A historic photograph of the old City Hospital’s Power Plant building, which can be identified by its giant smokestack. It had been constructed in 1937 to provide power to the entire City Hospital complex, which contained a dozen buildings at its apex. The Power Plant building was shuttered along with the rest of the City Hospital complex in 1985.
A 1994 photo of the Power Plant building. The Power Plant saw multiple plans for both reuse and demolition come and go over the next few decades. One such plan was from Trigen Energy Corporation, who purchased it in 1986 in hopes of converting it to a steam plant for the city. Unfortunately, the plans never materialized and the Power Plant was returned to the city.
An interior view of the Power Plant in 2004. Like the other abandoned buildings in the City Hospital complex, the deteriorating Power Plant building fell prey to vandals and looters. However, much of the heavy industrial equipment was left intact, as metal thieves went for easier targets such as copper wiring in the Administrative building.
The remediation and renovation of the Power Plant building was made possible through multiple players and sources of funding. After the City Hospital complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, remediation efforts began. Lead and asbestos removal was aided by an EPA Assessment Grant, a HUD Redevelopment Initiative Grant, Brownfields State Remediation Tax Credits, and State Historic Tax Credits.
Having successfully redeveloped the Administrative Building into The Georgian Condominiums, Gilded Age collaborated with Environmental Operations, Inc. in 2010 to renovate the Power Plant building. Simultaneously, the owners of De Soto, IL-based climbing gear company So iLL Holds were seeking a spacious location to open an indoor climbing gym. The two sides decided that the Power Plant building was a perfect match. Local firm Urban Improvement Construction (UIC) helped design the renovation. Financing for the renovation came in the form of brownfields tax incentives, state and federal historic credits, tax increment financing, and even a second-place award from the 2011 St. Louis County Economic Council’s Business Plan contest. After much work, Climb So iLL officially opened March 28th, 2012.
An exterior view of the renovated Power Plant building. Nearly all of the space inside the building has been utilized. Climb So iLL (http://climbsoill.com/) and Element Restaurant and Lounge (http://www.elementstl.com/) both share the building, as well as a shared entrance.
The Pro Shop is the first stop upon entering the indoor climbing gym. Climb So iLL offers an array of programs for individuals, teams, and even school groups. The space can be used for private instruction, fundraisers, corporate events, parties, field trips and day camps, fitness labs, and more.
The words above the entrance/exit state “Grounded in Experience, Dedicated to Community”, and for good reason. The owners are proud of the work done to preserve this historic building, as part of the revival of the City Hospital complex for use by the community and the greater St. Louis region. As an added bonus, Climb So iLL is located within one of St. Louis’ Community Improvement and Transportation Development Districts, offering public transit as an option for visitors.
Climb So iLL offers 10,000 sq ft of vibrantly colored climbing space, ranging in difficulty from a Training Zone for beginners to the imposing 50’ Elite Wall. The moderately difficult Eye Wall is shown in this photo. Overall, the creativity employed in designing this former power plant helped Climb So iLL and UIC to acquire the American Institute of Architect’s Design Award for Interior in 2012. The AIA stated: “This project is a creative transformation of an abandoned space into a gallery-like setting, in which the climbing walls become painterly art objects. This is a nice juxtaposition of raw materials and refined details.” (http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/print-edition/2012/09/21/2012-aia-design-awards.html?s=image_gallery)
Sustainability was fundamental to the design and renovation of the Power Plant building. As seen in this photo of the Elite Wall, the gym utilizes natural lighting extensively to reduce the demand for electricity. Much of the building’s original materials, including structural steel, were reused for the renovation. Other sustainable features of the gym are listed on Climb So iLL’s website (http://climbsoill.com/concept/).