It had been quite some time, well over a year, since I had walked around downtown Clayton, so when I was finished handing out Prop A literature at the Clayton MetroLink station yesterday around 5:00, I decided to join Steve Patterson and Jason Stokes for a jaunt over to check out the new Centene Center, which recently received the last of its glass skin. The last time I had visited there on the way for a Fatted Calf burger (they recently re-opened after a fire last fall) there was a giant hole in the ground.
You may recall that the southwest corner site at Hanley and Forsyth was formerly home to Harris Armstrong's Sgruggs Vandervoort Barney department store building, which had a long list of retail tenants following the closure of SVB including Dolgin's, Best, and finally the much missed Library Limited Bookstore. Don't get me wrong, I love Left Bank, Subterranean, the recently opened Archive on Cherokee, but there was nothing like Library Limited, which will never be matched by the likes of Barnes & Noble or Borders.
West of the glass tower is a huge and very ugly parking garage. It will be interesting to see if the concrete is clad with another material, but somehow I doubt that will happen. I always find it odd when people spend a lot of effort on the design of a project building like the Centene tower, only to have a monstrosity like this as part of the same project. One redeeming factor is that both the tower and garage will have ground floor commercial space which the City of Clayton righty did not back down on requiring.
The building is going for LEED certification. Hmmm, it is all glass with in-operable windows and a giant parking garage next door. Not sure how green that is? One thing is for sure, it reflects sunlight like a mirror, almost blinding you as you walk down the street. For more commentary on Centene, check out this post last week on Urban Review STL, and for more photos, including pics of the former Library LTD building, my set on Flickr.
Just east of the Centene building, just east of Hanley is the site of the former Shady Oak Theater, which was demolished in November 2008 to make way for a parking lot for the building on the corner. A year and a half later, the "temporary" wood fence that was put up for demolition still fronts the site. I guess the really needed that parking!
After our trek from the Clayton MetroLink station to the Forsyth station, I came to this conclusion: Clayton may be our regions "second downtown", and it does have many "urban" qualities including a grid of streets, alleys, a few nice streets of quaint shops, many restaurants (including the best burger in the region) but it is still largely the same boring home to so many faceless mirrored glass boxes that I remember well as a child... with one more glass box opening later this year.