After decades of sitting empty, the Arcade building has reopened as a mixed-use, mixed-income housing development in St. Louis.
Built in 1906, the Arcade building is a historic landmark. Originally housing offices and retail, it was once known as the largest indoor shopping mall in the country as well as the largest concrete structure in the world. After shutting its doors around 1978, the Arcade building remained vacant until Dominium, an experienced affordable housing developer, purchased and rehabilitated it as housing and commercial space.
At 282 units, Arcade Apartments is the largest housing development in downtown St. Louis in the past 50 years. Over the years, other developers had looked at repurposing the building, but none of their plans was ever realized. Dominium, which has adapted a flour mill, brewery, and other unique buildings into housing, had the experience and vision to get the job done.
As a result, Dominium was able to restore a historic gem. Experts were hired to photograph every inch of the exterior of the building in high resolution, which helped a team of architects and masonry and building envelope experts determine which areas were in need of repair. Additionally, more than half of the building’s parapets were damaged, had fallen off, or were removed and had to be replaced. Over 100 failed sills had to be replaced, too, having allowed water to seep behind the façade.
Inside, Dominium created modern housing, with 9% of the units reserved for households earning no more than 50% of the area median income (AMI), 62% serving households at 60% of the AMI, 6% serving those at 80%, and 23% at market rate.
Like several of the company’s recent projects, Arcade Apartments is designed as artist lofts, a move that aims to bring a new, creative class of residents to downtown. The development features state-of-the-art dance, paint, and music studios and other spaces for residents.
The 19-story development also features classrooms, labs, and an art museum serving Webster University.
“The community wanted this,” says Jeff Huggett, a partner at Dominium. “We knew that from the beginning.”
That support was vital, as the $118 million deal required the efforts of multiple stakeholders, according to Huggett, who calls the Arcade the most complicated deal Dominium has ever done.
Dominium split the project into two different ownership entities. The affordable housing portion was financed primarily with tax-exempt bonds and low-income housing tax credits. Requiring a different set of funding, the project’s market-rate units and commercial portion used New Markets Tax Credits. On the National Register of Historic Places, the development also utilized federal and state historic tax credits. U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. was a key partner in the deal, investing approximately $56 million in the housing, federal historic, and New Markets credits.
“The need to get enough resources to do this project the right way required us to do a complicated transaction,” Huggett says.