Talk of the Towns: 11.22.17
Ceylon Luxury Apartments, the six-story, multifamily building at 25 N. Central Ave.—at Central and Maryland avenues in Clayton, cattycorner from the Mid-County Branch of the county library—opened last Thursday, Nov. 16. Some might say there’s now a glut of upscale living options right in the middle of the Lou’s ‘second downtown,’ but Katy, bar the door: Centene will be bringing thousands of well-paid workers here in the not-too-distant future. City planners plan for this sort of thing. Opus Group, with AIG Global Real Estate, developed the mixeduse, 120-unit building, which includes 13,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and wider sidewalks for cafe-style sidewalk dining and that urbane sensibility young(ish) professionals seek. Of course, many drivers and pedestrians don’t give a whit about Clayton’s good fortune and are grateful only that the Central/Maryland intersection no longer impedes attempts to get from Point A to Point B. However, for such a modern development, we had to raise a brow at its anachronistic name: Ceylon? The island nation was a British colony until 1948, and changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972. Wouldn’t something like ‘Sri Lanka Suites’ have been more apropos in this day and age?
Looks like the Gateway Arch grounds ‘face-lift’ is raising the bar, finally, for redevelopment just to the north: The Landing soon will be home to a new dining and special events venue once a $3 million investment to transform the 612North building (the former Cutlery Building) is complete. Named after its 612 N. 2nd St. location, the six-floor, 50,000-squarefoot building is undergoing a gut rehab, with highlights to include restored historical features and unmatched views from the top floor … to the east, of the riverfront and Eads Bridge; to the west, of our skyline. It was purchased in 2006 by Munsok So, owner of the local Drunken Fish restaurants, one of them formerly at 612North. While the fourth floor will serve as the Drunken Fish corporate offices, the second and third floors are being retrofitted as office space, scheduled to lease in 2018. The sixth-floor event space, VUE—8,000 square feet with floor-toceiling windows—is set to open next month. So owns other Drunken Fish locations in the Lou, as well as Kansas City. Alas, the last decade or so has not been kind to The Landing: The nine-block district suffered the exodus of half its dining and entertainment establishments in the Aughts and early Twenty-Teens. It’s been trying to come back for a while, although the Arch renovations made its cobblestone blocks even harder to get to. Meanwhile, the cobblestones themselves were in a hot mess, and work to make them more level didn’t help traffic flow. (Driving over them nowadays still might shake some teeth loose.) In 2007, the glitzy Lumière Place casino debuted. So apparently has remained unperturbed—and, speaking of wagers, is betting big that this 150-yearold slice of downtown will continue to come back strong. Seems also that So has an entrepreneurial spirit: As the Arch grounds began to take shape, he recalibrated his initial concept for the building, going all-in to create unique spaces to accommodate metro residents and the greater number of tourists expected to visit the Gateway National Expansion Memorial in the coming years. KOR (a smaller event space) and Korean restaurant Kimchi Guys are taking shape at street level, as is coffee shop Miss Java. From there, it’s a short walk underneath the Eads Bridge to the restored north entrance of the Arch grounds.
Col. Sanders remains dead, but KFC has brought him back like Lazarus. There’s a younger spokescolonel on television, which is kinda creepy, not that it seems to matter much in the metro. The squawk over fried chicken dominance here seems to be between Raising Cane’s and Chick-Fil-A, companies based, respectively, in Baton Rouge and Atlanta. Lee’s, Popeye’s and Churches are better than any of the others—even that of my North Carolina ‘Gaga,’ which I now can admit since she’s out in the universe somewhere. Anyhow, I must’ve blinked and missed the Raising Cane’s that opened in Maplewood at Big Bend and Manchester—which, to the best of my recollection, was once a Shell station. That was rendered obsolete when a sprawling QuikTrip gas, food, beer, cigarettes, good coffee and the kitchen sink station took over the opposite corner (I bet it has passable fried chicken too, or should … but I digress). According to Google the Omniscient, there are about 12 Cane’s in the metro and a mere eight or so KFC joints. Chick-Fil-A has 10 locations, but the cows up there painting misspelled billboards are everywhere. The feathers are flying, and it’s quite a flap to behold, from a distance.
In my neighborhood, illuminated reindeer and some other holiday schlock appeared in somebody’s yard at least a week before Thanksgiving. This is not something to take lightly, if not to the neighborhood association, although any St. Louisan should know that it is a faux pas to install seasonal decorations this much out of season. Maybe these poor souls were transferred from San Diego and thus blissfully unaware of the inflexible way things like this are to be done in these parts, along with other stuff that cannot be changed, like the crappy weather. Anybody around here knows that it’s just shy of an ordinance in any given municipality that ladders must come out of the garage and twinkly lights and inflatable snowmen must be installed on Thanksgiving Day— before anyone can snore in front of televised football. Corporate entities like The Home Depot may get a pass for putting out holiday inflatables in, I dunno, August—for a long time now, online retailers have been eating the cookies that brick-and-mortar retailers leave out for Santa. Still, I was flabbergasted that the City of Richmond Heights—again, more than week before Turkey Day—had greenery snaking up light poles and festive ribbons attached. A city official explained the method to this madness: They had their holiday lighting ceremony at The Heights community center Nov. 17, exactly a week before Black Friday at the Saint Louis Galleria, the municipality’s biggest generator of sales tax income. A holly, jolly humbug to them. Like the curmudgeons of Seinfeld, I’m all for a crisp and crinkly, festive Festivus for the rest of us.
Looking Up is the enormous, unmissable new Tom Friedman sculpture on the grass, smack dab in the middle of the traffic circle at the Forest Park entrance to the Saint Louis Science Center. A biped with its two massive feet placed squarely on terra firma, its head is tilted back 90 degrees, perpendicular to its body, which may give many a viewer a stiff neck. (Perhaps it’s an invertebrate alien with a steely exoskeleton.) Looking Up, arguably, is the most ambitious sculpture from Friedman’s body of work involving the use of crushed aluminum foil, roasting pans and baking tins to create figures that—through a process of molding and lost-wax casting—retain the imprint of the original materials. The shiny, quasi-human figure gazes into the heavens, inviting others to stand at its base and do the same. It’s 33.3 feet tall, which dwarfs the eager little girl who ‘just happened’ to run into the frame of our shot for someone else to take her picture. (We love happy accidents like that!) Born in the Lou in 1965, Friedman received his BFA in graphic illustration from Washington U. in 1988, and an MFA in sculpture from the U. of I in Chicago in 1990. The alien creature of Looking Up is every bit as charming and ungainly as the extraterrestrial in E.T., but it’s entirely too big and heavy to ride, shrouded, as did E.T. in the front basket of the bicycle famously rising into the night sky. The shiny creature’s permanent placement, right outside the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, is perfect. For anyone who hasn’t been there in a while, that’s the northern section of the Science Center, connected by a bridge that straddles I-64—OK, Hwy. 40!