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Ballwin gets report on former city hall site

The city of Ballwin has a unique and well-located piece of property on its hands now that city offices have moved to the new administration building a short distance away in Vlasis Park.

The former city hall on the northwest corner of Manchester Road and Seven Trails Drive potentially could be used for any number of purposes. Add some adjoining property to the site and the possibilities increase.

But, all things considered, what is the best use for the site?

A team from the St. Louis-based Urban Land Institute [ULI] has weighed in on the issue after several days of study and conversations with city officials and other stakeholders. Their findings and conclusions occupied a major part of the Ballwin Board of Aldermen’s May 13 meeting.

ULI’s mission is to provide leadership in responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities.

Headed by Natasha Das, the ULI technical assistance panel examined a number of questions about the site, adjoining properties and potential uses for the land, all of which would benefit from a larger parcel that included an adjoining property.

Although uses such as general office, retail, medical office space and multi-family residential are possible, the ULI group raised concerns and other potential problems about each and concluded that a civic use and integrating the land into the park was the best alternative.

The city is on the low end of park acreage for the current population, the report declared. Also, its proximity to Olde Towne Plaza offers the potential for a future city center if the Plaza ever becomes a candidate for mixed-use redevelopment.

With the site’s pronounced grade, a civic space could include an amphitheater with flexibility for other uses, along with a pavilion providing facilities that could be leased for indoor and outdoor activities. Adjoining space could accommodate food trucks, a market for farmers, craft vendors and other small businesses and/or an art walk.

Such a use would provide a desirable “front door” for Ballwin, a welcoming entry to Vlasis Park and, with creative programming ideas, would be a destination-type civic space.

However, if there’s a strong desire to sell the property to gain its cash value, the panel recommended the city conduct a study to determine its value for retail or multi-family use. 

City Administrator Bob Kuntz later said an aldermanic work and planning session will be held sometime in July and that the ULI findings and recommendations will be on the agenda for further review.

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