When the City of St. Louis issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the old Shaw Theatre building at 39th Street and Shaw Avenue, we knew we wanted to be part of its redevelopment.

The vision we have developed is of a dynamic space that contributes something new to the neighborhood, for the neighbors. It’s flexible, it will evolve, with the neighborhood playing the lead role in its success and adaptation.

The Shaw Public Market would feature two dozen rental spaces for artists, crafters, and food vendors. The concept also includes a second floor market-rate apartment, a cafe and small event space and live performance area for music and cooking lessons.

The density of vendors and activity in the building will achieve the first redevelopment goal, to “contribute to the commercial activity of the neighborhood”. Even better, the second of the two stated goals, to “preserve the historic building and its character defining features” is not only accomplished, but the preserved building is open and meant for the public in keeping with its original intent.

It’s expected that several vendors would be from the Shaw neighborhood, providing an entrepreneurial outlet and small business opportunity for residents. The market could also provide space for vendors at the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market who wish to be open throughout the week and in colder months. The initial response from those contacted has been incredible.

Renovation of the building would include demolition of the 7,000 sf interior, opening the ground floor to the original roof and clear spanning trusses and revealing the original stage proscenium. A new entrance awning, inspired by the original theater marquee, would be built to announce the building’s prominence and reflect its history. Parking would be provided in two lots being made available for the redevelopment.

The market itself would be a 501c3 organization. Vendor spaces would be available on 6-month to one year leases. Working on a consignment model, the market would not take any percentage of sales.

The Shaw Theatre opened in 1915 as part of the Arthur Theatres chain with seats for 1,140. The single-floor theatre was unique, with a relatively austere front and large lobby for neighborhood theatre goers. Once centrally located in the neighborhood, the coming of Interstate 44 meant it was then on the edge. The theatre operated until 1957, when it was converted to a drug store, then a corner market. It is now vacant.

Proposals for redevelopment will be considered by the city’s Community Development Administration (CDA) and Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), as well as the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association (SNIA). Ultimately, the Shaw community will determine the future life of the Shaw Theatre.

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