Local news, local politics and community events for West St. Louis County Missouri.
44 I COVER STORY I April 11, 2018 WEST NEWSMAGAZINE @WESTNEWSMAG WESTNEWSMAGAZINE.COM Twin Oaks branches out with new town hall, economic development Twin Oaks town hall By JESSICA MESZAROS For a city with a current population of under 400 people and a size of about 0.27 square miles, Twin Oaks is digging deep and carving out an identity in St. Louis County with a new town hall and economic development slated to approximately double the size of the city in 2019. On March 28, the city kicked off its growth with the grand opening of its firstever town hall, located at 1393 Big Bend Road, on the southwestern corner of the Twin Oaks Schnucks Plaza parking lot. The single-story facility is roughly 5,500- square feet. It cost about $1.7 million to create. City staff moved into the facility in February. For years, the community’s administrative offices occupied leased space in a storefront in the Twin Oaks Schnucks Plaza. “The new town hall [has been] 12 years in the making,” Mayor Russ Fortune said. “We started saving money 12 years ago and waited for the right time. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work and residential input.” At its grand opening celebration, the new building was well received by city staff and residents alike. “It looks absolutely beautiful,” resident Dave Johnson said. “It’s really impressive. I went up to the old city hall once ... to pay a bill. You walked in, and there was a counter right there in front of you and that was it. That was as far as a resident could go in.” The new town hall is split into two areas, with one housing the city’s administrative offices and the other containing a multipurpose community room that also serves as the Board of Aldermen chambers. The room can be divided into larger and smaller meeting rooms and, according to Fortune, the city is looking to open the area as a potential meeting space for nonprofit groups and local clubs. “I know we have a lot of local nonprofits and clubs who might be interested in the space. It can really be transformed into a place to be used by many people in the community,” Fortune said. Celebrating the Twin Oaks community extends to the art on town hall walls, featuring artwork by longtime Twin Oaks resident George Edward “Ed” Smith. Smith, 97, used his artistic skills to depict images from the city’s park and other scenery, done years prior to the conception of the city hall. “I would just go down to the park with all my supplies, and I would sit and do these sketches,” Smith said. Smith began working with pencils and paintbrushes many years ago, even before serving as a B-17 pilot for the Eighth Army Air Corps. Smith said he was shot down over Germany and was held as a prisoner for 16 months before being liberated in 1945. Smith lived in the Twin Oaks condominiums for about 34 years. Though he no longer lives within the city limits, he returned to Twin Oaks for the building’s grand opening and gave the new town hall his stamp of approval. “It’s quite an impressive place,” Smith said. “It’s unbelievable.” Branching out and up Founded in 1938 and originally designated as a village, Twin Oaks obtained fourth-class city status via public election in November 2016. The city has about 392 residents and is about 173 acres in size and bordered by a mix of municipalities and unincorporated St. Louis County. While the city might seem like a sapling, it is quickly branching out in terms development and population. Around the time the city began its town hall construction in 2017, efforts also were underway for a $57 million redevelopment of the Big Bend Square site, located directly across Big Bend Boulevard from the new town hall. The process included the demolition of a former Schnucks market at the western end of the site and renovation of the remaining buildings’ facades. Where Schnucks once stood, a new mixed-used development is rising up – topping out at five stories tall. The development will add about 17,000 square feet of additional business and retail space to the existing 25,000 square feet of city retail and include 219 high-end luxury apartments. The new apartments are projected to add another 300 to 350 residents to the city, effectively doubling its population. The retail portion of the project will retain the Big Bend Square name; however, the new apartment complex will be referred to as the Village at Twin Oaks Apartments. The development is being built by Propper Construction Co. with Haley Holdings Seven LLC serving as its investment group. Planned improvements to Big Bend Square include additional landscaping, modern lighting and architectural lifts to existing facades. Other improvements to the overall area include widening the sidewalks, enhancing lighting and upgrading the parking lot to enhance the area’s walkability and access. According to Tim Breece, a representative of developer Haley Holdings Seven The upcoming Village at Twin Oaks Apartments as seen from Hwy. 141 LLC and president of Propper Construction Services, the area was designed with walkability in mind. “We’re trying to give it this walkable element for the residents that are going to live there in the apartments,” Breece said. “There are 219 [apartments] planned, and for those people to be able to come down and walk to all the services in the center, that’s really what we’re going for. Prior to Haley Holdings Seven LLC and Propper Construction Services becoming interested in the site, the location sat vacant for almost a decade. “There was just this big lull,” City Administrator Kathy Runge said. “It just sat vacant.” Although city staff received multiple offers for the location, none of the developments suited the image of the city, Runge said. Proposals included those for various retail stores, a fitness center and even an ice rink. “We received offers for the location, but we just didn’t feel some of them were appropriate,” Alderman Jeff Graves said. Now, the area is being looked at as a centralized hub for the potentially expanding city. “We think of it as a town center or a possible town square,” Breece said. “That’s kind of what we’re going for. The apartments will definitely increase the population of Twin Oaks, but it’s a town square or town center concept that’ll be there. Not only do we have the shops that are there currently, but we’re adding around 17,000 square feet of additional shops to the center. Those will be new shops that will open up with services that we think will be appealing to the residents of Twin Oaks and the surrounding areas.” The development’s ground-floor stores would add an estimated 20 percent more
FACEBOOK.COM/WESTNEWSMAGAZINE WESTNEWSMAGAZINE.COM April 11, 2018 WEST NEWSMAGAZINE I COVER STORY I 45 commercial space to the city. According to Breece, multiple businesses and restaurants have expressed interest in the complex. “There’s interest in the center,” Breece said. “We don’t have anyone to announce and we can’t say much yet, but I think it’ll be very nice when it’s all done and we’ll be able to let people know who they are once we get everything all figured out.” According to Breece, the site’s proximity to major highways was intentionally chosen to increase accessibility. “We think the development is going to be very appealing because of its location at Big Bend and Hwy. 141 and [in relation to] nearby employment centers,” Breece said. “It’s got easy access to 141, which can take you down to I-44 or up to I-64 quite easily. We think that’s going to be attractive from an employment standpoint.” Another selling point, according to Breece, is that the luxury apartment will offer amenities not currently implemented in any other nearby multi-family buildings. “None of the apartment complexes around that area have those really nice, outdoor top decks or outdoor rooftop swimming pool,” Breece said. “We’ll also have a nice business center and community The aldermanic chamber of the new Twin Oaks town hall rooms within the facility.” While a small portion of apartments is set for completion by November 2018, the full complex should be complete and open for occupants by the end of January 2019. Projected rental rates are said to start around $1,300. “We’ve already had a lot of interest in the community,” Breece said. One community for life Children new to the area will attend schools in the Valley Park School District. According to Fortune, the impact on the district was examined by the city prior to the new development’s approval. “Before we took this project on, we involved Valley Park School District and wanted to know what the impact would be to their school district,” Fortune said. “They assured us that they had the capacity to take on additional students.” The Village isn’t the only development on the city’s horizon. According to Fortune, the city also is planning re-development for its old town area, inspired by Kirkwood’s historic areas. Some other development ideas include a managed-care facility with cottages adding to the existing condominiums in the area. “You could theoretically go from the apartment-style living, and then, as you get older, move into a more private cottage area. Then, you could actually move into a long-term care facility,” Fortune said. 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Within a month of graduating, she took a position as managing dentist with Washington Square Dentistry in Washington, Missouri. Just a few years later, Smith took over as owner and the business became Washington Smiles Complete Health Dentistry. Smith worked to modernize her practice and expand its services, making sure dental health was seen as a component of overall health. In her first year of ownership, the practice saw a large increase in new patients. Smith used innovative approaches to growing her business, such as offering digital x-rays and a patient referral program. Smith continued to increase her practice, adding additional treatment rooms, more employees and eventually expanding to multiple locations. It’s not all about revenue for Smith; she devotes much of her time and resources to give back to the community. She has traveled to Honduras to provide free dental care for hundreds who lacked access to it. 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