South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Opinion divided on car wash and gas station at Sunset Hills motel site


By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor

Everyone in Sunset Hills would like to see the site of the former Econo Lodge redeveloped, but opinion is divided over whether a 24-hour gas station and car wash — even a luxury one — should be the project selected for the site.

The derelict hotel, on a prime commercial site in the city at 3720 S. Lindbergh Blvd., closed in February after St. Louis County code inspectors declared the building “unfit for human occupancy” and forced it to shutter. The hotel is now owned by a bank.

Residents packed the Board of Aldermen meeting last week to make their opinions known either way, with nearby residents objecting to the increased traffic and some nearby businesses supporting the project as an upgrade from the abandoned building that currently stands at the site. Of the 21 speakers, 14 spoke against the gas station and seven spoke in favor.

The proposed Tidal Wave Luxury Car Wash development would also include a full-service car wash with employees washing cars, a drive-thru Smoothie King, a Kaldi’s coffee and donut shop and a “convenience market,” which developers say would be a bit more upscale than an average convenience store.

Even the city of Sunset Hills is questioning whether the Tidal Wave is the “highest and best use” of the former Econo Lodge.

“Staff believes this may not be the highest and best use of the property and this development should be considered carefully,” Public Works Director Bryson Baker told the board at the Aug. 14 meeting.

The project proposed for the 2.57-acre site on the corner of South Lindbergh and East Watson would mirror an existing Tidal Wave in the Chesterfield Valley.

The developer would demolish the 11,500-square-foot hotel, which was built in 1975 and later became notorious for its many calls to the Sunset Hills Police Department, including a 2013 meth lab bust and later tales of prostitution, drugs and felons on the lam hiding their stolen vehicles on the property. Many of the incidents were outlined in city proceedings to revoke the hotel’s business license in 2016. After that, it was operated under a receivership as the Sunset Lodge.

To ease traffic and, according to a traffic study, not increase wait times for traffic moving from East Watson to South Lindbergh, Tidal Wave proposes two exits onto East Watson. The developer would widen East Watson to add a second left turn lane at the traffic light.

With those changes, “we’ve mitigated the traffic impact,” said the developer’s representative, Brandon Harp of Civil Engineering Design Consultants. He added, “We can’t force our neighbors to accept it. I think in due time that happens.”

Although neighbors opposed any increase in traffic, Ward 4 Alderman Mark Colombo noted, “Any successful redevelopment at this intersection is going to increase traffic,” but it has to be managed.

Mary Christina Reichardt, who lives about two miles away, said, “Today people want handy, accessible services, and it’s a draw for people who want to live here. Leaders carry the responsibility to make things better for future generations.”

But Ryegate resident Randall Latal asked, “Do we really need another gas station?”

Neighbor Joan Lingeman noted, “Nothing good happens in the middle of the night…. I don’t want that boarded-up hotel there any more than anyone else does, but I think you need to look not at the short view but at the long view and think, is this really the best use of the property?”

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