Boulevard-St. Louis: Missouri’s New Shopping Alternative

Well I guess sooner or later it had to happen. The neighborhood that I live in just west of St. Louis is becomingâÂ?¦wellâÂ?¦.trendy. There I said it. First there was the clustering of small art galleries and coffee shops along the main drag of Manchester Road, right across the street from the Shop and Save, then came the Monarch restaurant. The Monarch used to be a middle scale eatery called Bobby’s Creole. You could get a decent Jambalaya there and the wine list was short, but impressive, and it didn’t cost you a fortune. Now they serve “international and cutting edge cuisine” and the prices have went way up. Then there’s the guy in a white shirt who is always trying to park your car for you when you pull up.

About a mile up the road from all of this is a behemoth of a shopping center called the Galleria. Supposedly, it is one of the ten busiest shopping centers in the country. The Galleria sits smack dab between the two townships of Clayton and Richmond Heights. They both have a pretty good tax base and a very high median income to match. Heck, they have been talking for years about merging the two cities together to get the cash flow even higher. Wal-Mart was finally able to buy their way in to Richmond Heights last year, but they put them on the southern fringe, away and definitely out of sight of the upscale shopping center.

Now it looks as though the Galleria might get a little company with the first stage opening of Boulevard-St. Louis this weekend right across the street. Boulevard-St. Louis is called a “lifestyle center.” This is an upscale shopping area spread out over a few blocks that is “shopper-friendly.” It mixes high-end chain stores, restaurants, specialty shops that are new to the area, local retailers and housing, all in an atmosphere that is supposed to be like a downtown streetscape. This is the latest trend in retailing that is sweeping the country.

Developers are getting tired of drab, sprawling indoor malls and are moving toward smaller outdoor centers that are more aesthetically pleasing and offer easier access to the upscale stores. There were 30 of these new type of shopping centers in the country in 2002, but that number jumped to 120 by the end of last year. 20 to 40 more are scheduled to open by the year 2006, compared to about 10 of the traditional regional malls. The lifestyle centers reflect a lesser dependence on big box department stores and more emphasis on specialty shops. This, they say, is what the consumer wants.
And, if you are really a shopaholic, you can even live right above the stores. No more hassle to find a parking spot at the mall during the Christmas season. The lifestyle centers have food courts, coffehouses, restaurants and even bars, all right outside your door.

Boulevard-St. Louis is still in Phase 1 of its development, but in the future expect to see stores like Crate and Barrel, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Ann Taylor Loft, Bombay Company, Relax the Back, Brides by Demetrios, Kayak CafÃ?©, and Omaha Steaks, among others.

This weekend about 75 percent of Phase 1 will be completed. Upstairs from all the shops will be about 74 luxury apartments known as the Allegro. These apartments feature 10 ft. high ceilings and large windows that offer a view of the shopping areas. Rents for the smaller efficiencies begin at about $1,000 a month. The developer plans to begin work on Phase 11 next year.

Just think, I used to think that it was cool when my uncle lived upstairs from the corner bar.

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