Plans For Academic Building Before Council
Webster University seeks city approval for new business school/parking
By James Monahan

May 07, 2010
At a public hearing Tuesday, May 4, representatives from Webster University asked the Webster Groves City Council to approve their plan to construct a 95,000-square-foot academic building for the School of Business & Technology.

The three-story structure will front Garden Avenue on the south between the Loretto Hilton Theater and Nerinx Hall, a site that is currently a parking lot. To replace lost parking spaces the university's plan calls for demolition of houses at 538, 576, and 582 Garden. The structure at 539 Garden would also be demolished to accommodate the new academic building.

When the project is completed the total parking capacity on Webster's campus will be reduced from the current 1,912 spaces to 1,764 spaces. David Stone, the university's director of facilities planning and management, said that despite the loss of spaces there will still be adequate parking to accommodate the needs of students and visitors to the campus.

Construction costs have been estimated at about $20 million. Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLC, serves as design firm for the project.

As required by the city, the university is seeking an amended conditional use permit authorizing the construction project. Included in the plan is a request for council approval to convert the single-family house at 8364 Big Bend Blvd. at Catalina Ave. into an administrative office. The plan also includes a small stormwater retention lake and an outdoor patio and new entrance to the cafeteria facility in Maria Hall at Big Bend and Edgar roads.

Roger Grow, director of planning for the city, said the proposed development is consistent with the university's 1998-99 master plan approved by the city. He said the city staff and plan commission generally endorsed the current proposal, except for the conversion of the house at 8364 Big Bend.

The plan commission has recommended against council approval of the conversion. The house is located in a residential district, and neighbors expressed opposition at the commission's April 5 meeting.

At this week's public hearing Sharon Heisel, who resides on Catalina, asked the council to deny the request to convert the house to administrative use.

"This is not the first time the university has made this request," Heisel said. "An office detracts from the residential neighborhood."

In support of the conversion request Webster University Vice President Karen Luebbert said the house would be used by one full-time and one part-time person only during daytime hours, parking would be prohibited in front of the house, and access would be from the university side of the building.

Addressing the university's petition for approval of its overall plan, Luebbert said the proposal would benefit the students and the community. She said the business and technology building would provide the first new academic classrooms constructed on the Webster campus since 1986.

The building will include 40 classrooms and 50 to 60 faculty offices. Luebbert said the expansion would alleviate the university's need to lease space for night classes at Eden, Nerinx, and Webster High facilities.

The council will continue the public hearing until its May 18 meeting to obtain more information from Missouri American Water Company relative to the possible need for upgrading a water main.

The Webster Groves Plan Commission in April voted not to recommend construction of a new science building as an addition to the Luhr Library on land purchased by the university from Eden Seminary. Webster University has since withdrawn that plan.

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