Robert E. Saur, 79, the founder and president of Clayton-based Conrad Properties Corp., died Nov. 1, 2022, from complications related to pulmonary fibrosis. In a development career bridging five decades, Saur made an indelible mark on local lifestyles and skylines with his innovative infill developments.
Born Oct. 14, 1943, in north St. Louis, he graduated from Beaumont High School, then earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Washington University and a master’s degree in urban planning at Michigan State University. After a brief stint with The Rouse Co. in Maryland, Saur returned to St. Louis and founded Conrad Properties Corp. in 1971, using his father’s middle name.
His interest in real estate dated to his youth, when he and his older brothers, Louis and Ray, enjoyed fixing up and maintaining the four-family flats owned by their parents, Louis and Marie Saur. That family partnership played a role in the 1972 development of Hobbits Glen in north St. Louis County, Conrad Properties’ first apartment complex, built with architectural and fiscal help from Saur’s brothers. Other early project investors included Al Siwak and Norm Rubenstein, who first backed Conrad Properties’ 1977 development of Prospect Creek apartments in Manchester, Mo. Siwak and Rubenstein became part of Saur’s large network of close friends, and remained investors in succeeding developments.
Saur led Clayton’s downtown renaissance, working with his brother, Louis R. Saur, as his architect. Beginning with prairie-style townhomes in Clayton’s Old Town in the 1970s, his projects became more complex, spanning the Old Town office buildings at 150, 165 and 168 N. Meramec and the Litzsinger Woods single-family home development in Ladue before concentrating on mid- and high-rise residential and mixed-used developments located mostly in the central corridor, from downtown St. Louis to Clayton.
Saur’s market-leading acumen for infill developments anticipated emerging lifestyle trends. His ability to adapt to changing markets was a hallmark. When The Claytonian at 750 S. Hanley Road came on the market during the early 1990s recession, its traditional floor plans, larger footprint and luxurious amenities targeting renters met with delayed success. But it ultimately became one of the company’s cornerstone achievements.
His creativity extended to financing, key to pursuing new developments. In 1988, he became a founding board member of Enterprise Bank. Former Enterprise CEO Fred Eller said, “Bob had a knack for taking standard banking practices and turning them into something new. He saw things that were so obscure yet obvious upon his observation.” His talents turned challenging banking decisions into creative solutions, including the financing of the 150 N. Meramec building, where Enterprise makes its headquarters.
In 2000, Saur completed the mixed-use Clayton on the Park at Brentwood and Bonhomme, Clayton’s first new residential high-rise in more than 30 years. He and his team went on to develop other market-defining residential projects including The Residence at 800 S. Hanley Road, Hi-Pointe Lofts in Richmond Heights, Maryland Walk in Clayton and 4545 Lindell in the Central West End. During the 2000s, Conrad Properties led the residential development market with more than $250 million in projects underway.
Clayton Mayor Ben Uchitelle said, “Bob Saur was a visionary. Before anyone else, Bob started developing fine condos in Clayton, taking chances and succeeding. The city of Clayton will long benefit from the imprint of his handsome and significant projects.”
He shared his life with his childhood sweetheart, Sandra Eisenhart, whom he married on May 8, 1965. Their marriage spanned 47 years until Sandy’s death in 2012. Their sons, Eric and Craig, both worked at Conrad Properties, with Craig becoming president and CEO in 2007. The economic downturn of 2008 compelled him to close the company, a devastating decision for Saur. The sense of family he cultivated within Conrad Properties forged strong bonds among employees, spurring annual reunions to this day.
Saur’s approachability, enduring sense of humor and straightforward approach sustained lifelong friendships and community connections in a high-stress, high-risk business. “Bob was always a gentleman and a great negotiator,” said Mike Schoedel, who worked with Saur when he was city manager in both Richmond Heights and Clayton. “He always had a clear vision of what he wanted but was also mindful of what the community wanted. There aren’t many developers who are willing to compromise their goals to partner with the community. He became a mentor to me in understanding key components for creating quality developments in the communities I served, plus he was downright fun to be around.”
Saur remained engaged in the community, proposing new micro-apartments in Clayton in 2018 and promoting age-in-place communities and single-family rental developments for workforce housing. With Altus Properties, he successfully repositioned the open-plan apartments of Metro Lofts in the Central West End to Metro Flats, reconfigured as multi-generational rental apartments.
In addition to his development career and role in the formation of Enterprise Bank, he was founder and partner in CIS Communications LLC and a founding partner of Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Sandy Saur; his brother, Louis Saur; and his niece, Jackie Saur. He is survived by two sons, Eric (Mary) Saur of Alton, Ill., and their daughters, Reagan and Lucy, and Craig (Stephanie) and their daughters, Sophie and Lila, Austin, Texas. Surviving also are his brother, Ray (Kathy) Saur; his sister-in-law, Pat (the late Louis) Saur; and his niece, Nikki Saur, all of St. Louis. A memorial service will be held on Dec. 19 at 11 a.m. at Lupton Chapel, 7233 Delmar Blvd.
Notable projects developed by Conrad Properties:
- The Claytonian, 750 S. Hanley, Clayton
- Boone Valley Golf Club, Augusta, Mo.
- The Falls Golf Club, 1170 Turtle Creek Dr., O’Fallon, Mo.
- Ladue-Innerbelt Executive Center, 8909 Ladue Road at I-170, Ladue
- Old Town Executive office buildings, 150, 165 and 168 N. Meramec, Clayton
- The Residence, 800 S. Hanley, Clayton
- Clayton on the Park, 8025 Bonhomme Ave., Clayton
- Hi-Pointe Lofts, 6340-6350 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights
- Summit Lofts, 630 Emerson Road, Creve Coeur
- Metro Lofts (now Metro Flats), 4535 Forest Park Ave.
- MLofts, 1107 Mississippi, and Eleven Eleven Mississippi, 1111 Mississippi, Lafayette Square
- 4545 Lindell Boulevard, Central West End
- Maryland Walk, 8025 Maryland, Clayton
- Hammermill Lofts at Cupples Station,1000 Clark St., downtown St. Louis