New charter school and art center planned in $6.1 million Gravois Park development

A new charter school is in the works in the former Holy Cross Lutheran School building in the city’s Gravois Park neighborhood while an art education nonprofit is planning to more than double its capacity.

Both are part of a $6.1 million reinvestment into two old church buildings near Jefferson Avenue and Miami Street.

An EAGLE College Preparatory charter school plans to open in the former Holy Cross Lutheran School at 3630 Ohio Street in time for next school year. It will be the fourth St. Louis EAGLE school, which are run by Open Sky Education. It’s already enrolling students in the new location through fourth grade and plans to add a grade level each year up to eighth grade.

The Intersect Art Center, which currently uses space in the old school, will move to 3636 Texas Avenue, a former Lutheran seminary vacant for many years, Intersect program director Sarah Bernhardt said.

The new location will allow her organization to serve 200 children, up from 50 to 60 now. The space will also have about 4,000 square feet for art exhibitions open to the community and about 25 studios for individual artists.

“We’re about doubling in size and capacity as well,” she said.

Behind the project is 3636 Partners LLC, led by Christopher Shearman. Rise Community Development is a development consultant on the project and has worked with Shearman on past rehab projects.

Alderman Cara Spencer, 20th Ward, said Aaron Massey, principal for the new EAGLE charter school, has become a visible presence in the neighborhood and kids there “already know him.”

She said both projects are a welcome addition to the neighborhood, one of the poorer areas in south St. Louis.

“I think it’s a really good fit,” she said. “This is part of a redevelopment plan that went into place in 1996.”

Indeed, it’s been over 20 years since the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority dangled 10 years of property tax abatement to attract developers to the blocks just west of Jefferson Avenue. Shearman, who also plans to use historic tax credits for the rehabs, isn’t the first to finally take the city up on its offer.

In April, Michael Schwartz’s Blackline Investments LLC submitted a plan for the redevelopment area just up the street at 3600 Texas Avenue. The company plans to turn the old Louis Lange Publishing building there into 15 apartments.