Loop retail study finds potential for growth

Plan seeks to strengthen area as premier destination in collaboration with University City, St. Louis, business owners, WUSTL

The East Loop and West Loop Special Business districts and Washington University in St. Louis have released the Delmar Loop Area Retail Plan & Development Strategy, the results of a study that found potential for retail growth in the Delmar Boulevard Loop area in St. Louis and University City, Mo.
The study was led by a steering committee of area property and business owners, residents, local government representatives and WUSTL administrators.
It found sufficient demand for additional retail space of 155,000 square feet and identified the types of retail, restaurant and entertainment opportunities that might best complement existing offerings and attract visitors and consumers.
The study’s Action Plan can be found here.
“The Loop is a vibrant six-block area that includes over 140 specialty shops, with a large percentage of independently-owned and operated businesses,” says Jessica Bueler, owner of family business HSB Tobacconist on Delmar and chair of the West Loop Special Business District.

“We are excited to collaborate on future retail development plans with Washington University to ensure that this historic district continues to flourish.”

“The demand data will enable us to attract more unique owner-operated shops and galleries and, for the first time ever, we have the tools to recruit unique specialty national retailers who want to place a flagship store in St. Louis — and what better place than the Loop?” says Joe Edwards, owner and developer of numerous establishments in The Loop and chair of the East Loop Special Business District.
The strengthening of The Loop area means a more dynamic, diverse and safe area for the WUSTL community to live and explore, says WUSTL’sCheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and local government affairs.
“Survey research showed that university undergraduates spend about one-quarter of their disposable dollars in The Loop,” Adelstein says.
“With a greater variety of retail stores and restaurants, students, as well as faculty and staff, will have more options to support the local business district — and even better, they can walk to these amenities.”

The study

The study, which began in April 2011, evaluated the market mix of businesses and amenities in the area along the Delmar Loop Trolley Route. The trolley will run between University City’s City Hall along Delmar Boulevard and then south at DeBaliviere to the Missouri History Museum. It is scheduled to debut in 2013.
The study also examined the types of eateries, stores and entertainment areas that are in the most demand in The Loop, based on area and visitor demographics and buying power as well as the needs of current and potential shoppers.
The study divided the Trolley Route into three areas: District 1 (The Loop, from the University City Hall to Hodiamont); District 2 (the East Delmar/DeBaliviere Neighborhood); and District 3 (the Forest Park MetroLink station area).
The study indicates that The Loop area — or District 1 — is one of the most viable destinations in the St. Louis region for retail, entertainment and culture, but recent economic conditions have slowed growth.
As a result, The Loop area has unmet demand for 155,000 square feet of retail space, including grocery, general and personal care merchandise, eateries and retail, and for 30,000 square feet of commercial business space. There also may be demand for mixed-use residential space, the study showed.
Among the study’s recommendations for The Loop were to strategically add attractive retail, such as Urban Outfitters, and strategically develop infill retail on empty lots along Delmar. Other recommendations for The Loop include developing and better utilizing parking areas; additional security; public realm improvements; and assembling and developing a grocery site.
The study also recommends adding retail and mixed-use development and public realm improvements along District 2 and 3 to revitalize the regions and promote transit-oriented development.
The study was conducted by HR&A Advisors of New York and by the St. Louis firms Research & Planning Group and H3 Studio Inc., which was founded by John Hoal, associate professor of architecture in WUSTL’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Recommended initiatives

The study recommends The West Loop and East Loop Special Business districts join to form a Loop Community Improvement District and that commercial assessment of Loop-area businesses be increased to fund improvements and outreach.
The study suggested that WUSTL contribute to funding as well.
With these new resources, the study suggested creating retail outreach materials and hiring a full-time retail recruitment coordinator.
Other recommended initiatives include funding capital improvements and hiring additional personnel or services to keep The Loop area clean and safe and to coordinate and market events.
“The university is fortunate to have one of the ‘10 Great Streets in America’ at its front door,” Adelstein says, referring to the area’s 2007 designation by the American Planning Association.
“The continued vibrancy of The Loop is a priority for Washington University as it is a unique amenity for our students, faculty and staff. If The Loop owners and merchants are willing to provide a higher level of funding for shared services, the university will provide support as well.”

The next step

The results and recommendations of the study have been shared with The Loop Special Business districts, and those entities currently are discussing implementation options, Adelstein says.
WUSTL has retained HR&A Advisors to begin the process of recruiting businesses — such as a grocery store, pharmacy and others — to The Loop. HR&A also will assist with developing marketing materials for The Loop area.
“The project has created a great opportunity for Washington University to work closely with Loop businesses,” Adelstein says. “We look forward to continuing this collaboration in ways that will benefit owners and businesses in The Loop and the surrounding communities.”