The Pruitt-Igoe Housing Development

The City of St. Louis is planning to sell  162 acres, over 1,200 parcels, in North St. Louis to developer Paul Mckee. The price? $3.2Million. Mckee already owns some 800 parcels in North City and this latest deal would give him the opportunity to start realizing his vision of a “Northside Regeneration”.  (McKee was also part of a group that recently acquired the 17-acre Bottle District site, just north of the Edward Jones Dome.)

As an added bonus, the City is willing to give McKee a two-year  option to buy the  33-acre former Pruitt-Igoe Housing Development site for $100,000. The deal to sell the 1,200 acres seems rushed (it could close today), but Pruitt-Igoe is included as a two-year option. Was the transaction designed this way so McKee can do an environmental evaluation of the site?  It may be. The $100,000 price tag sounds like a sweet deal but cleaning up a 33-acre site can run in the millions.

A perfect fit

Now, this is nothing against Mr. McKee, but why put all your eggs in one basket? There might be an alternative. Instead of giving McKee another (optional) 33 acres on the north side, why not diversify and give Ingvar Kamprad a call? Kamprad is the founder of the Swedish furniture and design store IKEA (Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd). Our region has been long been wanting a franchise store of this worldwide giant and this might just be the right spot for them.

A birds eye view of IKEA on Pruitt-Igoe site

The Pruitt-Igoe site is located smack in the middle of the St. Louis Metro region. After the New River Bridge opens, downtown-bound traffic from the Illinois side will directly funnel onto Cass Avenue, which leads directly to the P-I site just 1 mile west of the bridge. The same easy route is available to eastbound I-70 traffic coming from the northwestern suburbs. West Countians would have easy access via I-64 or I-44 and the Jefferson exit. The site is only 1 or 2 miles north of the respective Interstates. Traffic from South County on I-55 would use I-44 West and Jefferson.

Perfectly centered, remarkably connected

IKEA has indicated that the St. Louis area could support an IKEA store. They already operate stores in similar-sized or smaller metros like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Austin and Denver. A St. Louis store could service an area with a 250-mile radius, inclusing Memphis and Kansas City. The nearest store to the south is in Dallas.

A clear gap

Not only is the Pruitt-Igoe site centrally located within the region, it’s also the right size. IKEA is looking for 30 acres so P-I fits this profile just right with its 33 acres. An IKEA store employs around 400. This would be a great shot in the arm for St. Louis, and in particular North St. Louis. Most important, an IKEA store on this site might be able to help break the psychological “Delmar Barrier”.

IKEA rendering

City Hall, please give Ingvar Kamprad a call and offer the site for free.  After all, who needs a lousy $100,000* when you can have an IKEA.

Update 2:16 PM: Per Tim Logan, $100,000 is required to hold the 2 year option. The site is for sale at $900,000.