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New plan for apartments in Central West End aims to keep historic building

The earlier plan would have demolished the two existing buildings on the Optimist site for an apartment complex surrounding a pool built in the middle of the site
Credit: SLBJ
Optimist International's headquarters at 4494 Lindell Blvd. A three-story attached structure added in 1978 is at left.

ST. LOUIS — A proposal to demolish the historic Optimist International building in the Central West End and build a new apartment tower in its place was rejected this summer by a St. Louis city board, but the developer is back with plans to keep the midcentury modern structure.

Developer Lux Living is still proposing an apartment tower with about 150 units at 4494 Lindell Blvd., after going back to the drawing board with new architect HOK. The plans, not finalized, have not yet been resubmitted to the St. Louis Preservation Board, which, at the urging of preservationists, rejected Lux Living's initial plan for the site by a 3-2 vote in August. The property is located in the Central West End Historic District.

Lux Living CEO Vic Alston said he is meeting with neighborhood groups this week to get feedback about the revamped plans. He hopes for city approval by the end of the year. A cost estimate for the new proposal was not disclosed. The initial, rejected plan was priced at about $30 million, according to a building permit application filed with the city.

The earlier plan would have demolished the two existing buildings on the Optimist site — a two-story office building completed in 1962 and a three-story attached structure built in 1978 — for an apartment complex surrounding a pool built in the middle of the site. The new plan would demolish the newer building but keep the one that's deemed historic, which is nicknamed “the pavilion.”

Preservationists had urged the city board to reject the earlier plan because Lux would have demolished the pavilion, which was designated as a landmark in a city survey that designated historic midcentury modern architecture. It called the pavilion a top 25 most significant midcentury modern building, out of 2,400 St. Louis structures evaluated.

The two buildings on the site currently serve as the world headquarters of Optimist International, a global volunteer organization. The nonprofit group has shrunk in size in recent years and wants to downsize its office space, but hasn't found a buyer for the property in more than seven years on the market, according to an Optimist real estate broker. Lux Living has the property under contract pending city approval for its development plan. 

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