More than five years after the old Noah's Ark restaurant at Interstate 70 and Fifth Street was demolished, city officials gathered to cut the ribbon on the long-delayed mixed-use project that took its place.
The first building in the Streets of St. Charles development opened earlier this summer with several tenants including Five Guys Restaurant and Fries, MassageLuxe and the Art Institute of St. Louis.
On Tuesday St. Charles city officials celebrated the opening with Cullinan Properties, the developers of the project.
"It's such an exciting site," said Diane Cullinan Oberhelman, a founding partner of Cullinan Properties. "The city has been an outstanding partner, they were a great member for our team. Everyone could really see the vision."
Construction on the 27-acre mixed-use development was slow to get started. A ground-breaking ceremony was held in fall of 2008, but progress stalled because Cullinan was unable to sell community improvement bonds. The city council approved $44 million in neighborhood improvement district bonds for the project in 2009.
Weather and the general poor economy pushed off construction further, according to an article in the Suburban Journals in 2010.
"This is one of the only projects of its size that's gone forward nationally during this horrible recession," Oberhelman said, adding that it's a great opportunity for retailers who are now ready to expand.
Cullinan's site plans for the development have changed several times since 2008. In July, the city council approved plans to reduce the minimum number of total residential units to 400 and the minimum total square footage of the site to 718,000 square feet from over 1 million. Some council members have raised concerns about the change.
"It's critical for a company that develops a multi-use site to stay ahead of the trends," Oberhelman said, adding that the multi-family homes became a larger component of the project.
Construction on the block 4000 building, a building with residential on top and retail on the lower floor, has begun. Steel fabrication is being done off site and Oberhleman said they expect to "go vertical" within a month.
The 300 luxury apartments in that building are expected to open in November 2013.
Kathleen Cullinan Brill, vice president of leasing, said they are also negotiating with female fashion retailers for that building as well, although she declined to name the retailer. The lower level of the block 4000 building will also include entertainment.
The project is expected to have 17 total buildings.
Two restaurants expected to open soon
Two restaurants are still expected to open in the block 1,000 building. Prasino, an eco-friendly restaurant with two locations in Illinois, is under construction and is expected to open in December. Tucanos Brazillian Grill will open in January, according to Mickey Padilla, director of development for Tucanos.
Current block 1,000 tenants include Streets of St. Charles Dental, Wamhoff Financial Planning Services and Brown Smith Wallace.
In addition, the Art Institute of St. Louis opened in July and today has more than 200 students enrolled, according to Chef Lynn Krause, academic director of culinary.
Art Institute culinary students catered and served during the ribbon cutting celebration Tuesday. Krause said there are about 30 students enrolled in the culinary program.
Carla Grant, a student in the culinary program was one of 25 students who worked on the food for the ribbon cutting event.
Grant dished up an old St. Charles favorite and nod to the project's beginnings: Noah's Ark clam chowder.