Despite the sluggish economy, the Grand Center is “Defying Gravity” with new business developments that aim to attract theatergoers, and a college campus just blocks away.
“[The Grand Center] has economic development going on,” said 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis, “even in a tough market.” She called the recent revitalization of the area “very positive.”
During the recent run of the popular musical “Wicked” at the Fox, theater patrons began to see some of the positive changes happening in the area with the opening of Pete and Jeanne Spoto’s newest City Diner location, just steps away from the brass doors of the Fox Theatre.
The 88-seat intimate diner hopes to attract hungry families catching a show, and Saint Louis University students trying to grab a late night burger. Despite the Grand Center location being a third of the size as his popular South Grand restaurant, Pete Spoto thinks he has struck gold.
“The neighborhood is really moving forward,” Spoto said. He believes the diner’s reasonable pricing, kid friend menu, late hours and free Wi-Fi will add to the list of Grand Center successes.
While more restaurants may be on the menu, Grand Center officials are also working on other business projects that include renovating the Metropolitan Building into 74 units of artist housing. Vincent Schoemehl Jr., president and CEO of Grand Center Inc., said the financing stage for the apartments is near completion and could open as early as Summer 2012.
A 136-room Hyatt Place Hotel could soon be towering over the once struggling neighborhood as well. Schoemehl hopes to finish financing the hotel project by the end of the year, which would renovate the old Missouri Theatre building just south of Powell Hall.
Davis adds NPR affiliate, KWMU, will continue to add to Grand Center’s reputation when their new station and offices on Olive open in August, 2011. Construction on that project is set to begin next month, said Davis.
A stimulus funded streetscape project for Grand Boulevard is also set to begin in the next two months, said Richard Bradley, P.E., President of the St. Louis Board of Public Service. The plan calls for new sidewalks and beautification of the districts main thoroughfare.
As surrounding neighborhoods struggle to keep businesses open, Midtown’s Grand Center continues on a path of growth that many hope will become a the premiere destination for arts and entertainment in the region.
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