Today, the Grove is a thriving district that hosts a diverse range of businesses offering up street murals, craft beers, global food choices, dance floors, and spots to shop and grab a coffee. For the month of December, we decided to sit down and chat with Tom Niemeier, the owner of a unique architecture firm in the Grove.
Beginning in his childhood, Tom had an interest in designing and building things. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in interior architecture from Kansas State University and then worked for area firms, mainly doing renovations of historic buildings until 2005. He got the idea for SPACE from this work experience, as it helped him develop an understanding of the architecture business landscape and areas for improvement within it. SPACE initially started out renting office space in Maplewood, and was based there until 2010.
SPACE first opened its doors in the Grove in May 2010, and Tom has seen many changes to the neighborhood since then. Part of his decision to move his business here was to make an impact on a then disinvested neighborhood. He saw that the neighborhood was making a comeback, and it felt like the right time to buy property. He saw the opportunity to bring diversity to the Grove businesses as a business outside the service industry that could bring more customers to the restaurants and bars here. He also wanted to own a work space that would allow the company to grow, particularly with in-house fabrication. With that in mind, he found a great location for a reasonable price on the corner of Manchester and Kentucky Ave.
SPACE has 18 employees, including designers, fabricators, construction managers and administrative staff. The company is locally focused, striving to promote change from a local perspective. They have worked with over 50 restaurants including Sauce on the Side, Chao Baan, Bulrush, Mission Taco and Bar Les Freres.
SPACE is a unique architecture firm that provides in-house fabrication and construction services. Many of their projects become single-source product delivery, which translates into highly customized environments at lower costs. The projects are architect-led rather than construction-led, so the primary focus remains on creating beautiful spaces from start to finish.
The SPACE building also has a unique and innovative energy system. Aiming to make an environmental statement with the renovation, the building uses geothermal walls, solar thermal arrays, heat pump and desiccant wheel to create heating though radiant flooring and cooling through a suspended aluminum chilled plate system. This system is the only one of its kind in the world and was made possible through tax credits from Ameren and the federal government. The result is consistent heating and cooling throughout the office and low electric bills. You can learn more about their energy system here.
In the next 5 years, Tom sees SPACE continuing its method of designing, fabricating, constructing and managing projects from beginning to end. He also sees the company diversifying their portfolio, with more office spaces and residential projects. The company plans to continue focusing on local, small to medium sized projects and growing their in-house design and construction capabilities.
Two things Tom loves about the Grove are the restaurants and the central location. He hopes to see more businesses outside the service industry move into the Grove in the coming years, and sees this as a way to increase the lunch time customer bases of the restaurants and bars.
If there is one thing Tom would like the Grove community to know about SPACE, its how great a project can be when an architecture firm moves the entire project along. This method creates a smooth process for businesses. Design and build projects are typically joint ventures, or involve a back-of-house construction company that is driving the process. At SPACE, staff are committed to protecting the design through construction all the way to completion.
For the past two years, SPACE has led activities for kids at Grove Fest. This year, they partnered with MADE, a modern makers space in St. Louis, to bring maker oriented activities and demonstrations to kids and families.
SPACE also collaborated with Adams Elementary School on Little Free Library designs, where students designed and built little free libraries for a city-wide competition. This collaboration was a way to introduce architecture to Adams students in an approachable, small-scale way.The entire class, along with several creative companies, came through to see the libraries being made. After the competition, the libraries were installed around the city.
For more information on SPACE, visit their website
follow them on Facebook @spacestl and Twitter and Instagram @spacearchitects.