By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
A virtual roomful of CREW St. Louis attendees gathered April 13 to learn from Douglas Auer, glass artist and owner of Third Degree Glass Factory, as he walked through his partnership with Square Co-founder Jim McKelvey in redeveloping properties along Delmar between Union and Kingshighway Boulevards in what is known as The Delmar Maker District.
The district – situated 1.5 miles east of the Delmar Loop, is a growing mecca of makers, artists, designers and entrepreneurs. Nearly three years ago, fellow artisans Auer and McKelvey quietly began acquiring, rehabbing and redeveloping derelict buildings and homes with the mission of creating spaces where solopreneurs can accomplish the district’s goal to “live, make and sell.”
Third Degree Glass is located at 5200 Delmar Boulevard in the heart of the district.
“Reinvigorating this area is our goal,” Auer told the CREW St. Louis audience. “What I found when I unintentionally stuck my nose into the development world three years ago was the disparity in property values. Everything is so segmented. There is a lot of overlap that isn’t happening here in St. Louis,” he added.
With Washington University in St. Louis as the facilitator, Auer, McKelvey and other Delmar area proponents including Maxine Clark began meeting to talk through strategies for increased safety, beautification, placemaking, public art and infrastructure improvements.
“We’re concentrating intently on the stretch of Delmar between Union and Kingshighway,” said Auer. “Where this goes next, I’m not sure.”
Where it has already gone is the revitalization of all existing buildings in this section of Delmar, with vacant land the next target for redevelopment. Auer told CREW St. Louis listeners that his home is in the district and that he’s committed to a long-term vision.
“Jim McKelvey continues to put his money where his mouth is and is making real investments in an area of the city where there’s no guarantee of return,” said Auer. “Even now, we’re sustaining 36 local artists who got their start here. Our goal is to be thought of as the center (of town) and not the edge. There’s no reason that everything to the north of Delmar shouldn’t be as important as what’s to the south of Delmar. Our goal is to do good things rather than talk about what divides us.”