Will Transformed St. Louis Centre Building Succeed Where Old Mall Failed?

Categories: Architecture

All photos by Chris Naffziger unless otherwise noted
The Mercantile Exchange at Sixth and Washington, site of the former St. Louis Centre.
When it opened in 1985, St. Louis Centre was to be downtown's remedy to decades of retail business lost to the suburbs. Instead the massive shopping center -- said to be the largest urban mall when it opened in 1985 -- was a tremendous flop. Within a decade of its debut, St. Louis Centre was struggling to keep retailers, and by 2006 the nearly vacant mall shuttered for good.

The old St. Louis Centre, months away from demolition in 2010, showing its tired, grimy exterior.
Yet as a new exhibit at Center for Architecture and Design + CEL suggests, it would be premature to write off St. Louis Centre as a total failure -- especially now that the building's recent metamorphosis seems much more likely to attract the sustained foot traffic that eluded the original project. Through a series of displays, including photographs and conceptual drawings, one can see how the developer Amos Harris and architect Robert Neely of Forum Studio worked out the problems of the old mall by acknowledging the building's urban environment.

Courtesy of Forum Studio
The Railway Exchange Building, shortly after the demolition of the bridge that connected it to the old St. Louis Centre.

Continue to the next page for more on St. Louis Centre's rebirth.

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