By KERRY SMITH
Designing and constructing nearly a half million square feet vertically on a small footprint in the heart of Clayton, project partners say, has been akin to orchestrating and performing all the parts of a complex symphonic work.
The largest project of its kind to be built in St. Louis in more than 30 years, 212 Clayton (formerly known as 212 S. Meramec) is a 26-story, $54.5 million multi-family and mixed-use development owned by Chicago-based CA Ventures and White Oak Realty Partners. A total of 250 studio, one, two and three-bedroom units adorn the stunning structure which is scheduled to reach completion in August. HDA Architects is the project designer and architect of record; construction is being performed by the joint venture of PARIC Corp. in St. Louis and Chicago-based McHugh Construction.
Pre-design began in 2007 for what is now known as 212; back then, the project was the vision of St. Louis developers GTE Properties and located on the Central Avenue side of the block before eventually landing on the corner of Bonhomme and Meramec Avenues, according to HDA Managing Director Kyle Wilson, the project’s designer. “Then the recession hit and nearly everything in the construction world came to a halt,” he said.
But GTE never gave up on its vision for the block, according to Wilson. “At one point of the design, this development was proposed as a 10-story building with a much larger footprint, running north-south along Meramec Avenue from Bonhomme Avenue to the county’s parking garage on Shaw, but it was not doable due to land costs,” Wilson said.
In 2015, HDA returned to designing a vertical layout with a smaller footprint; with GTE Properties and PARIC, HDA pitched the new design to Chicago-based White Oak Realty Partners. White Oak recognized the opportunity in Clayton, Wilson said, and brought Chicago’s McHugh Construction into the project. McHugh’s expertise in building similar luxury high-rises in Chicago – combined with PARIC’s multi-family and multi-use experience – resulted in a reenergized project and timeline.
By November 2015, ground was broken and construction began on a very different trajectory. 212 Clayton would span 382,660 square feet in the heart of downtown Clayton, with 20 levels of living units crowned with a rooftop-level pool deck, lounge, recreation room and fitness center. Five levels of secured parking occupy the floors directly below the luxury apartments, with 9,000 square feet of retail space anchoring 212’s ground floor.
“The entire east side of the building has stunning views of downtown St. Louis, and the entire west side affords residents equally stunning views of Shaw Park,” said Josh Goodman, director of operations for HDA and project manager. “This is a fantastic opportunity to tap into the convenience of 212’s proximity to both MetroBus and MetroLink light rail transit. It’s a straight run into Forest Park, the Loop, downtown St. Louis, the airport and back. We envision that young professionals who travel for work will see it as an ideal urban living destination.”
212 Clayton exemplifies the surge in transit-oriented development, according to PARIC Corp. Vice President Paul Giacoletto, whose specialty is in building multi-family. “Multi-family high-rises are definitely a trend that we see continuing,” he said. “I think developments like this one will be a big draw for millennials but also for empty nesters. Clayton is really St. Louis’ second downtown in terms of a suburb with a lot of major corporations and a high standard of living. Those who enjoy the urban fabric but desire to live in an area other than downtown will find this an optimal solution. We were able to add in all of the desired amenities in a more urban location,” Giacoletto added.
A specialty concrete mix that has not been utilized in St. Louis before is featured in 212 Clayton, according to PARIC. In total, 19,000 cubic yards of concrete have been used in this project. That concrete volume, however, pales compared to the amount of glass – 60,000 square feet – utilized in the project. Four million pounds of structural steel was also used in construction of the luxury high-rise.
“One of my favorite things about the building is that all of the corner units do not have a column at the corner. They’re wide open,” said Wilson. “Our structural engineering partner, Alper Audi, creatively pulled the columns back and reinforced the slab to accommodate the cantilever. None of the high-rises I toured in Chicago had open corners like that,” he added.
HDA and PARIC credited Kaiser Electric and Murphy Company for their problem-solving prowess and creativity in making the building systems work vertically. “When you’re pouring these concrete floors and working from the bottom on up, story by story, there’s no room for error,” said Goodman, who noted that dealing with the wind when building with glass up 26 stories is indeed a tough task. “Kaiser and Murphy are a part of our design-build team on projects we do throughout the U.S. CECO Concrete Construction built a full-scale mock-up of the project’s corners off-site to simulate the detailed conditions we would face at 212 Clayton. One of the challenges has been to make the building look beautiful but also function economically,” he added.
Giacoletto praised PARIC’s concrete frame subcontractor, Ceco Concrete Construction, in working with the general contractor to maximize efficiency in terms of materials but even more so where labor was concerned. “We went to Chicago (with McHugh Construction) and examined similar construction projects to see how to best turn the floor cycles and maximize effort,” Giacoletto said. “Making the workflow as efficient as possible was a high priority. Building vertically brings an array of unique challenges with it. For 212 Clayton, we had multiple tasks going on at once. For example, when we topped out the last bucket of concrete to be poured, we had glass all the way up to the 16th floor and finished units up to floor 12. This whole construction process is truly similar to orchestrating fine classical music, with PARIC as the conductor. The closer it is to perfection, the more efficient it is for everyone involved.”
As workers began enclosing the building and moving on up floor by floor, Giacoletto said managing and leading the great number of subcontractors became all the more critical. “So many divisions came into play as we moved up the building,” he said. “Water control is just one example. Deflecting water and preventing it from getting into the finished portions of the building was a steep challenge that we were able to meet head-on.”
Designing and building 212’s five floors of parking brought its own formidable challenges, according to Wilson. “One of the biggest challenges of designing a mixed-use building is weaving the building systems up, down and through the building program,” he said. “Accommodating the bays and spacing in a two-way design is a lot more complex than a one-way parking structure that has angled spaces. On each of the five parking levels, we designed two 60-foot bays of parking that corkscrew around the core of the building and weave through the stairs and elevators,” Wilson said. “We created extensive schematic building models to plan for shapes that carried through a multi-layer cake of concrete plates. Any inefficiencies of the floor plate had to be given up and then we worked all of the living units around that.”
PARIC’s longstanding working relationship with the city of Clayton no doubt played a role in how smoothly the 212 project progressed, Giacoletto said. “The relationship between the contractor and the local municipality is critical,” he said. “Knowing that PARIC had completely renovated the Clayton Police and Municipal Building a few years ago and knew what we needed to do to comply with local building permits was huge. The city of Clayton was phenomenal to work with and truly had a vision for this project and what it would mean to the community.”
Although leasing rates have not yet been announced, 212’s apartment amenities include white quartz kitchen countertops, stainless steel appliances, floor to ceiling windows with nine-foot ceilings (in deluxe units), oversized walk-in closets, a full-size washer and dryer and custom wide-plank flooring throughout. All units feature a 1GB Internet speed. Select apartments are equipped with private balconies, according to Giacoletto. For more information on 212 Clayton, see www.212clayton.com.
PARIC is currently pursuing other similar living projects in the St. Louis market, Giacoletto said.