S. M. Wilson, Christner Partner to Build $28 Million Expansion for COCA



S. M. Wilson is building Phase 2 of the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) expansion that will nearly double the size of the nonprofit organization’s facility at 524 Trinity Avenue in St. Louis.

Phase 1 of the project was completed by S. M. Wilson in June 2018 and consisted of renovations to the Kuehner West Wing Facilities. Construction of Phase 2 – scheduled to reach completion in early 2020 – is currently under way and includes construction of the two-level Ferring East Wing addition.

Axi:Ome, Design Architect and Christner, Associate Design Architect are architects of record

A national leader in innovative arts education, COCA serves more than 50,000 people annually of all ages, backgrounds and ability levels throughout the Greater St. Louis area. As demand for the organization’s services continues to increase, the existing facility no longer has adequate capacity.

In 2015, COCA launched the Create Our Future campaign, a multi-year fundraising effort to transform its University City campus. COCA has raised $45 million to fund the expansion and renovation project and build capital reserves and endowment funds for scholarships, support services, artistic and educational programming.

“This expansion will allow COCA to serve more students from throughout the St. Louis community and ensure that we remain a part of what makes St. Louis a great place to work, live, and raise a family, for years to come,” said COCA Board President Jesse Hunter.

A new 450-seat theatre features a core and shell made of primarily concrete. Foundations, columns, walls and decks are a mix of load-bearing masonry and structural steel, according to S. M. Wilson President Amy Berg. The extreme height of the masonry walls makes them unique. Standing 50 and 52 feet high, the structural loading sequence, wind bracing and assembly of the load-bearing masonry walls were crucial during design, she said.

“The one-of-a-kind theatre is also difficult to build due to the 11 different floor elevations,” Berg added. “S. M. Wilson had to be precise when planning the concrete pour sequence which required multiple forming and shoring systems.”

Because of the limited space and access of the project site, a tower crane was required in order to accommodate the long reaches for concrete pours and steel picks. Typically a tower crane would not be needed for a two-story building, Berg said, but due to the location, the height of the masonry walls, overhead obstructions, multi-level concrete deck pours and complex steel installations, it was a requirement for a successful project.

“COCA is an inspiring organization and a staple in our community,” she said. “We are proud to be a part of delivering this landmark project and look forward to how this new space will continue to innovate and inspire for generations to come.”

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