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Cortex To Construct New Building; TechShop Will Anchor


TechShop, the membership-based DIY workshop, will move into a new building when it arrives in St. Louis next year.

It had been expected to set up shop in the Brauer building at Boyle and Forest Park Avenue. But Dennis Lower, CEO and president of St. Louis’ innovation district Cortex, said after two separate assessments, it became clear renovation wasn’t economically viable.

"We tried valiantly to save it, but we couldn’t," he said.

Instead, the Brauer building will be torn down in March and a 60,000 square foot building will go up in its place. Expected to cost nearly $24 million, the three-story structure will draw design elements from other buildings within Cortex, Lower said. It will also include an outdoor space that will connect with Cortex’s Public Commons, now under construction.

"From our perspective it was the right place to put TechShop, in part because TechShop is a membership organization that’s open to the community," he said. "This entire central core along Boyle is really a public commons, a public space."

Cortex has worked hard to bring the company to St. Louis, helping raise $3 million in capital and recruiting membership commitments. Already in eight other cities, TechShop provides space, industrial equipment and classes for both amateur and professional inventors. Memberships cost $1,300 annually or can be paid for month-to-month.

TechShop, Cortex, Brauer Building
Credit (Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)
The Brauer building will be demolished in March to make way for a 60,000 square foot new structure, which TechShop will anchor.

Dan Woods, TechShop’s chief operating officer and vice president of business development, said the St. Louis location already has about 500 membership commitments, including with institutions such as Washington University, St. Louis University, University of Missouri-St. Louis and Monsanto.

Woods said while he appreciates the Brauer building, it would have been difficult to make the building work for TechShop. He said the company has been involved in the design of the new building, which is expected to be completed in July 2016.

"It’s just going to be absolutely spectacular," he said. "It’s going to have all the amenities and the space for people to come together, collaborate and create new technologies, products and companies."

The Brauer Supply building was originally constructed in 1919 for about $100,000 as the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company Branch House.  The brick, 2-story building with a basement originally functioned as an office and transfer house and later as a show room for the company to show tractors and harvesters.  Later, the Brauer Supply Co. housed offices and storage for agricultural supplies in the building until 2009.

Andrew Weil, executive director of the preservation group Landmarks Association of St. Louis, said he was disappointed to learn that prior plans to renovate the Brauer building had been scrapped.

"I feel that Cortex’s focus on sustainability and on developing a walkable, human-scaled campus would be well-served by reusing the Brauer building rather than demolishing it," he said in an emailed statement.

Still, Weil said that Cortex should be commended for renovating other buildings, including the old Southwestern Bell building, now the @4240 building, and the Crescent Building. 

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.