ST. LOUIS — You can still see the city St. Louis once was, in its landscape, often with the empty warehouses time's left behind. Though that could have been the case with the Federal Mogul Foundry—what's happening inside the nearly century-old building is something else entirely.
“You can ask anyone, anyone that works in the building and has been coming here,” said Will Smith, asset manager. “The complete opposite: we're full steam ahead.”
More than 5 years and $220 million have gone into putting the Foundry back on the map—this time, as a 15-acre entertainment complex. At the heart of it will be a food hall with at least 20 different vendors.
"We're really excited to have a mix and diversity of different operators in the space,” he said, adding that the Foundry hopes to have less of a tenant-landlord relationship than a partnership, helping up-and-coming as well as established chefs experiment in the space.
This was all first mapped out in the mind of Smith, son of developer Steve Smith. Inspired by the food halls in cities where he's lived, Will came home to St. Louis in march—in time, he thought, to get the place open. However, this month, instead of opening their doors, project managers announced the delay of opening the public-facing elements of the project—that means the theatre, the event venue, and the food hall.
The Foundry is exploring ways to get people *on* the property though, like an event with "Taste of Black St. Louis" at the end of the month. The businesses leasing Foundry office space area already moved in.
“City Foundry is absolutely happening. There's no doubt about that,” said Smith.
However, what it will look like when it does open is still unclear—and they’re declining to nail down an opening date.
“We don't want to be in a position where we're necessarily potentially creating a conflict of interest, of having people come together that could be unsafe,” he said. “But again, we don't know what's going to happen with this. We don't know how long this is going to last. So we're also working to make sure that we're doing everything we can to be able to open if there still is a presence of COVID so that it's safe.”
So is Will trying to make the 15 acres a slice of the city he wants St. Louis to be?
“Maybe a little bit,” he laughed.
But it’s much more than that.
"We're trying to change not just the physical landscape, but also how people in the city or in the region think about St. Louis,” he said. “We want City Foundry to be alongside the zoo and the arch and the museums as a stop on any tourists or visitors itinerary because they can come and see the best that St. Louis has to offer.”
This story is a companion piece to the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast episode called "Forging ahead at City Foundry". You can download the episode for free and subscribe to wherever you get your podcast. We've included links below to some of the most popular podcast platforms.
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