February 15, 2008
  St. Louis’ Historic Lemp Brewery Converts to Upscale, Mixed-Use Development

by Russell Boniface
Associate Editor

How do you . . . transform a 19th century, German-style brewery into a modern, mixed-use development?

Summary: Wichita-based WDM Architects and St. Louis-based Ebersoldt + Underwood Architecture (E+U) have designed plans for Garrison Development to adaptively reuse the historic Lemp Brewery complex in St. Louis. Plans call for redeveloping the 14-acre site into more than 400 residential apartments and approximately 75,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. At $150 million, the project is one of the largest historic redevelopment projects in St. Louis. Construction is expected to begin in May 2008 and be completed in three phases over the next four years.

The million-square-foot, Lemp Brewery complex is a St. Louis landmark and icon. The brewery was founded in 1840 by Adam Lemp, who introduced German lager beer to St. Louis. His lager-style beer was brewed in underground natural caves that acted as a cooling system. Subsequent buildings were constructed until the Prohibition closed the plant in 1919. The site continued development through the 1950s under the International Shoe Company. The complex, south of downtown near the Anheuser-Busch headquarters, has signature design elements, including its exposed brick, arched windows, tall ceilings, and pilasters.

Mixed-use development on tap
The adaptive, upscale redevelopment project by WDM Architects and E+U will blend the brewery complex and surrounding neighborhood into one community of apartments and commercial and retail space. Mike Seiwert, AIA, principal at WDM, says the design will build upon the integrity of the existing 19th-century architecture. “The industrial warehouse feel to the whole complex has to be carried on in the new design for Garrison Development, a long-time client of WDM, to receive federal historical tax credits,” says Seiwert. Garrison Development has had several historical adaptive reuse projects throughout the Midwest. Each time, the projects get a bit larger, Seiwert notes, and all involve historic tax credits.

“Everything has to be reviewed through National Park Service for historical significance to receive the federal historical tax credits,” Seiwert continues. “To qualify, the historic structure has to pretty much remain as is in its historical significance. One way to look at it is nothing is going to change. All the details, like the arched window design, are very important to keep. Anything you add, such as amenities in this case, all have to relate to what is already there. We’ll improve on the historical significance.”

The largest of the buildings has 105,000 square feet of space, and the warehouse’s tall ceilings and spaces lend themselves to loft design. “These are massive masonry buildings that have been vacant for years. Getting the complex vibrant, getting people down there, and the energy people are going to see will really be great,” Seiwert says.

Exiting a big challenge for the brew crew
The biggest challenge in the design of the reused brewery complex was creating exits. “All these buildings go back to the early 1800s. After the original building, they just kept on building, either next to or atop existing buildings, and the site continued its development into the 1950s under the International Shoe Company. It ended up with adjacent buildings that are interconnected on the upper floors and base levels.

“As a warehouse, you didn’t have to worry about exiting or occupant loads, but as a residential R2 designation there needs to be adequate stairs and elevators to accommodate all the people to get them out of a four- or five-story building that might otherwise have only two exits that are too close together,” explains Seiwert.

Seiwert says it was advantageous to have the local representation of St. Louis-based E+U on the design project. What advice does he have for architects working on historic restoration? “You have to be familiar with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards,” he says. “Work with your state preservation office and the National Park Service to understand what everybody’s expectations are for replacing a historic structure with something that matches its original historic properties.”

news headlines
recent related
Calgary Redevelopment Claims First LEED Platinum Multi-Family Residence
Cultural Cornerstone Anchors Grand Rapids Revitalization

To learn more about the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation visit the National Park Service Web site.

To see the latest offerings from the AIA Historic Resources Committee, visit their page on AIA.org.

For information on offerings from the AIA Regional and Urban Design Committee, visit AIA.org.