News Column

Movie theater and more coming to Pagedale

July 25, 2014

By Tim Bryant, St. Louis Post-Dispatch



July 25--Health care services, shops and a movie theater coming soon to Page Avenue in Pagedale are among things residents want but are absent in their low-income area.

So says Chris Krehmeyer, president and chief executive of Beyond Housing, a developer of affordable housing. The nonprofit became a commercial developer, too, starting with a Save-A-Lot grocery that opened in 2010.

After the grocery, at 6840 Page, came 42 senior-housing apartments and a bank branch next door. Next up for Beyond Housing is the theater, offices and retail space in the 6700 block of Page. Groundbreaking for the $8.5 million project is expected early August.

Krehmeyer said access to health care and entertainment are among things residents report they want in their area.

"Our thinking is, look, we work for a community," he said. "Our task is to make sure their wishes come true."

A two-story building with street-level store space and health care offices upstairs will go on the site of a transmission repair shop empty for years before it was recently torn down. The theater will rise on the vacant lot next door.

"It's all site ready," Krehmeyer said. "Everything is ready to go."

St. Louis County will have an office on the second floor of the 12,000-square-foot structure to be built at Page and Ferguson avenues. Dr. Dolores Gunn, director of the county's Health Department, said the office will provide social and human services. She noted that Pagedale is in a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area, meaning it has few basic health services and specialty services, such as cardiology.

"There is a huge void of care and a huge void of special care," Gunn said.

Much of the county's operations at the Pagedale center will serve the area's older residents, said Gunn, adding that the leased facility should open early next year.

Krehmeyer said he hopes retailers will occupy the building's first floor.

"We've been talking to a number of folks, and we'll see how that shakes out," he said.

Someone to run the movie theater has yet to be found, but Krehmeyer said several operators have shown interest. Planned is a 375-seat theater with four screens for first-run movies.

Financing the project is Beyond Housing and Enterprise Financial's community development entity, with help from federal New Markets Tax Credits. U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. is contributing $2.8 million in exchange for the tax credits from Enterprise.

Bank officials said the tax credits are crucial to the Pagedale project.

Mitch Baris, president of Enterprise Tax Credit Services, the bank's tax credit division, said the New Markets' equity contribution was key because of uncertainty over the cash flows from the movie theater and retail space.

"If not for this big slug of equity, the deal would not get done," he said.

Tom Oldenburg, vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., said the new buildings will further the area's redevelopment, which began with the Save-A-Lot.

Backers of the projects refer to that section of Page as Pagedale Town Center. The latest work, scheduled for completion next year, should lead to even more redevelopment, Oldenburg said.

"It doesn't bookend anything," he said. "This project is a catalyst for additional economic development."

Pagedale is within the Normandy School District, which after years of turmoil is under state oversight. Beyond Housing leads an effort, called the 24:1 initiative, to improve housing within the district.

Krehmeyer said the district's residents, no matter the school situation, still need good housing and availability of services.

"We'll continue to work with the community to see that they have the vitality they want in their schools and their housing stock," he said.

Krehmeyer acknowledged that rebuilding housing and bringing business to a high-poverty area is a long slog.

"The work of building community takes time," he said. "There's no magic to it other than you keep working at it and keep working at it."

Tim Bryant covers commercial real estate, development and other business stories for the Post-Dispatch. He blogs at Building Blocks, the Post-Dispatch development blog.

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(c)2014 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


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