ST. LOUIS (AP) – The already booming University City Loop is about to get a big infusion of money an $80 million project by nearby Washington University.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the plan calls for development of stores in a four- to six-story building, along with apartments for about 550 students. Design work will begin soon and construction could start as early as next January.

The housing units could be occupied starting in August 2014.

Most of the project is in University City, except for a small part in the city of St. Louis. Washington University already owns all the affected property, and no further acquisitions are planned.

The Loop is already a popular area along Delmar Boulevard, where St. Louis and University City come together. It features restaurants and bars, trendy shops, theaters and performance centers.

The project will provide an opportunity for students to live off campus and provide for more and varied stores in the Loop, said Cheryl Adelstein, the university’s director of community relations and local government affairs.

“This is, ultimately, a neighborhood,” she said.

Adelstein said the university has no more room for additional on-campus housing. The Loop project will give more students the opportunity to life off campus but remain in university-run housing, she said.

University City Mayor Shelley Welsch and businessman Joe Edwards, owner of the popular Blueberry Hill restaurant and other Loop landmarks, also support the university plan. Welsch said additional stores and the influx of hundreds of students will help existing businesses prosper.

“This is just an incredible project,” Edwards said.

The Loop has some chain stores, but many of the shops and restaurants are locally owned. Kelly von Plonski, owner of Subterranean Books, hopes it stays that way.

“We have a number of people who come in from out of town and are so excited to find the Loop and the bookstore, in particular,” she said. “They’ve lost a lot of their indie shops.”

But von Plonski said some Loop business people could accept a national store in the area if it was the chain’s only outlet in the St. Louis region. Adelstein said efforts are under way to find retail tenants.

The university is also planning to spend $20 million over the next six years to renovate 25 small apartment buildings in the Parkview Gardens neighborhood north of the Loop.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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