May 11, 2017 | Liz Austin

St. Louis University has hired Brooks Goedeker to head its Midtown redevelopment corporation. A St. Louis native and SLU alumnus, Goedeker looks to be the perfect hire to execute SLU’s forward-thinking, community-oriented plan for revitalizing the central corridor.

As St. Louis University (SLU) prepares to celebrate its bicentennial next year, it has reaffirmed its commitment to being a pillar of both Midtown and Greater St. Louis by forming a redevelopment corporation aimed at, in the words of SLU vice president and CFO David Heimburger, “working with [the University’s] neighbors and community partners to plan for the revitalization of the area.” Unanimously recommended by the St. Louis Planning Commission and approved by the Board of Aldermen last fall, SLU’s redevelopment plan represents a significant step toward the University’s goal of, as Heimburger puts it: “helping make St. Louis a better place to live, learn and work.”

In keeping with its commitment to community input and engagement, SLU recently hired Brooks Goedeker to serve as the executive director of its redevelopment corporation. A St. Louis native and SLU alumnus (M.A. in Social Work, ’04), Goedeker most recently oversaw $2.2 billion worth of construction in St. Louis between 2013 and 2017 as the executive director of Park Central Development. Previously, from 2005 to 2013 he was the community development manager for the Washington University Medical Center.

An Ambitious and Comprehensive Plan

Goedeker’s experience with WashU will certainly come in handy, as included in SLU’s plan is a new $550 million, 800,000 square foot academic medical center offering 316 private patient rooms, an expanded Level 1 trauma center and emergency department, classrooms and related instructional, laboratory, and research facilities, and bountiful green spaces.

The nearly 400-acre project – broadly straddling South Grand Boulevard from I-44 to I-40 and thereby connecting SLU’s north and south campuses – will also feature office space for private, public, and non-profit businesses, non-medical research facilities, retail, dining, entertainment, and hospitality infrastructure, and, much to everyone’s relief, parking.

Lastly, the redevelopment plan provides for residential construction geared toward both SLU students and non-student St. Louisans. For the general citizen, SLU’s plan carves out enough space near the new medical center for 60 to 80 single-family or low-density residential units. For students, the forthcoming Grand Hall will offer sustainable, LEED Silver Standard-adherent housing for over 500 residents. In addition to expected features like a 740-seat dining hall, study lounges, and an outdoor plaza. As SLU Director of Housing, Residence Life and Student Involvement Melinda Carlson explains, “Grand Hall will integrate spaces for collaboration and dialogue, business incubators, maker spaces and classrooms into the residential experience.”

Symbiosis in the Central Corridor

This commitment to forward-thinking, multi-use spaces characterizes much of SLU’s ongoing work and is featured prominently in all of its plans for the future. The University has long recognized – and cherished – the critical role that institutions of higher learning play as centers of sustainability and innovation in their communities, which is why SLU is a founding and active member of the Cortex Innovation Community.

Located directly west of the new redevelopment area, Cortex is a 200 acre innovation and technology hub that, when completed, will house 15,000 permanent technology-related jobs in over 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use spaces. More than 250 companies already call Cortex home, and going forward, SLU will integrate its own plans with those of its neighbors in hopes of creating a high-tech, high-engagement community that will attract interesting and talented individuals from the Greater St. Louis area and beyond.

Also on SLU’s radar is the St. Louis Armory on Market Street, a timeworn but iconic St. Louis building — and Green Street project — currently undergoing extreme and ambitious renovations. Incorporating tech-enabled office spaces, dining, and entertainment destinations, the completed Armory project will connect Cortex to the west, SLU to the north, the Grove to the South, and the Central West End just westward.

Real Community Engagement

Ultimately, in the words of Vice President of Student Development Dr. Kent Porterfield, the redevelopment corporation’s goal is to “think about this area as a neighborhood instead of separate spaces.” SLU’s eagerness to work with developers and enterprises is clear, but, drawing on the Jesuit principle of “living for others,” SLU is also committed to maintaining cooperative, productive relationships with longtime Midtown St. Louis residents.

In the interest of transparency, the University will hold a number of open forums for area residents to address any concerns they may have. There are plans to form an advisory board comprised of local citizens and small-business owners, as SLU is dedicated to making sure no one is inconvenienced or displaced as the project proceeds. Goedeker has articulated this commitment clearly and repeatedly, explaining that, “To me, ‘living for others’ means helping to make communities better and more productive for every citizen.”

This is certainly the right approach to redevelopment, and perhaps the only appropriate one for a school whose mascot, despite mystifying the rest of the nation, is recognized throughout St. Louis as the god of things as they ought to be.

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