The Coronado Hotel, built in 1925, was the fashionable meeting spot of mid-town St. Louis. But following the commercial and population trends plaguing most urban centers, business shifted to the suburbs, trailed by the prosperous residents. By the 1980s, the neighborhood had fallen on hard times. The Coronado was purchased by neighboring St. Louis University for use as student dormitories, but the cost of maintenance of the aging structure became overwhelming and the building was resold. By 1986 the building was abandoned. Though strategically located near the entertainment district of Grand Center, a major Mid-western University, interstate highways, and the downtown business district, the site suffered under the stigma of real or perceived environmental contamination and had been shunned by a number of developers and investors.
Canton received a Brownfield Assessment Pilot grant of $200,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region V. This federal grant can be used for environmental site assessments, as well as the investigation and identification of redevelopment options. The planning group chosen by the City was Vandewalle & Associates (V&A). V&A helped the City raise $120,000 in additional funding from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). As part of the redevelopment team, Environmental Operations, Inc. (EOI) was selected by Canton and V&A to conduct the assessments necessary to define the site’s environmental concerns. EOI and V&A have since secured an additional $200,000 in supplemental Brownfield grants for the project.
Amrit and Amy Gill, owners of Restoration St. Louis, Inc., purchased the Coronado and the neighboring Lindell Towers in 2001. Exploring creat ive financing avenues, they hired Environmental Operations, Inc. (EOI) to assist with the application to the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) for Brownfield Redevelopment Program tax credits. EOI conducted a Phase I assessment and asbestos and lead-based paint inspections in order to provide cost estimates for the application. Federal and State Historic Preservation tax credits were used in conjunction with the Brownfield program.
Once accepted into the DED program, EOI enrolled the project in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ (MDNR) Voluntary Cleanup Program. EOI’s resourceful negotiation and coordination with the MDNR helped to manage the asbestos/lead-based paint cleanup and interior demolition in the most cost- and time-efficient manner.
EOI removed more than 15,000 linear feet of asbestos-containing thermal system insulation and 3,000 square feet of boiler insulation, as well as the 15 stories of ceiling and floor tiles and associated mastic. In addition, fluorescent light bulbs, light ballasts, and Freon was removed and properly disposed of. Loose and flaking lead-based paint was scraped and removed, and the lead-based paint in good condition was encapsulated. EOI developed an Operation and Maintenance Plan for the lead-based paint left in place. Debris from the interior demolition had to be hauled off-site for proper disposal as a regulated material due to the presence of friable asbestos and lead.
There is no question that the neighborhood of the Coronado Place development has undergone a transformation in the eyes of the community. The empty and decaying old hotel, a poignant reminder of past grandeur, is once more filled with light, music, and activity. More than $41 million has been invested in the site, and more than 100 jobs have been created to date. Interest has been spurred in redevelopment of the surrounding properties with new housing and commercial investment. The redevelopment has altered the dynamics of the neighboring communities, generating a sense of hope and optimism.