buildings at Spring and Laclede avenues and the 197-unit Villas of St. Louis at 3949 Lindell. "The bad news (for a new apartment development) is there's a lot happening," Kramer said.

Designed by Dallas-based HKS Architects, the Renaissance will feature one- to three-bedroom units. Apartments would rent from $1,000 to $2,500 per month; condominiums would cost from $225,000 up to $1.1 million for some townhomes and the 21 penthouses.

The apartments, which would be on the first through 16th floors, will be converted into condominiums in about five years. Mills said he opted to start with apartments since it's easier to find financing for rental-producing properties.

A six-level parking garage would be at the back of the building and wouldn't be seen from Euclid and West Pine, Mills said. Owners of penthouses and townhomes would have private garages set into the larger garage. Every unit would have a patio, with the townhomes' patios including hot tubs.

Plans also call for a 6,000-square-foot restaurant with outdoor seating on the first floor; a 4,000-square-foot exercise room; indoor and outdoor pools; and possibly a cocktail lounge/restaurant on one of the upper floors. Mills said he also is considering installing a subterranean wine cellar. A large fountain would be installed at Euclid and West Pine.

One of the catalysts for the project is the renovation of nearby Forest Park, whose proximity will appeal to the active people who would be tenants of the Renaissance, Mills said. The Renaissance also would fill out development from Barnes-Jewish Hospital north to Delmar along Euclid, where Koplar Properties' mixed-use Maryland Plaza redevelopment and Opus Northwest's 26-story Park East Tower are under construction. "The only place we've got in St. Louis that could become a 24/7 area is the Central West End," Mills said.

Mills Properties paid $5 million last year for the 12-story medical office building that currently sits on the 1.7-acre site. The building will be demolished to make way for the development. A locally based construction company will be selected for the project this month, Mills said. Coldwell Banker Gundaker is marketing the condominiums.


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