The first steps leading into the City Foundry are filled with excitement and anticipation. As the delicious smells of the more than 18 local restaurants in the Food Hall fill your nose, the numerous tables displayed with the goods of local businesses grab your attention, and friendly laughter mixed with the catchy rhythms of live local St. Louisan music fills your ears, your senses are never at rest. Located at a center of historical significance in St. Louis, this center of activity brings together the community, supports local businesses, and provides a space for St. Louis to be found. So, what really is the City Foundry?
The City Foundry is a mix of many unique things. With a food hall, a broad selection of local shops, and a Fresh Thyme market, this place is one of pure enjoyment. The food hall has local restaurants such as Buenos Aires cafe, Patty’s Cheesecakes and 4 Hens Creole kitchen.
Cultures and cuisines from Afro-Caribbean, Hawaiian, Columbian, Asian-Mexican among many more are spread throughout the food hall, and enjoyed every day by St. Louisans. Shops on the sides of the street leading into the foundry are that of: Procure- a store promoting only women-made, and locally owned items, as well as Golden Gems- a fun and colorful store whose focus is on empowering women.
Katie Mosher, SLU college student and Poptimism employee at the Foundry’s food court described the City Foundry as, “A food court, like a mall, but it’s not chain restaurants; it’s small businesses, and it’s local communities. It’s businesses that maybe wouldn’t have the opportunity to open up their own restaurant in a building that’s more expensive, so The Foundry has given them an opportunity to have permanent locations for a lot cheaper.”
On the industrial and production side of things, Todd Rogan, director of development services at Lawrence Group, and current employee at the City Foundry’s real estate firm New + Found, described the project as, “An adaptive reuse of a former industrial project into a new community that embraces the creative side of these businesses, by giving them a platform and environment to make that happen.”
Additionally, Fresh Thyme employee and SLU college student Isabella described the Foundry’s neighboring grocery store Fresh Thyme as, “‘Whole Foods but cheaper.’ Because you’re able to find everything that you need pretty easily and it’s not as expensive, especially as a college kid when everything is expensive.”
The local aspects of the City Foundry are really what make it special and a one-of-a-kind destination in St. Louis. As an open structure with shops and restaurants on all sides of the property, in addition to a Fresh Thyme market, there are many things the City Foundry has to offer. However, this shopping-center-like location wasn’t always what we consider it as today.
The City Foundry is built within familiar walls. While the building was originally built in 1929 for Centric Electric as a Foundry (a factory used to produce metal goods), the redevelopment efforts kept the name and building. New + Found served as the architectural brilliance behind the structure and format of the Foundry’s property, and Foss&Company stated that, “The $217 million redevelopment of the site is one of the largest historic redevelopments in St. Louis history,” displaying how this huge transformation came at a hefty price.
Considering the history of the industrial side of the Foundry, the renovation of it was the main factor of where the expenses came from. Rogan can recall trying to first make the place usable, before making architectural improvements. “When you stand here today and see what this is, it’s so different from how it started,” said Rogan, “When the building had been abandoned for 10 years, there were weeds and trees growing out of every gutter, the building was stripped of all value, and the building was really in difficult shape.”
With New + Found, and Lawrence group having a primary focus on taking historical buildings and turning them into something unique and different, the repurposing of the building presented a different challenge. “The easy thing would’ve been to just tear [the building] down, but then you lose the character and the history, and that would’ve happened if Lawrence Group and New + Found hadn’t stepped up with a vision,” said Rogan.
Repurposing resources that are openly available is an important and beneficial strategy to use in the world of business. So, luckily when plans for the City Foundry fell into place, the construction had a perfect place to build. Mosher said, “It’s nice to be someone who lives in St. Louis and see the repurposing of old buildings and things that are already here in a great way.”
[The City Foundry] is breathing life back into the city.”
— Todd Rogan
The difference of the communal atmosphere at the Foundry compared to other locations in St. Louis is what makes this area stand out.
“This is a unique spot,” said Patt Upchurch of Patty’s Cheesecakes, located in the food hall of the City Foundry, “It’s bringing people together, and it’s about community.”
“The food hall is my favorite thing ever and I go all the time with my roommate,” said Isabella, “It gives you different cultures to experience, especially with the different foods.”
As the community of the Foundry is known for being positive, and supportive, so is its relationship with students of SLU, which happens to be only a short walk from the location of the City Foundry.
“When you’re in college, it’s really hard especially if you don’t have transportation to get fresh food and food that you enjoy, and it’s a lot easier to get what you need [at Fresh Thyme],” said SLU student Isabella, “It’s also easier if you don’t have a car but you want to work, and this is a job that I can do because I can walk here, and I don’t have to rely on transportation to get here.”
With looking at the past and present of the City Foundry, questions arise of what the future of it is going to look like. On the City Foundry’s website cityfoundrystl, news of a new mini-golf course with multiple areas of entertainment to come to the Foundry in late December of 2022 are discussed. This upscale, tech-infused mini-golf game known as Puttshack will be an entertaining addition to the already attention-grabbing Foundry.
Rogan said, “The Foundry, as we grow, will hopefully not just serve the local community; It will serve the region. So, if someone is coming to St. Louis for a Cardinal game, or to visit family, we really hope that The Foundry is on their bucket list of things to see.”
As Rogan described, in the end, the City Foundry is only going to get bigger and better.
Mosher said, “it’s always expanding.” Mosher also noted that the future of the Foundry is looking very promising. “They’re building movie theaters coming this fall, a mini golf course, and apartments for SLU,” she said, “I’m a SLU student so maybe there’s an opportunity in the future to get to live here, and work here.”
The City Foundry has left recognizable positive effects on the people of St. Louis.
As Isabella said, bringing attention to, “local St. Louis brands which are really important,” is a powerful and helpful notion. Today the City Foundry supports St. Louis, standing as an influential building complex that embraces its history, and shows promise for the future.