When Ken Kranzberg became the chair of St. Louis’ Grand Center Arts District in the early 2000s, he and his wife Nancy decided to find a modest space in the neighborhood to create a small entertainment venue where they could also display their personal art collection. Those plans changed, however, after Mayor Vince Schoemehl instead recommended they house the venue in a former Woolworth’s department store that a local nonprofit wanted to redevelop but couldn’t take on alone.
In a Nutshell
What: The opening of 3333, a Kranzberg Arts Foundation (KAF) facility in St. Louis designed to anchor the eastern boundary of the city’s Grand Center Arts District by creating a pedestrian‐centered, walkable arts area and to bring new nonprofits and small businesses to the neighborhood. 3333 is KAF’s ninth development in the neighborhood, and a continuation of the Foundation’s investment in arts-based community development.
Sector: Arts & Culture
Location: St. Louis, MO (Grand Center)
Size: 36,000 square feet
Cost: $4.8 million
Sources of Funding/Financing: St. Louis Development Corporation, U.S. Bank, IFF, Agency cash
IFF Support: $538,811 loan closed in November 2020; Leverage lender and loan servicer for St. Louis Development Corporation New Markets Tax Credit small loan pool
IFF Staff Lead: Brett Mueller, Senior Lender – Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana
Design: Open Source Architecture (O-S-A) with support from Creative Exchange Lab
General Contractor: Lockwood Construction
Impact: 3333 has increased access to the arts, created new job opportunities through Kranzberg Arts Foundation partners, and furthered economic development in the Grand Center Arts District. In addition, by leveraging tax credits and financing instead of self-funding the project, KAF had more cash on hand to deploy for rent subsidies and other relief measures designed to support St. Louis’ arts community during the pandemic.
The Kranzbergs agreed, creating a new headquarters for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri and expanding their original plans to include a black box theater, a multi-purpose room for concerts, film screening, and private events, and a gallery in the newly renovated facility.
Though impressive in its own right, far more impactful has been the wave of arts-based community development that the project unleashed in Grand Center. Spearheaded by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation (KAF), which was founded in 2006 to help the arts thrive in the St. Louis area, nine additional developments followed that initial project in Grand Center – including 3333, which opened in October 2021.
Located in a former warehouse, 3333 is a two-story, 36,000-square-foot, mixed-use facility that offers dedicated commercial and creative spaces for the St. Louis arts community, anchoring the eastern boundary of the Grand Center Arts District by creating a pedestrian‐centered, walkable arts area and bringing new nonprofits and small businesses to the neighborhood.
Along with offices for nonprofit arts organizations such as the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and Saint Louis Fashion Fund, 3333 houses an art studio and a scene shop for set building that’s shared by the tenant organizations and artists. Fully leased, 3333’s other tenants include Mike Martin Media, Scene Event Space, Mark Buckheit Framing, Open Studio, and Paige Avenue Photography – with marketing agency Elasticity moving in soon.
“It’s a very collaborative environment, and the nonprofit and for-profit tenants are sharing resources and finding ways to work together,” says Kranzberg Arts Foundation Executive Director Chris Hansen. “3333 is a sandbox where the creative industries and the arts meet, and we’re already seeing the community connect in the space too.”
One of the ways 3333 is designed to draw the community into the facility is Sophie’s Artist Lounge, a KAF-run space that features an immersive art lounge with high-fidelity audio-visual capabilities for performances and a creative cocktail-focused menu. The lounge houses street art and murals that extend into the facility’s common areas and outside into a public art space, creating a bridge between the interior and exterior of the building and contributing to a vibrant aesthetic designed to foster creativity and collaboration among St. Louis artists while demonstrating how the arts can drive the local economy.
3333 is a sandbox where the creative industries and the arts meet, and we’re already seeing the community connect in the space too.
“Everybody who comes into the facility is exposed to and turned onto world-class art, and the environment is benefiting the nonprofits and the small businesses,” says Hansen. “People want to be in the facility, and that’s helping drive sales, recruit and retain talent, and more. For the nonprofits like Shakespeare Festival, it’s a centralized place for their operations that’s also increasing their ability to engage their boards and reach donors. That’s really exciting.”
The 3333 facility was designed by Open Source Architecture with support from Creative Exchange Lab, which gave student designers an opportunity to work on the project from its earliest stages to build capacity and enhance their portfolios.
“There was a lot of smart design that went into 3333, creating opportunities to tell stories and bring people together,” says Hansen. “The design preserved the building’s historic charm while modernizing it for its current use. We’re really proud of that.”
Carrying out the renovation of the facility was general contractor Lockwood Construction, which built out the facility to white box status so that tenants could customize their individual spaces to best meet their needs. In keeping with KAF’s commitment to equity, the project was completed with high levels of participation from minority-owned businesses, showcasing their work and helping build their capacity.
“We constantly challenge ourselves to look at who’s getting opportunities and why, and our build protocols demand a certain standard not only in the businesses that are hired to do the work, but with the boots on the ground,” says Hansen. “We want to see diversity, and we were pleased with the representation among the subcontractors that built 3333.”
Now there’s a facility that is demonstrating how arts drive the neighborhood economy and tying together much of the rest of our work in the community by transforming the Eastern edge of the district. It was a win-win all the way around.
$2 million in financing for the project was provided through the St. Louis Development Corporation’s (SLDC) New Markets Tax Credits small loan pool – a partnership between SLDC, which allocated the tax credits; US Bank CDC, the equity investor; and IFF, which sourced and serviced the loans funded from the pool. IFF also provided KAF with a separate $538,811 loan in November 2020 that financed tenant improvements to the space after initial renovations were completed.
Though KAF funded part of the project itself, 3333 was a departure from past developments that were completely self-funded by the Foundation. This approach provided KAF with additional cash on hand for rent subsidies and other relief measures to support the arts community during the pandemic.
“We knew we were going to be asked to do more during the pandemic, but we didn’t know exactly what that would look like when we were making decisions about how to develop 3333,” explains Hansen. “Not only were we able to be a good community partner to SLDC by helping them leverage the tax credits, but we were also able to better use our resources to support the arts during a time of crisis. Now there’s a facility that is demonstrating how arts drive the neighborhood economy and tying together much of the rest of our work in the community by transforming the Eastern edge of the district. It was a win-win all the way around.”
Learn about additional arts and culture projects IFF has supported across the Midwest.
Photo Gallery: Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s 3333
Click the image below to see photos of Sophie’s Artist Lounge and Street Art Gallery at 3333.